HE calls himself the “accidental chef”. Yet all the recipes he churned out for his restaurant have proven to be best-sellers.
Kamarudin Mohamad of Wadi Daw’an started his food business, three years ago, by selling the famous Yemeni nasi mandi.
However, two months ago he decided to introducenasi dagang for breakfast at RM5 per pack.
The nasi dagang, literally translated as “traders rice”, caught on with customers as it is traditionally wrapped in banana leaves.
Nasi dagang is very popular in the East Coast, especially Kelantan and Terengganu.
“Nasi dagang is is eaten for breakfast and during Hari Raya in Terengganu.
“There is a slight difference between the Kelantan nasi dagang and the Terengganu version.
The nasi dagang from Kelantan uses a mixture of red fragrant rice and glutinous rice. So the trademark is somewhat speckled reddish look but back home in Terengganu, we prefer using glutinous rice and pearly white grains, which are richer.
Even the preparation is different,” said the Besut-born cook.
The people in Terengganu steam the glutinous rice grains, twice, before folding in the coconut milk.
At Wadi Daw’an, Kamarudin only uses premium basmati rice minus glutinous rice and the preparation is somewhat different.
“This is my own concoction. Many people complained that the glutinous rice makes them sleepy so I decided to replace it with premium basmati rice.
“After soaking it overnight, I steam the rice before folding in diluted santan and the thick santan together with chopped shallots, sliced ginger, fenugreek seeds and some salt.
“After mixing them together, I use a heavy pot to press and cover and leave it for a few hours. This way, the fragrance and flavour will be better.
“Wrapping it with the banana leaf infuses the flavours together,” said Kamarudin who has five assistants in the kitchen.
As for the gravy, he uses premium black tuna which he says is softer, tastier and flakier. Even the curry powder is brought in from Terengganu. Those who make nasi dagang will only use this particular brand of curry powder for the gravy.
“Nasi dagang gravy has coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, chilli paste, palm sugar and turmeric. The palm sugar, too is from Terengganu.
“As the curry simmers, I add some cili padi to give it that extra zing. You should squeeze the cili padi in the gravy to give it a more robust taste.
“This dish is often served with crunchy vegetable pickles or acar of cucumber, chilli and carrots, kerisik and hard-boiled egg. At times, it is served with fish crackers or keropok,” said Kamarudin.
“Some people substitute other varieties of fish in place of ikan tongkol like ikan tenggiri batang, ikan tenggiri papan and even salmon. I still prefer black tuna and generally tuna is the preferred for the Gulai Ikan Tongkol,” he said.
Wadi Daw’an draws an early crowd of regulars and office workers who trickle in for their spread of sumptuous Terengganu fare.
Other breakfast dishes offered here are keropok lekor and ketupat palas. But by 10am, all these items are sold out.
For lunch nasi mandy and nasi kabshah are served.
On weekends, Kamarudin makes at least 20kg nasi dagang, packed up in banana leaves for take-away which finishes by 9pm.
On regular days, he cooks at least 10kg of nasi dagang, which can feed more than 200 people, orders 20kg of coconut milk and 50kg of black tuna.
Besides Wadi Daw’an, Kamarudin’s nasi dagang is found at Tabung Haji cafe, Felda cafe, Jakel’s Cafe and La Cucur.
Kamarudin starts cooking from 4am and opens his shop at 7.30am everyday. Although the eatery closes at 6pm, they run out of food by 4pm.