[Penang, Malaysia] Nasi Kunyit from Dato' Acheh Temple, Island Park, Green Lane

Dato’ Acheh is a Muslim saint worshipped as a “Dato’ Kong” (guardian spirit) by the Chinese and Baba-Nyonya community here. The deity’s birthday is on the 18th day of the 12th month on the Chinese lunar calendar - this year, it falls on January 30 2021, which is today. Traditionally, nasi kunyit with Nyonya chicken curry will be cooked as offerings to the spirits at the Dato’ Acheh temple. The chickens will be procured from halal butchers, and cooked in special pots at the temple which have NOT been used for any non-halal meats.

Dato’ Acheh is the host spirit amongst a pantheon of spirits there, all with their own shrines, and which read like a sort of Malay Avengers: Panglima Hitam (the “Black Warrior”), Nenek Kebayan (“Lady of the Forest”), Harimau Berantai (“The Chained Tiger Warrior”) and Dato’ Tua (“The Old One”).

IMO, the nasi kunyit cooked here is far and away the best-tasting I’d ever had, not only in Penang, but anywhere! The catch: the temple keepers guard their recipe jealously, so one only gets to eat this dish once a year.

We paid MYR 75 (US$18.55) for our nasi kunyit, enough for 15 portions, as temple offerings to the spirits. After the prayers have been completed, all devotees would bring their “nasi kunyit” and chicken curry home for lunch.