The next best thing about eating food, is to talk about it. And I bet everyone has done his or her fair share of that, especially when travelling.
A trip with Tourism Malaysia to the north of Peninsular Malaysia – particularly around the well-known archaeological area called Bujang Valley – gave me the opportunity to taste various mouth-watering local dishes, which travellers should not miss.
The following are four must-try dishes when travellers happen to be in Bujang Valley.
If you like it raw
Who would have thought that you could have oysters for breakfast at Bujang Valley? Located on Sungai Merbok, a 45-kilometre long river that runs with clear water, both locals and newcomers can enjoy scooping fresh oysters at Bakau Hijau farm that is run by a local family.
With over 10,000 oysters being reared in this floating farm, many cannot help but cheekily wear expectant grins for the moment to savour them. Though oyster culturing is still in its infancy in Malaysia, this farm has already become a haven for oyster lovers. The farmers grow each oyster beginning from the size of 10 cents up until about nine to 10 centimetres long, taking between nine and 12 months, depending on weather. Fascinatingly, the farm rears jumbo oysters that you can slurp and munch them raw with squirts of lemon!
The fresh oysters from Bakau Hijau are a whole other experience, different from the milky white oysters served in restaurants that are often soft and squishy. The flesh of the oysters reared at the farm has yellowish tinge due to tannin from the river water. The best part is the texture of the oyster; to tell whether an oyster is truly fresh, it should have a crispy snap to it when bitten, and oysters from this farm are certainly that. Fun fact: a dozen of oysters would only give you about a quarter of the cholesterol of an egg yolk. Doctors in developed countries recommend oysters to their heart patients as a sustaining source of protein to replace red meat.
Address: Bakau Hijau Oyster Farm, Sungai Merbok
If you like it red
According to the owner, there are over 50 deer roaming around Batas Ubi DEER Farm for public feeding and do-it-yourself (DIY) lunch at the restaurant. Deer can actually get used to the presence of people though they are still untamed but the deer here at Batas Ubi farm are well-behaved! Public can enjoy to pet them while giving them food at the farm. Interestingly, the deer’s antlers will fall off when the mating season is over, yet you still can find few deer with antlers, waiting for mating season.
As for myself, though I am more of a poultry eater, I didn’t want to miss the chance to get a bite of venison (deer meat). So, for lunch, we were offered three different types of meat (chicken, lamb and deer) to grill ourselves on top of butter rice, fruits, and mushroom soup. The lunch cost MYR140 for four persons. The deer meat is visibly redder than the other types of meat, tastes sweet with tender texture. It’s good to have it a go with black pepper sauce and butter rice on the side. The portion is huge even for four mouths, so you better come hungry. We left the farm with happy bellies and out of 10, the taste on venison on my lips gets a 7. Get your whole neighbourhood to come and enjoy venison now!
Address: Batas Ubi Deer Farm, Lot 2679, Kg Laws, Teroi, Yan
If you like it sweet
I remembered taking a sip of tuak back in 2016 when my Borneo friends got married, and only knew what it was after the wedding ended that day! Interestingly, tuak comes in three categories: dry and not sweet, slightly sweet, and really sweet, depending on the amount of sugar used during fermentation. A bad tuak tastes sour, but surely different than nira.
Nira nipah is the juice harvested from palm trees. You could see the trunk of a palm tree jutting from the ground while the fronds flag upwards. Just beware of bees if you were to get close to the trunk because the bees would surely sting. Totally opposite to tuak, the nira I tasted at Nira Nipah Napiah jolted me at first because it felt like drinking thick cordial that is not yet mixed with water – the taste is concentrated and super sweet. I was told that nira is good for cooling off and treat high fever. Mr Napiah started the business with the help of his family and currently his son does the selling. Mr Napiah and son need to check the nira they collect from each palm tree using containers frequently so that they will not miss pick it up; otherwise, the nira will become rotten and turn into vinegar.
Address: F104, Jalan Kampung Sungai Pial, Kampung Huma, 08400 Merbok, Kedah
If you like it classic
For a lovely lunch, travellers should head to DSA Café Semeling Jetty. The food served is great, and the spread comprises grilled fish, noodles, satay and several other Malay dishes. What surprises me after tucking into my lunch is the green shining pieces of classic emping (paddy oats made from thinly crushed half-cooked rice mixed with grated coconut, sugar, and salt) placed in a huge bowl like old times when mother used to make for my siblings and I as an after-school snack. Chewing the snack can be tough but I had fun munching it in front of the television and reminiscing old times. These days, this snack is rarely found and I am glad the café serves it to educate the younger generation about its existence.
Address: DSA Café Semeling Jetty, 08000 Sungai Petani, Kedah
Thank you, Tourism Malaysia, for giving us the chance to discover Bujang Valley via #EkspresiMedia2019 from 8 until 11 July 2019 together with other members of media in conjunction with #VisitMalaysia2020 #VM2020 campaign!