Friday, April 07, 2006
The ikan tongkol have been synonymous with nasi dagang ever since I could remember. Other type of fish are just not right for the gulai nasi dagang especially the Nasi Dagang Terengganu which is made with glutinous rice as opposed to Nasi Dagang Kelantan which uses a special type of coloured rice. The nasi dagang is a special treat. We eat nasi dagang on occasions to rejoice, celebrate guests, get together functions or just to enjoy the food. However in recent week the ikan tongkol became a centre of controversy on the issue of consumerism. A Putrajaya resident felt that he was unfairly charged for a pack of nasi dagang with ikan tongkol head at RM45 by an elderly Mak Ngah who has been selling the renowned Chendering Nasi Dagang for ages. Being a Putrajaya Federal Territory resident, he maybe felt that the Mak Ngah needed a lesson in consumerism and went to KPDNHEP to voice his complain.
As a result Mak Ngah was fined RM1,000 not for overcharging but for not displaying price tag!!! Mak Ngah was disturbed to say the least and felt victimized since the man did not voice his complain when charged, when he could have used his consumer right and refuse to buy. But he could not resist the famed nasi dagang and asked for kepala ikan tongkol for added specialty for which he felt reluctant to pay. Mind you, the ikan tongkol used by Mak Ngah for her famous nasi dagang was the white ikan tongkol which is more exotic and hence more expensive. The white ikan tongkol head is more expensive because that is where the special lemak taste of the gulai nasi dagang originates from. The customer felt that any nasi dagang is the same and thought that he was victimized by the 70 years old Mak Ngah whose nasi dagang was the benchmark of Kuala Terengganu that see rows of Mercs, BMs and Hondas lining up to enjoy the treat, even willing to wait for quite a while to get the turn.
I am totally in agreement with Abdul Rahman there, as are many others. The best come with a price. What more Mak Ngah’s nasi dagang is never exorbitantly priced and far from the prices charged by hotels and restaurants which many just pay without complain. And the KPDNHEP just absent mindedly raid the aging Mak Ngah and charged her for not displaying price tags. Contrary to expectation, Mak Ngah’s Nasi Dagang soared in demand after the media coverage. Many voices their support and those locals who have been buying the nasi dagang for decades like Abdul Rahman just could not understand what all the fuss was about. They felt justified to pay a bit higher price for the sheer enjoyment of it.
Maybe realizing their blunder, KPDNHEP issued a deemed to be conciliatory statement asking Mak Ngah to appeal for lower fine. I wonder whether these people with the cane really understand the need to use it wisely and not simply whack people on the whim and fancies of others. They are supposed to use their better judgments and not just act because somebody complained. The issue here was the claim of over pricing by `uninformed person' (how then could he asked for special fish head and complain about price) and not price tagging. They could have fined her years ago were it for the price tag.
Whatever, I hoped the issue did not dent Mak Ngah’s spirit, else we will lose a treasure of a nasi dagang treat. I still remember years ago visiting a brother-in-law working in Kuala Terengganu with my family and in-laws. As a treat he went after subuh prayer to buy the famed nasi dagang for the family, else he will have to queue for a long time. I still vividly remember the exquisite aroma of the gulai ikan tongkol. It was never like any nasi dagang I had ever tasted. The gulai tasted so fresh and the ikan tongkol so white. The taste was so out-of this world. Everyone was thoroughly satisfied. Price was never the issue. It was reasonable. For such taste, I’m willing to pay multifold of the price. It was a treat to remember and etched in my travel memory for ever. MMMMMuuaaahhhh…. `Die also can’ said a Chinese acquaintant to describe total satisfaction.