Saturday February 28, 2009
Tasty Thai in Terengganu
By JASMINE ABDULLAH
Keropok lekor and nasi dagang aren’t the only delicacies to be had in Terengganu. How about some Thai?
When people speak of Kuala Terengganu, one cannot help but think of nasi dagang and keropok lekor.
Made famous through word-of–mouth and the sheer proliferation of stalls hawking them, these two delicacies tend to overshadow Terengganu’s other culinary treasures, whatever they may be.
And so, when a friend recommended that I try the Thai food there as well, I was more than game for it. She excitedly pointed out that the close proximity of the state to our Thai neighbour had resulted in an interesting mish-mash of flavours that would definitely appeal to my taste buds.
Restoran Payang Serai, it turns out, is not what I expected. Most Thai food outlet in Kuala Terengganu are just little stalls with steaming cauldrons of tom yam, so I am pleasantly surprised to find a restaurant housed in a modern building.
However, Payang Serai is pretty much a no-frills place. The view, though, is not bad at all. Situated right at the edge of the water, the place afford a lovely view of the river. I enjoy watching the little fishing boats as they drift by the restaurant.
The restaurant serves Chinese Thai food. My companion and I order fresh orange juice and decide to go with the owner’s recommendations. The first dish to arrive is the Telur Fu Yong (RM10), which my companion digs into with gusto and lots of sambal belacan, leaving very little for me. Still, I enjoy the crisp edges and ever-so-slightly runny centre.
The next dish to arrive is the Butter Soft Shell Crab (RM8 per 100g). Imagine whole crunchy soft shell crabs fried to perfection, sitting on a swirling bed of butter and egg. Rich without the normally oily taste of butter gone mad, this dish is an instant hit. Even after all the crabs are devoured, I continue to eat the butter bits and the highly aromatic curry leaves.
Next up is the Sizzling Beef (RM18), followed quickly by the Ayam Kampung Goreng (RM6 per piece). The beef is tender but I would have liked more black pepper so as to give it more of a kick. The fried Kampung chicken, on the other hand, is delicious. Marinated to perfection with fresh kunyit (tumeric), the slivers of meat peel off easily in steaming strips. This is one dish that you must eat with your hands!
The next dish is quite a mystery to us — Ayam Mongolia (RM16). No, the chicken was not from Mongolia, but the method of cooking is, apparently. The dish consists of strips of fried chicken meat served with a mustard-coloured sauce, which we later discover is actually mayonnaise.
The taste of crispy chicken with a thick creamy sauce tinged with curry powder is interesting, to say the least. Although my companion doesn’t quite appreciate the odd combination, I rather like the spicy “eggy” taste.
Ikan Bansuan (market price for either Ikan Siakap or Ikan Kerapu) follows the Mongolian chicken. The deep-fried fish is notable for being very fresh, with its sweet flesh enhanced by the tangy taste of lime. Lemongrass, peanuts and sliced shallots are sprinkled on the fish, and the crunchy taste of these combined with the mild flavour of the fish is delicious.
After so many meat dishes, we look forward to the vegetables.
The Broccoli With Scallop (RM20) is a generous portion of lush green broccoli with chunks of scallop — quite typical but delightful nevertheless. But it is the Kerabu Mangga (RM12) that steals the show. Slices of sour-sweet mango married perfectly to peanuts and sliced shallots result in a tangy explosion of flavours that has me scrapping the last julienne of mango off the plate.
Dessert is quite impossible after such a substantial meal, so we settle for a glass of iced lychee and longan each.
Contented, we sit back, lazily enjoying our drinks. A little sampan floats by — its sun-burned occupant lounging on the deck in the afternoon heat. He looks comfortable, an individual seemingly at peace with himself.
And I know exactly how he feels.
Restoran Payang Serai,
Lot Pt 1141 Waterfront,
20300 Kuala Terengganu.
Tel: 09-6220890 / 09-6229890
12pm till 2.30pm and 6pm till 10pm daily
For Reservations, please call :