Local Delights and More

Yes, folks. There is a Part 5. The concluding one in this whole Cherating series. A reader (eh hem) and close pal asked me this when I met him last week. What’s in Part 5, he asks? Well, the food part. But of course. Food features heavily in my life. I suppose it’s natural considering how I grew up surrounded by great cooks (my grandma comes to mind as well as my2nd aunt) and fabulous food.
Anyway, food. Hmmm. We sampled quite a bit of local delights when we were in Cherating, thanks to Asma’s recommendation. She also cleverly promoted her brother’s grilled fish stall or what is known as Warung Ikan Bakar Awang (located on the left side of the main road, about 100 meters or so before Club Med Cherating turn-off if you are coming from the Cherating area.) Like most Malay stalls around the Cherating area, it opens for dinner till late. The only quirk we found was that each warung advertised ‘masakan panas’ which we discovered to be something like Chinese ‘tai-chow’ (big-fry). It just means that food is cooked when it is ordered. No cold food like economy rice. No packets of cold nasi lemak either.
We actually did go to sample Awang’s ikan bakar – in fact, we found the grilled stingray and battered squid rings fresh and really great with white rice. The spicy sambal on the stingray induced lots of sweat, but as one’s tongue and lips started burning, one shovelled more rice into one’s mouth. It’s that kind of love affair. Come to think of it, it was as hot as the nam prik kapi which I tasted in Haatyai some years ago.
Local snacks are good too. Tourists who go to Cherating will always come back loaded with keropok ikan tamban or fish crackers. According to the cheery Chinese man who runs the little snack shack along the road, the best fish for fish crackers is the local ikan tamban. If that’s too boring, you can get keropok made from squid, prawns and ikan parang. The other famous export of this place is the keropok lekur. I tasted keropok lekur during my uni days and it’s every Trengganu local’s fave snack.
Over in Cherating, every roadside stall hawks this specialty. Every pasar malam sells it. Three versions are available – the steamed rolls/slices which you can just dip into chilli sauce, dried slices where you can take home and fry it yourself or the just-hot-off-the-deepfryer version sold by roadside stalls. It’s really semi-crispy slices of fish cake. That’s basically what it is. Fish cake. But great tasting. I think they either put lots of MSG into the keropok lekur or the ikan tamban is damn tasty.
Satar is another local snack made from fish. Yes, the locals are very much ga-ga over fish protein. Satar looks like a taller type of kuih koci, or a smaller version of the Chinese bak-chang. Taste-wise, sata is mashed fish with spices and coconut. It’s supposedly THE snack Singaporeans go for when they’re in Cherating, according to Asma. I think it is a less lemak version of the Penang otak-otak. Less mild in flavour too, with a sweetish aftertaste. I didn’t manage to snap pictures of how lekor and satar look like but I found a site which does. They look like this.
I didn’t manage to try the Pahang/Trengganu version of otak-otak although I believe it is similar to the famous ones in Muar. They’re supposedly long and slim packets of spiced fish paste, grilled over hot coals. The Penang version of otak-otak is a fat packet of fish paste nestled in a rich, creamy coconut and spice base and wrapped up in banana leaves.
Akok is another local delicacy I tried when I was over at the night market in Chukai, Terengganu. Chukai is a mere 15 minutes’ drive away from Cherating and it’s terribly confusing. One moment you are in Pahang and the next you are in Terengganu. Well, akok is a boat-shaped golden kuih concocted with eggs, brown sugar and flour and cooked in brass moulds. I heard there is a savoury version with chicken or something in it.
Another two more mentions before I wrap up this post. While Cherating is predominantly Malay (it is much easier to find Malay grub than Chinese), you can still find one very important (Chinese) dish here.
Stuffed crabs.
It’s basically nothing more than minced meat, crab meat, diced carrots and scallions stuffed into crabshells, dipped into batter and fried. Some restaurants bake it, for a healthier option. We had to order the stuffed crab just to try it out and we had ours from a Chinese-style restaurant fronting Cherating beach with a tacky name called Can’t Forget Restaurant (my other half thought it sounded like some one-night stand nostalgia!). Thought the stuffed crab was just so-so because it was a bit oversalted. Stuffed crab is on most Chinese restaurant menus but apparently, Tong Juan Restaurant in Chukai (15 minutes’ drive away) is THE place tourists go for the stuffed crab.
The other must-try in Chukai is the famous Hainanese brewed local coffee at Kedai Kopi Hai Peng (you can see the coffeeshop while you are driving around Chukai). Again, it seems Hai Peng coffee is so famous that you just have to stop by the crowded cafe, order the butter kaya toast and slurp the coffee. But you can just easily get a taste of Hai Peng’s coffee at Amies Cafe, Cherating.

6 thoughts on “Local Delights and More”

  1. Oh boy. Hehe. I’m the girl whose site posted up the (not that great) pictures of satar and otak-otak. Looked at my site tracker and ended up here, and you made me miss Malaysian food so much!

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  2. Hi Pei,Thanks to you I got to show how satar and otak-otak looked like. ๐Ÿ˜‰ A picture is always worth a thousand words…

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  3. I’d like to know where I can get some savoury type akok(or akak). Some vendors have decided to use “gas”. Stick to the wood fired stoves.
    The otak otak isn’t like the one from Muar, although the packaging is the same. Instead of the egg/rempah/santan concoction, kerisik/rempah is used. My friends tell me good East Coast otak should taste a bit “masam”.

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  4. Hi Dave
    Thanks for the info on discerning otak-otak. The akok I tasted was from the pasar malam and they used gas to cook it. I think the East Coast has a lot more yummy food than we West Coast people give them credit for! ๐Ÿ˜‰

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  5. hello…the savoury akok is called akok berlauk – with minced chicken in the center. love it cos normal akok is too sweet for me. u might be able to find it bfr noon at the main pasar. for otak-otak & satar choose any of the stalls along the main road in kuala kemaman. i was born & bred in chukai and it’s so hard to find authentic terengganu food in kl.

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  6. Hi everyone, i just got back from Terengganu, felt in love with the beaches, the food and the bread with coffee. i have the pictures of Satar, Kuih Bakar(Marang), Kuih Akok, you can find Akok and Satar not forgetting Kuih Baulu, along the way to the Kuala Kemaman. The stalls are actually neighbours.The cakes are simply GREAT! Look for my blog later, as i am still loading more infos onto it.

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