There was a time when traditional Malay dishes of Kedah, especially breakfast, was out of style. People went more for roti canai, or the all-rounder nasi lemak, However, I am glad to see that dishes like Peknga and even Pukut Ikan Masin is gaining momentum commercially.
Pulut ikan masin was consumed a lot by Malays of yesteryears, but is not a dish originally from Kedah. It is glutinous rice with freshly grated coconut and friend or roasted salted fish. This is a dish most commonly taken by those who labours in the field or sea, such as paddy farmers and fishermen. It is a simple dish compared to rice, and able to last.
The Malays used to have an abundance supply of coconuts in their kampung, which is why coconut or coconut products, are always present in so many Malay dishes. Ikan kembong was the cheapest source of protein at the time. Beef was expensive, and chicken is a labor-intensive job, furthermore, fish curry was always made in a large quantity where they feed their large families. As there was no refrigeration back then, they had to device a way to finish off the curry the next day. For this, Roti Kisot or Peknga with Fish Curry is able to feed all, using resources they already have to finish off the dish they already have. Simple, economical and satisfying.
Since I was young, I remember my mother making Roti Kisot for breakfast, with the leftover fish curry from the night before. I cannot talk about today's generations but a lot of my friends in the northern region will talk about their mothers making their best roti kisot/peknga experience.
Unlike the normal bread, Peknga is not made from dough but from batter and basically has young, grated coconut or bananas as the main flavor. The flour is usually combined with water and seasoned to a consistency slightly stiffer than pancake batter, then adding the grated coconut or mashed banana.
Making it on the pan or gridle can be tricky. From personal experience, try not to use a non-stick pan or you might find the work frustrating. The batter is ladled on to the griddle and spread to the desired size with even thickness. Too thick, you might find the peknga batter uncooked inside, too thin and you end up with a crispy dry crust.
Finding the place was quite tricky. Located on the Jalan Alor Setar - Kangar, the restaurant is located by the roadside, on the left from Alor Setar and on the right from Perlis. It is about 5km from the traffic junction of Jalan Putra/Lencong Barat/Lebuhraya Sultanah Bahiyah, and about 1.5km from the Kuala Sungai town. The stall is located by the road, with a small signboard stating its name. It's a bit tricky as there are no landmarks for me to describe.
There are 2 types of peknga, the regular or banana, with fish curry for you to dip the bread. For the curry, you can just have the curry, or you can have it with fish, depending on how you like it. The peknga is slightly smaller in size, but think and well cooked - crispy on the outsude, soft on the inside. With the young grated coconut in there, you can eat the peknga on its own. The fish curry is light, which is a typical kampung Malay style, that goes perfectly with the peknga. The curry is not spicy hot, just nice. Mind you, don't be fooled by the size, minutes after eating it, you might find the peknha expanding in your stomach.
I am glad to see how traditional Malay dishes are becoming popular again. At one time, these type of food were considered by some Malays to be "of low class" and non-commercial. The restaurant, despite its small size, has been packed since early morning, and this is proof that people long for this type of food. Compared to other places which prefer to take shortcuts in preparing these dishes, such as skimping on the coconut, adding more water to the curry than required, cooking without steaming the pulut, being cheap with ingredients and many other tardiness, this restaurant shows that they are serious in preparing the traditional Malay breakfast of Kedah, an effort I most applaud. I do not mind paying extra for something like this, but the price is already reasonable.
I hope they will preserve the quality of the dishes and will be around for a long time.
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