Terengganu Speciality #1: Nasi Kerabu

I first wrote and shared this recipe on Facebook on the Malaysian Food Fest: Terengganu Month in October 2012. It was an online event hosted by Lena of HerFrozenWings (no eating involved, except eating the dishes that you cooked). So in a way, I’m reposting this recipe, but now in my own blog.

Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu

Nasi Kerabu, also known to many as Nasi Ulam, is a rice dish found in the East Coast of Malaysia (and typically cooked by Malay families). This rice dish is well-loved by my family and it is one of my husband’s favourite. He would ask my mom to make it whenever he craves for local Terengganu food or when we don’t cook it for a long time.

The recipe below is from my aunt who learned it from a local Malay lady. She adapted from the original recipe and perfected it. There’s 5 portion to this recipe:
1) The Rice
2) The Sambal Ikan (or fish floss)
3) The Gravy
4) The Vegetables
5) The Seasoning (which is basically Budu, fermented fish sauce)



Nasi Kerabu ala Terengganu


The Rice
Kunyit (Turmeric) – about an inch: sliced
Serai (Lemon Grass)
Pandan leaves

Wash and cook the rice as you’d normally do. Add in the turmeric, lemon grass and ‘knotted’ pandan leaves. Once the rice is cooked, fluff it up and leave it in the rice pot till ready to serve.

The Sambal Ikan (aka Fish Floss)
1” ginger (one thumb size) *
3 shallots *  (*blend together)
Grated young coconut
1 kg ikan selayang (steam and de-boned and flake it)
Salt (1 tsp or more)
Sugar (2 TBsp or more)

Steam the fish. Once cooked, de-bone and flake it. Saute the blended ginger-shallots mixture in hot oil till fragrant. Add in the fish and stir-fry the fish till it has less moist. (half-cooked). Set aside.

Add the grated coconut in a clean hot wok and fry till dry. When the coconut is brown (half-cooked), add the above fish flakes. Add salt and sugar to taste. (At least 2 tbsp sugar and 1 tsp salt). This need to be slightly more sweet and salty than your normal palate. Set aside to cool. (This fish floss can be done a few days in advance and freeze it till the day you are ready to serve the Nasi Kerabu)

The Gravy
½ bowl of thick coconut milk
½ bowl of water
2 TBsp chilli boh/ paste
1 cube (thumb size) of belacan (dried prawn paste)
4-5 shallots *
1” ginger (thumb size) * (note: *pounded/ blended together)
2 stalks of serai (lemon grass) – cut into 2-3 pieces and pounded the end slightly
Asam jawa (juice) – about 2 tbsp
Salt and sugar to taste

Tumis/ fry the ginger-shallots, chilli boh and serai in hot oil till it’s fragrant. Add the coconut milk, asam juice and water and cooked till the gravy thicken and slightly breaks out in oil (pecah minyak). Add salt and sugar to taste. Set aside to serve with the rice later.

The Vegetables
Daun kunyit (a must have) 2-3 large pieces
Daun kesum (Vietnamese mint) – a handful
Bunga kantan – 1 bud
Mint leaves (optional)
Ulam raja
Pucuk jambu golok
Pucuck putak 
Daun limau purut (2-3 pieces)
Carrot (finely julienne)
Cucumber (finely julienne)
Cabbaged (finely shredded) – approx 5-6 large pieces
Chinese lettuce/ pek chai (in hokkien) (or a.k.a pak choy putih— looks like sawi but the stem is white) – approx 5-6 large bunches.

Finely cut into shreds/ julienne the vegetables. In a large bowl, mixed everything together. (Note: you may omit some of the vege especially those you cant get it in your town).

Bean sprout/ taugeh (raw)
Kacang panjang – approx 10 – cut into small pieces (cubes)
Kacang botol (winged beans) – cut finely
Cucumber (julienne)

Budu mixture: Budu (fermented fish sauce), calamansi juice, finely sliced serai (lemon grass), chilli padi. Mix all in small bowl.

To serve:
I scoop of rice, topped it with a large handful of the mixed vegetables & raw taugeh, spoonful of long beans and winged beans, approx 2-3 tbsp of sambal ikan, 1 tbsp of the gravy (it’s NOT meant to be used like curry gravy but more as flavoring), and 2-3 tsp of budu mixture.

Note: the sambal ikan and budu are the main ingredients that provide flavoring to this dish, thus they need to be well seasoned or else when mixed, the rice will be bland. And it maybe lots of work (cutting the vege, etc) but trust me, it’s well worth the effort.



Kerabu – Sambal Ikan (Fish Floss)


Kerabu – The mixture of shredded veges


Kerabu – other raw veges

Kerabu - The Gravy

Kerabu – The Gravy

Kerabu Budu

Kerabu – Budu (fermented fish sauce) with lemon grass and chilli

Best eaten using your hand (I know some may go “ewww” but that’s how most local Terengganu Malays and some Chinese like our family do – we eat rice with our hands, and not with utensils). It just gives you that added “oomph” and it’s fingers licking good at the end of the meal. And also not forgetting, it goes extremely well with another East Coast speciality ie. the keropok keping (fried fish crackers). So those of you who miss Nasi Kerabu, go getting cracking now!

Nasi Kerabu - all mixed and ready to eat. Serve with keropok keping.

Nasi Kerabu – all mixed and ready to eat. Serve with keropok keping.