“Nasi Kerabu” literally means assorted vegetable rice or rather “Salad Rice”. Gastronomically speaking, it is rice served with special coconut-based gravy called “tumis” together with local herbs, leaves and vegetables. Apart from that, it is also served with fried fish, “keropok” (fish crackers), salted egg, "solok lada" (fish fillet and coconut-stuffed chillis) and pickled garlic. Of all you know the beautiful flower in the picture is the key to the real aroma and taste of nasi kerabu.
Nasi Kerabu is one of the classic specialties originated from Kelantan, a multicolored state of Thailand border in the northeastern coast of the Malaysian Peninsular with multi-faceted and interesting people as her denizens. The only not-so-cool thing about them is the potential of running amok and start burning things when their darling state team loses in the football match (soccer to the Americans), but as a counterbalance, I can assure you this is the land that produces the most beautiful girls in the country.
If one is adventurous in trying out different taste of victuals and gamed for gourmet foods, the right place to be at is no other than Kelantan state, located some 450 km from Kuala Lumpur. If you ever planned for a visit to this country, I’d advise you to take connecting flight right away upon your landing at Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA).
One of those that ought to be tasted is “Nasi Kerabu”. No, no, no…. it’s not like the one you tasted from the stalls in Kg Baru, Keramat and Pantai Dalam in Kuala Lumpur, different from the one selling over in Permas Jaya, Johore, dissimilar to the one offered in Geylang, Singapore, and far off from the taste that selling in Ipoh and Penang for that matter. I even ate nasi kerabu in Bloomington, Indiana in the USA those days, but my taste benchmark is rather of a higher bar.
The real taste of “Nasi Kerabu” is not easily found as the recipe is a well-kept secret, closely guarded that being passed down from one generation to another among the Kelantanese people, as much as pizza is eaten the world over, and yet the real taste can only be found in Italy, perhaps the pride of the Sicilian folks. Just like sushi can be found in New York, Paris, London and Kuala Pilah but the real thing can only be enjoyed in certain districts in Japan, and tell me about Cajun cuisine and beignets (pronounced like "ben-yays"), the unique specialties to the descendants of Acadian exiles in Louisiana or maybe some parts of Mississippi, USA. Oh, it reminds me of the best Burrito, Taco de Harina and Tortilla I have ever tasted just a few miles crossed the border from El Paso, Texas, in the Mexican territory. But, the paradox of them all, I couldn’t find “Mee Bandung” when I was in Bandung, Indonesia, same goes to “Nasi Pattaya” when I was in the coastal resort township of Pattaya, Thailand. (LOL! Errr…. we have foodstuff named after foreign places, thus, understandably, they don’t exist in the actual locality)
One of the myriad secrets in preparing "goooood" nasi kerabu is the use of the flower in the picture above as coloring for the rice to be served (although some sellers in the city use artificial equivalents). Beats me on the name of the flower because I only know it called as “Bunga Nasi Kerabu” (“Bunga” is flower). Handful of these flowers need to be grinded and squashed to yield its juice with little water add. The precious extract of it is then mixed with water the time rice is cooked. And voila, it will result with blue-colored rice when it is ready.
Blue-colored rice for Nasi Kerabu is no fun and game as it is always served like that for centuries in this colorful state of Kelantan.