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Secret paths to delicious 'keropok'

Article by
Azura Abas


AT a glance, Losong looks just like a rural village. However, the difference is that it is located in the town centre of Kuala Terengganu with the people carrying out their daily activities like clockwork. And Losong is famous simply because it is "the place" for both locals and outsiders seeking the delicious crackers keropok lekor which is made from fish and sago flour.

The keropok lekor is so well known that people as far as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Johor will stop by the stalls selling these delicacy whenever they are in the area. They can even watch how it is made. A keropok lekor trader known to her customers as Tijah said she sells crackers based on size. "For instance, five small-size keropok lekor will cost RM 1. Business is good and I can normally close my shop about 6pm since all my keropok lekor are sold out by then. I can earn about RM100 a day," Tijah said. There are more than 10 keropok lekor traders along the road at the Losong area.

Those who have tasted the Losong crackers will agree that they are the best there is because fish makes up 90 per cent of the ingredients. This is essential in bringing out the flavour. The types of fish mainly used are the ikan parang (herring), tamban (sardine-like fish) and selayang (decapterus russellii). The sago flour, said businessman Rahim Ahmad, 40, came from Sarawak as the local supply was not enough to meet the demand of the cracker-makers.

Curious how Losong got its name? Rahim said not many locals here know what Losong means. "I only learnt about it recently from a 98-year-old man known as Pak Aji staying in Besut who told me that Losong means secret path," he said. "During the olden days, warriors, traders and the people used secret paths to travel and today there are about 17 losong here. Among them are Losong Panglima Perang, Losong Haji Shafie and Losong Atap Zinc" he said.

On other attractions at Losong, you may find a small island called Pulau Sekati (One Kati Island), which is located between Kampung Bukit Datu and Bukit Losong. A small stream, Sungai Losong, separates the island from the mainland and a bridge has been built for residents to commute conveniently from their home to the nearby town. However, the bridge is not big enough to drive your car through and one has to walk. A resident, Muda ldrus, said Pulau Sekati now has only 40 houses compared to 80 in the early days because many of the younger people had moved out to seek job opportunities elsewhere. Asked how the island got its name Sekati, Muda said there was a story passed down from one generation to another. He said the island was once a popular spot for cock fighting among the people.

"The story begins with a prince named Raja Chulan who came to the island to participate in a cockfight. "Some said the prince came from Malacca, still no one knows exactly where he was from." The prince, however, knew the people's passion for cock-fighting and wanted to challenge the Terengganu king in a game of cockfighting. "The King accepted the challenge and the bet of one kati of gold was set. The prince was quite worried though when he heard that the king owned a formidable fowl."

He said the prince bribed Pak Sambulong, the man chosen by the king to fight the rooster on his behalf, to reveal the weakness of the rooster. Because of this, the king lost the bet. The king sensed something was amiss and later learned the truth. "In anger, the king ordered his men to make Pak Sambulong blind. As for Raja Chulan, nobody knew where he ran off to." The island was called Pulau Sekati ever since because of the one kati gold bet, Musa said.

Near Pulau Sekati, you can find the State Museum on Losong Hill. It is about six kilometres from Kuala Terengganu town and located on a 27 ha site. There are 11 galleries at the museum complex that display various artifacts ranging from textiles, the royalty, to marine park, the economy and natural resources. The museum was opened by the late Sultan of Terengganu Sultan Mahmud Al-Muktafi Billah Shah on April 20, 1996.

It is open to the public from Saturday to Thursday between 9am and 5pm. Visitors have to pay an entrance fee of RM2 for adults, RMI for children aged between seven and 15 years, 50 sen for students in uniform, RM5 for foreigners and free entry for children below seven. You can go to the museum either by car, bus, taxi or boat. The boat ride will take about 20 minutes to reach the museum.

Reprinted from the New Straits Times,
Thursday April 14, 2000

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