Kelantan-Malay cuisine (from the North-East state of Kelantan) is one of those hard-to-find regional cuisines in Malaysia and, usually when it's available, it's usually sold from tiny road-side stalls or small eateries. So, it's nice to find Belanga Cafe, a very decent bistro in Mid-Valley Mega-mall.
Belanga Cafe's renditions of Kelantanese staples are certainly NOT the best around (to get better versions, try Restoran Jaya in Kelana Jaya suburb), but its superior ambience & very accessible location makes it a better choice for newcomers to KL.
Some of the dishes we ordered were:
1) Kelantanese Nasi Dagang, served with Kari Ikan Tongkol - this is steamed mountain rice, flavored with coconut creme, and scented by Bombay onions, fenugreek seeds & liberal amounts of slivered ginger. Served traditionally with tuna curry, as Belanga Cafe faithfully executed. The version here was blander than I'd have liked, but had the requisite Nasi Dagang scent.
2) Nasi Kerabu with Ayam Percik. The Nasi Kerabu here was tinged yellow, although in Kelantan, it's usually colored blue (no kidding!) thru the use of the bunga telang flower. The rice is then mixed with a mixture of jungle herbs, kerisik (toasted dessicated coconut), chilli paste & budu (a unique but very addictive Kelantan version of fermented fish sauce). Belanga Cafe's version was sadly short on the budu taste/scent. It was served with Ayam Percik, barbecued chicken that had been marinated in coconut milk and spices (galangal, chillis, onions, tamarind, etc). Also, the Ayam Percik tasted like it's been re-heated (a no-no when it comes to barbecued meats) and was hence hard & dry. Thumbs down here.
3) Kelantanese laksam - a variation of laksa. The laksam noodles are similar to Chinese "cheung fun" or Veitnamese "banh uot" and was delicious! Loved the rich coconut gravy. It was topped liberally with Vietnamese basil and shredded cucumber. Kelantan's state capital, Kota Bahru, is perhaps an hour's drive from the southern Thai border, and is just 15-20 minutes' flight from Saigon, Vietnam - which probably explained the similarity of their cuisine to Thai & Vietnamese.
4) Dessert was my Kelantan favorite - Lompat Tikam, which consisted of steamed rice flour pudding (similar to an English junket), served with steamed glutinous rice, and drizzled with coconut creme & molasses. Nice, but the portion was too small.
All in all, a decent place to eat. I'd go there if I have a hankering of Kelantanese food, else - not someplace you'd go out of your way for.
P.S. - For serious Chowhounds/foodies, go to Kelantan itself (an hour's flight from KL) for the real thing, despite its forbidding Taliban-like Islamic state government and austere Muslim lifestyle & laws/regulations there.
Lot# LG 230B, The Gardens Mid Valley City, Medan Syed Putra.
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, 59200
Opening hours: 10am - 10pm daily.