I’ve always thought of celebrity-owned food businesses as a marketing gimmick where the celebrity’s fame usually outshine the quality of the food. However, this mindset of mine took on a 180-degree change after my visit to Kelaté at Toa Payoh—Malaysia actress Sasqia Dahuri’s stepping stone into Singapore’s gruelling F&B industry.
Compelled to settle down in our sunny island with her Singaporean husband due to the current travel restrictions, Sasqia found herself craving a taste of home after a long period away from her hometown of Kelantan. In an attempt to ease that bit of homesickness, she started whipping up traditional Kelantanese fare in her very own kitchen, feeding friends and loved ones with comfort food she grew up with.
“Response to my food was great, and that was when I started selling from home. After some time, I felt a calling to open Kelaté, an avenue where I can share traditional Kelantese cuisine to my fellow Malaysians who, like me, are missing a taste of their hometown,” Sasqia mentioned during our visit.
“Starting the business in a hawker stall was our best option as it mimics the dining environment back in Malaysia. It is casual, fuss-free, and affordable—the perfect environment to go with the food we serve and cater to our intended crowd,” she added.
What I tried
Located in the north-eastern corner of the peninsula, Kelantan is an agrarian state famous for its lush paddy fields, rustic fishing villages and casuarina-lines beaches. Heavily influenced by Thai cuisine due to the region’s proximity to Thailand, Kelantanese delicacies are well-loved by many Malaysians mainly due to their richer and creamier taste.
A classic dish that showcases the state’s unique culinary style is none other than Laksam (from S$4.90), a plate of freshly-made rice noodle rolls drenched in a milky coconut-based gravy garnished with ulam and finished with a gorgeous boiled egg.
Here, the rich and thick white gravy was a work of art on its own. Made primarily with ikan kembung (Indian mackerel) and coconut milk, every mouthful exuded the natural sweetness from the fish alongside the creaminess from the coconut.
Visually, it might have the word ‘jelak’ written all over, but the moment you mix in Kelaté’s very own chilli sauce, the entire dish transforms, taking on a brand new identity; one that is unfamiliar, yet strangely addictive.
“Gravy aside, another component of the Laksam that we take very seriously is the rice noodle rolls. Making them has always been a challenge since the batter is very fragile, so we have to put in a lot of effort to get the texture right,” Sasqia explained.
Kelaté’s Laksam noodle is like a homemade affair. Prepared using a smooth rice batter that was spread and steamed in a thin layer before being rolled up, the bite-sized rice rolls were soft with a tad of springiness. It had a delicate bite, which in my opinion, paired faultlessly with the robust gravy.
Elsewhere, Kelaté’s Mee Celup (from S$4.90) was a bowl that resembled my favourite Malay noodle dish, mee soto. Donning an intoxicating brown hue, the hearty warm broth exuded the fragrance and flavour of a full-bodied soup boiled using a combination of beef, chicken, and radishes.
Before you savour the goddess of this exhilarating dish, be sure to mix in all the toppings—fried garlic, ground peanuts, green chilli, and chilli flakes—into the Mee Celup. With just a simple mix, the humble dish turned into a firework of flavour. Sweet, savoury, and salty, it’s an embodiment of Kelantanese cuisine that tastes just as though it had been prepared straight out of a home kitchen.
Kelantan’s version of fried fritters is represented by Kelaté’s Colek Mala (S$4 for three pieces, S$7 for six pieces), an appetiser that sadly failed to impress me as much as the first two dishes which I deliciously wiped out in an instant.
Here, the thick flour batter muted the savoury flavours of the fried anchovies. Although the side of piquant chilli sauce managed to enhance the fritters’ overall taste, they nonetheless made me feel a little crestfallen considering the lack of flavour dimension in the Colek Mala itself.
Although I’ve never been to Kelantan, my meal at Kelaté gave me a glimpse of the unique food culture the state has to offer. After my meal, I finally understood what Sasqia meant when she mentioned that she is encouraged whenever she receives messages from people thanking her for bringing a piece of Kelantan to Singapore.
Food is more than just sustenance to keep us alive; it plays an indispensable role in our memories which eventually form part of our intangible cultural heritage. More than just a means to satisfy our appetites, food often brings a sense of comfort, a feeling of familiarity, and a taste of home.
Expected damage: S$4 – S$7 per pax
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Our Rating: 3 / 5
93 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, Singapore 311093
93 Lorong 4 Toa Payoh, Singapore 311093