My first impressionable experience with nasi dagang was on a fishing boat between Mersing and Pulau Aur in the east cost of Peninsula Malaysia many years ago. We were on one of our many fishing trips. Mr TanTH, our chief organiser bought some packeted nasi dagang from the Mersing market for our lunch during the tedious 6 hours boat journey. They were simple packets of the special coconut rice, each with a small piece of curried tuna. It tasted so very good. I had 2 packets of it and craved for more. Since then, each time I think of nasi dagang I inevitably remember that fishing trip.
Nasi dagang (literally translated as "business rice") is a mixture of normal fragrant rice and pulut (glutinous rice), steamed with santan (coconut milk). It is normally eaten with gulai (a rich yellow curry) ikan tongkol (a medium-size tuna fish). It is a popular dish in the east coast states of Peninsula Malaysia, especially in Terengganu. Its popularity reached down to the southern state of Johor and right up, beyond Kelantan, to southern Thailand.
SP called me one day to tell me about this place that serves good Kelantan nasi dagang. That very weekend, we were there to check it out. The breakfast crowd was evidence of its popularity. We could not find a table and were contented to settle down on a makeshift one on the 5-foot way.
Capital Nasi Dagang Kelantan is located on Jalan SS21/1A in Uptown, Damansara Utama in PJ. The business, to my surprise, was managed by Chinese. Nasi Dagang is after all a Malay dish and I went there fully expecting a Malay business. This Chinese family apparently has a similar business in Kota Baru.
Their nasi dagang was served with a wide range of accompaniments. Beside the ikan tongkol (tuna), they had curried chicken, rendang beef, prawns, and squids. The goodies are all on display at a serving counter where you can see before deciding on your choice. You could have a combination of accompaniments, or everything in their ultimate nasi dagang.
This was their traditional nasi dagang gulai tongkol - tuna curry. Like all their servings, it was on a wax brown paper in a plastic plate. The rice was fluffy and in spite of the glutinous rice content, the grains did not stick to each other. The fragrance was aromatic. If you take time to chew on the rice, the flavour is more pronounced.
The gulai ikan tongkol (tuna curry) was rich in santan (coconut milk). The fish was fresh and flaky. It was a very good gulai indeed.
The chicken did not disappoint as well. The flavour was rich and the chicken tender.
I had this combination of tuna and rendang beef. The beef was a little disappointing. It somehow did not taste like the real thing. A little too mushy.
Two things stool out in their servings of nasi dagang. One was the small deep fried salted fish. It was crunchy and aromatic. And it complemented the rice perfectly. I think this piece of salted fish made the nasi dagang a lot more enjoyable.
And their sambal was awesome. They only gave a small spoonful of it. But it was enough. It was fiery hot and so very tasty. And complemented the rice very well.
The shop also serves a small variety of other dishes like the Kelantan laksa and the coffee shop roti kaya - toasted and steamed bread. We ordered a portion of the the steamed roti. It had butter and kaya spreads. The bread was very good. It was so soft it almost melted in our mouths.
And of course, there were the normal drinks to go with your meals.
Was the nasi dagang here better than that in the fishing boat? Very likely yes. It is really very difficult to compare. The fishing boat experience was a long time ago and is now indelibly etched in my mind. In any case, for those in need for a nasi dagang fix, especially those from the east coast who miss home, this is definitely a place to be.