Fermented Durians & Fish Sauce at Saramz Makanan Kampung Kelantan on Lorong Haji Hussein, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia


One thing that is absolute in KL is that eating with Simon is never dull. He has detailed details and dirt on places that just boggle your taste buds.

Take for example my second day in KL where I got out of bed still feeling very mellow (since the painkiller hasn’t worn off yet), Simon decided to throw me into the deep end of ethnic Malay cuisine.

Truth be told, Kelantanese cuisine is in a class of its own with Thai influences and Kelantan being on the coast of Northern Malaysia, hence fish is a dominant ingredient in Kelantanese cuisine.

Take for example Budu, a Kelantanese fermented fish sauce. Every significant culture with a coast line has a fish sauce from the Thai Nam Pla to the Korean Jeotgal, from the Roman Garum to the British Worcestershire sauce. Basically, what you need is fish, salt and heat – it’s the mix of spices that varies culturally – and you’ll get a nutty cheesy sauce that will either whet your appetite or make you (wimp!) lose it.


Budu – fermented anchovy sauce

The Kelantanese Budu is darker (because of the Tamarind, I’m told) and has a deeper flavor than Nam Pla. It is the ubiquitous condiment in Kelantan usually served with chili padi and lime. And to give it an additional level of depth and kick, Tempoyak, a fermented Durian paste, is added.

A lot of people will quail at the sight (and smell) of Durians but even hardy lovers of Durian would hesitate at the sound of “Fermented Durian”. But I loved it. The fermentation only sharpened the sweetish, already penetrating aroma of Durian but I found the taste to be slightly milder than unfermented Durian; mildly sweet but tangy with a slightly nutty aftertaste.

Budu with Tempoyak

Budu with Tempoyak – fermented anchovy sauce with fermented Durian

Mixed with the Budu, it went superb with the coconut rice. In fact, it was so good that I finished nearly half my rice just with the Budu and Tempoyak.

I forgot to try it with the Ulam (raw vegetable salad) but I wasn’t going to miss out on the Gulai Ikan Masin (Salted Fish Curry). It was not as strong-tasting as I expected, given the Tumeric, Ginger and Garlic aromas. In fact, the whole ensemble made me salivate as the salted fish was very meaty and had a smoky flavor to it.

Gulai Ikan Masin

Gulai Ikan Masin – Salted Fish Curry

I didn’t eat too much of the Ikan Singgang (or Singgam, meaning “Chewing Gum”) but I did try the brown liquid and was again surprised by the mild flavor. I expected a mouth-puckering experience but I guess the sugar attenuated that.

However, the grilled fish in coconut gravy was outstanding. The grilled fish itself was excellent: flaky, smoky and sweet but when eaten with the thick coconut gravy, I very soon found myself picking at fish bones. The combination of Budu with Tempoyak and the grilled fish in coconut sauce had me gobble down the rice in no time.


Grilled fish in coconut gravy

Having Kelantanese food for lunch was an eye-opener. It was a huge surprise for me because I expected big bold flavors but what I got were very mild to the palate but no less delicious. It was a most satisfying lunch, especially when eaten with your fingers. I was glad no one complained when I ate left-handed. We had lunch a little late, so we got leftover scraps. I must return again to try their grilled chicken and the famous eels.

According to Simon, he knew about this place because his grandfather was brought here by a Kelantanese associate. Indeed, if you come during the peak lunch hours, you will hear nothing but Kelantanese spoken here.

Saramz Makanan Kampung Kelantan is a hidden gem; one that no PR company or lifestyle magazine will ever think of recommending because it is under a hot tin roof in a carpark and not exactly “lifestyle” but screw that because what you get here is very good eating and killer Budu. Just remember to say “lagi tampah Tempoyak!”

Saramz Makanan Kampung Kelantan is in an open-air car park opposite the KL International Hotel on Lorong Haji Hussein, off Jalan Raja Muda Abd Aziz, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Go early for lunch.

Ikan Singgam

Ikan Singgam – Mackerel in Tamarind Curry


Ulam – Raw vegetable salad



Posted on 21st Nov 2010 in Food and Drink, Kelantanese, Malaysia, Old School


There Are 6 Comments


Camemberu commented on November 23, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I swear Tempoyak sounds like a swear word! I’ve never tried it myself…hmmm!

A most unusual meal!


Nicholas commented on November 26, 2010 at 5:44 am

fermented durian… ~shudder


anony commented on November 27, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Hi Ivan, you can find Sagiko aloe vera cubes in NTUC supermarket. These come in ready-to-eat bottles (banded with a fork no less). You’d just need to drain away the sugar syrup to get the aloe vera cubes (which are pretty tasteless on its own) you need for your dessert. But if you’re hosting a big party, you’d probably need a couple of these bottles. Hope this helps.


ivan commented on December 11, 2010 at 8:22 am

Hi, I’ve tried the Sagiko cubes and it’s not what I was looking for because the cubes spent too long in the sugar solution (which tasted pretty bad, sorry).

But I’ll serve it tonight and see how it goes.


JdA commented on February 25, 2011 at 9:49 pm

Hi there. Just wanted to say I really enjoyed reading your blog, and this post in particular. Sometimes it’s all too easy to forget that there’s more to Malay cuisine than just nasi lemak and mee goreng ..


Ivan commented on February 27, 2011 at 2:37 am

@JdA: Thanks, I’m gratified to know there’s people who actually read my blog. 🙂

Post A Comment

The comments are closed.


Recent Comments

cincymetal.com: ?hhis is vital a? you would certainl? nnot want a pet dog entrance do?r to open...

Rexic: Would have agreed with you but then I saw Pontian wanton mee with nacho cheese...

ivan: Thanks! I just think it’s a tired argument that doesn’t make sense.

Bugger: Btw, kacang puul looks amazing!

Bugger: Hear! Hear! So called “authenticity” is a great hurdle to emergence of new...

MervC: I like they way they bring out the massive chunk of tuna, and the great knife skills,...

ivan: Yes you are. 🙂

MervC: Look like Hashida Sushi. Am i right?




Cha Xiu Bao

Chubby Hubby

Makansutra Forum

My Inner Fatty

Nibble & Scribble

NYT Diner’s Journal

Only Slightly Pretentious Food

Serious Eats

Tamarind and Thyme

The Girl Who Ate Everything

The Wong List


View Stats