GEORGE TOWN: Poppy seeds or kas kas, a common ingredient in nasi kandar dishes, are used to give the food, especially curry, a unique taste.
Abdul Nazer Razak, who owns the Kampung Melayu Nasi Kandar restaurant, said poppy seeds were blended into powder before being added into the curry.
“We use only a small quantity to make it creamier. It does no harm to our customers,” he said.
Operator of Line Clear nasi kandar T. Abdul Latiff said poppy seeds would be ground with cumin (jintan putih), caraway seed (jintan manis) and other spices to give a “distinctive” taste to the curry.
“We only use it in chicken and mutton curry and fried chicken as the kas kas enhances the taste,” he said at the stall in Penang Road, adding that about 200g was used daily.
Abdul Latiff said poppy seeds could be replaced with cashew nuts or almonds but these were costly.
“A kilo of poppy seeds is only RM17 whereas for cashew nuts, it’s RM42 and almonds, RM48.”
Over at the 109-year-old Hameediyah, operator Ahamed Seeni Pakir Abdul Sukkoor said 1.5kg of poppy seeds were used daily in all their dishes.
A spice trader in Beach Street, however, knows never to eat nasi kandar before a blood test.
“Doctors tell me that if my foreign workers need a medical check-up to renew their work permits, they better abstain from nasi kandar for a day,” said A. Rajapackiam.
He dismissed claims that eating kas kas-laced dishes could make people “happy”.
“I’ve eaten food spiced with kas kas all my life and never felt anything like it.”
While Rajapackiam sells white poppy seeds and powder, a check at several baking supply shops showed that the choice was blue poppy seeds from Europe, retailing for between RM7 and RM9 per 100g.
A baking supplies retailer said blue poppy seeds, which have a nutty-peppery taste if half a teaspoon is chewed at once, are from a poppy plant variety that is low in opiates.
Insurance agent Elizabeth Chin, who bakes muffins for her clients to foster relations, said poppy seed muffins were a classic English recipe.
“Very little taste comes from the poppy seeds. What we want is the bite texture,” she said.
“The seeds remain crunchy after the baking and this adds a nice crackle to soft muffins.”
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