In Malaysia, bite-sized sweet and savoury snacks are often referred to as kuih-muih, and each state has different varieties and specialities, making them all unique. In Kelantan, the desserts are famous for being sweeter than not and boasting some bright colours that are sure to catch the eye of any dessert-lover.
Not only are Kelantanese desserts unique in their looks, but also in their names. For example, badak berendam, a glutinous kuih rich in coconut sauce, means ‘soaking rhinoceros’ when directly translated. If that’s not quirky, then we don’t know what is. While it may sound strange to foreigners, we locals can’t help but appreciate the creativity of our ancestors in naming these foods.
So, without further ado, here are some of the must-try kuih-muih when you’re in Kelantan or if you happen to come by them wherever you are.
1. Badak berendam
No rhinos were harmed in the process of making this dessert, even though it’s called soaking rhinoceros when translated into English. But plenty of glutinous rice flour, pandan, shredded coconut, santan (coconut milk), and red sugar is used. An incredibly flavourful and sweet treat, you’ll definitely have more than one serving.
2. Che mek molek
Che mek molek (translated as pretty-young-lady in English) is a sweet potato that’s diced, cooked, and mashed into a rugby-ball-like shape. Unlike a doughnut coated with sugar on the outside, che mek molek is loaded with syrupy sugar on the inside.
3. Lompat tikam
If there’s one Malay dessert whose title does not represent its look, it’s lompat tikam, which literally means ‘jump, stab’. Every mouthful of this four-part snack guarantees delight, from the velvety green pudding prepared with rice flour and pandan to the pulpy glutinous rice. Add a drizzle of rich santan and palm sugar syrup on top and you’ll get a truly delectable dessert!
4. Sira pisang
This caramelised banana in Kelantanese cuisine is steeped in a thick palm sugar syrup flavoured with pandan leaf, clove, and a dash of salt. The ideal bananas for this delicacy are plantains such as pisang tanduk and pisang nangka. However, those prepared with pisang abu (saba bananas) or pisang awak, often offered at bazaars, are equally tasty.
5. Taik itik
Don’t allow the name of this kuih to put you off (when translated, it means duck poo!). This sweet dessert is created from the duck egg whites combined with sugar and forcefully stirred until sticky. Finally, a tasty heated syrup is drizzled on top of it, thus making it a tasty treat for any time of day.
6. Puteri mandi
Let us introduce you to puteri mandi (bathing princess). Made using sticky rice flour and a little salt, it is hand-mixed until its consistency becomes a stiff dough. It’s then separated into four sections, each with a different colour, made into small dumplings, and boiled in hot water until the sections emerge on the water’s surface. Some prefer to add in evaporated milk too! Once ready, the buttons will be swirled in thick syrup made of pandan leaves and desiccated coconut.
7. Beko kelapa
Beko kelapa, with its crunchy, charred edges and fluffy interior, is ideal for breakfast, tea, or a late-night snack. The batter is composed of coconut milk, grated coconut, eggs, sugar, and pandan-infused water, which gives this baked delicacy a gentle green tint and a fragrant flavour.
8. Kuih katur
These soft, doughy bits are prepared using glutinous rice flour, lime water, gambir, and betel-infused water. They’re then cooked and left to cool down for a few minutes before being doused in grated coconut and a generous dollop of palm sugar syrup. New generation cookies often use pandan water instead of lime water to give the kuih its green exterior.
9. Kuih ulat bulu
Kuih ulat bulu is a tasty delicacy named for its elongated shape, which resembles a hairy, tiny caterpillar — hence a name that translates into ‘bookworm cake’. The treat, prepared with sticky rice flour and lime water, has a mochi-like texture with a stuffing of either red or green beans and palm sugar. A coating of freshly grated coconut adds a subtle salinity to this bite-sized snack.
10. Kuih akok
Kuih akok is a traditional cake that’s particularly popular on the East Coast, namely in Kelantan and Terengganu. There are numerous forms of this bite-sized snack, but the most popular comes in an oval shape. Eggs, flour, sugar, and coconut milk are the main ingredients to make this delicious kuih. This is one of the must-tries in Kelantan due to its fluffiness, smokiness, and tastiness!
Where to get these kuih-muih in Kelantan
1. Pasar Besar Siti Khadijah
Here, you can find hundreds (if not thousands) of Kelantanese-based food, including all the kuih-muih mentioned above. This market has four floors in total and is octagonal in shape, making it easy for you to find and shop for food and souvenirs.
The first floor is dedicated to ‘wet’ foods such as fish, vegetables, chicken, and others, while all the dry or packet items can be found on the second floor; this is also where you can find most of the Kelantanese delicacies we have mentioned above. For various non-food items, you can check them out on the third and fourth floors.
Address: Jalan Buluh Kubu, Bandar Kota Bharu, 15000 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Operating hours: Daily, 7.30am to 5.30pm
2. Pasar Wakaf Che Yeh
The last few years have seen not just locals but also foreign visitors of the Kelantan state talking about Pasar Wakaf Che Yeh. What’s to love about this market is that it combines a morning market, retail stalls, and a night and wholesale market. What is most interesting about this place is how it comes alive at night, and hundreds of small stalls are erect to sell customers all sorts of goodies, including delicious kuih-muih.
Address: 2028 Jalan Kuala Krai, Wakaf Che Yeh, 15150 Kota Bharu, Kelantan
Operating hours: Daily, 6pm to 12am