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Sunday November 16, 2008

Addictive fish snack

The taste, and not the appearance, is what makes keropok lekor a firm favourite with Malaysians.

LONG sliverish-grey and often emits a fishy smell, the raw keropok lekor can be unappetising and a total put-off.

However, once sliced and deep fried, and dipped in a sweet chilli sauce, it is a food fit for the gods.

The keropok lekor, which can be called the state snack of Terengganu, is very addictive. Once hooked, wherever you may be, when you get a whiff of keropok lekor being fried, you may soon forget whatever you are doing and follow your nose to the frying pan.

Keropok lekor is actually the wet version of the fish crackers that we buy by the kilos at the markets and supermarkets but it is made fresh and boiled before it is fried.

Tasty fish sausages: These keropok lekor taste best when freshly fried.

If one is to chance upon it in the Chow Kit wet market in the Klang Valley or in the East Coast states of Pahang, Terengganu and Kelantan, then you should buy the fresh ones and fry them at home as they taste better freshly cooked.

An alternative to the fried version is the boiled one, which was perhaps concocted to serve to those who are conscious of their health and do not take fried food.

There are many stalls around the country that sell keropok lekor. It is not surprising to find them in every town in the West Coast as Malaysian snacks tend to go national, if not international, as the people go inter-state.

The best keropok lekor is said to come from Losong in Kuala Terengganu. To find this place is easy as it is on the way to the new Crystal Mosque in the state capital of Terengganu.

Here, it is said that the keropok lekor is tasty as more fish goes into the production than tapioca or sagoo flour that is added in with salt and boiled before it is fried.

To truly enjoy keropok lekor, it must be had with the chilli sauce or pencecah as it is called. It is actually a sweetened chilli sauce that is piquant and helps to mask most of the fishy taste and smell of the keropok lekor.

Apparently, it is the use of the tapioca flour that helps keep the keropok lekor light and crispy and if sagoo flour is used, it is said that the sausage will become chewy. Like in all foods, there are two schools of thought and the opposite is said to be advocated by “the other” faction.

Whatever the outcome, the best keropok lekor is undoubtedly the one that has more fish than flour. One of the best stalls is said to be at Kuala Kampung Losong at stall 007 (no, James Bond has never been here) near the Floating Mosque.

The Batu Burok Beach in Kuala Terengganu smells of keropok lekor all day as traders set up their stalls on the beach and sell as much as they can fry from morning until dusk, when it is time to go home.

The Pasar Payang central market is also a good place to go as there is a constant supply of fresh keropok lekor that you can buy home but remember to wrap it up in plastic bags and then in thick wads of newspaper so that the smell does not permeate into the car through your air-conditioning ducts.

Keropok Lekor is also found along the Rompin-Mersing road.

Here, you will find the fresh fish sausages as authentic as the ones you would find in Terengganu.

So, if you are heading towards a holiday destination in the southeast of the peninsula, then do try this delicacy here.

Elsewhere, you will find traders selling delicious keropok lekor at night markets and also at places where goreng pisang and other fried tea-time snacks are sold.

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