Thanks to its many culinary gems, Malaysia is no stranger to being called a food paradise. From the beloved Asam laksa of Penang to the equally popular bean sprouts chicken rice in Ipoh, there are plenty of options in the country to tickle the fancy of any foodie. However, one destination that seems to have slipped under the radar is Sarawak, particularly Kuching.
Offering a fusion of traditional delicacies and modern classics, the bustling capital of “the Land of Hornbills” has every right to be recognized as a world-class foodie destination! Don’t believe me? Well, check out this list of must-eats in Kuching you must complete during your next visit there! Without further ado, it’s time to hit the Sarawak Food Trail!
As far as noodle dishes go in Sarawak, none are as famous or well-loved as kolo mee. In its most traditional form, kolo mee consists of springy yellow egg noodles tossed in a light, aromatic sauce and topped with minced meat (usual pork) and slices of char siew (barbecued pork). The noodles are then garnished with fresh spring onions to give them extra flavor with every bite. Some hawker stalls also pair kolo mee with a bowl of hearty broth containing pork slices and innards (known as zheng by the locals).
As with all things food in Malaysia, there are different variations of kolo mee too. For example, instead of the traditional version, you can try kolo mee tossed in spicy chili oil or black vinegar and replace the springy noodles with kuey teow (flat rice noodles) or other types of noodles. Whatever hits the spot for you, kolo mee is one of the first things you should sample in Kuching when you embark on the Sarawak Food Trail. What’s more, it’s also one of the most popular budgets eats in the city!
If you’re looking for the best kolo mee in Kuching, then make a beeline for Noodles Descendants. Located on Jalan Padungan, Noodle Descendants has been around since 1957 when the current owners’ grandparents started selling this beloved noodle dish. Despite having been passed down multiple generations (and a couple of name changes), the noodles and zheng have retained their reputable quality.
Who says you need to tear a hole in your wallet for a world-class meal? Despite not being globally known as Penang’s asam laksa, Sarawak laksa is another delicacy on the Sarawak Food Trail that will set your palette alight. In fact, the late Anthony Bourdain enjoyed it so much that he called it the “Breakfast of Gods.” That being said, the dish is so versatile that you can even eat it for lunch or dinner!
Unlike Penang’s Asam Laksa, Sarawak laksa features a shrimp-based broth that is less tangy. It is made with a mixture of sambal belacan, sour tamarind, lemongrass, and other herbs and spices. The aromatic broth is enriched and thickened with coconut milk to give it a savory aftertaste. As for what goes into the slurpy broth (and your bowl), expect bee hoon (vermicelli rice noodles), juicy shrimp, a generous amount of bean sprouts, shredded omelet, and chicken slices. A dash of fresh mint and a wedge of lime (remember to squeeze it before eating!) bring it all together for garnish. Yum!
Although you can find Sarawak laksa anywhere in Kuching, virtually none are as famous as Choon Hui Cafe on Jalan Ban Hock. After all, it was here where the late Anthony Bourdain fell in love with this hearty delicacy and made his iconic “Breakfast of Gods” quip! The owners have not changed, and neither has the taste! If you’re craving Sarawak laksa late at night, though, Teresa Laksa is the place to be. It has been serving up delicious bowls of laksa late into the night for two decades.
Belacan Bee Hoon
This unique delicacy found in many Kuching hawker centers takes a simple staple (rice vermicelli) and elevates it using a handful of unique condiments and ingredients. Belacan Bee hoon consists of a flavourful shrimp-based broth, springy rice vermicelli, sliced cucumber, and cuttlefish slices. The unique element, however, is a century egg.
For the uninitiated, century eggs are eggs that have been fermented and preserved for several weeks or months. It has a jelly-like texture, and some may find the taste a little too funky for their liking. However, the century egg works well in this case, combining with the other ingredients to make belacan bee hoon a Sarawakian delicacy you must try on the Sarawak Food Trail!
Stall number 26 of the Song Kheng Hai Market Food Court is a storied establishment that not many younger generations in Kuching know about. This belacan bee hoon stall has been a family business for over 30 years, and loyal customers who used to frequent the booth when it was still a roadside shack swear by its taste!
Sarawak is blessed with plenty of natural treasures, most of which are hidden in the dense jungles of Borneo. Fitting then, that over the years, the locals in Sarawak have learned to incorporate the local produce into their culinary repertoire. Midin is a wild fern that grows in the jungles of Sarawak. It has a crunchy texture and is one of the most popular vegetables in the state.
Midin can be eaten as part of a local salad (kerabu) or stir-fried with shrimp paste (belacan) and chilis. Some versions of the latter also include fried anchovies or salted fish to add another layer of flavour to this humble dish.
You don’t have to go out of your way to look for good midin dishes. That’s because most restaurants and even economy rice stalls serve this dish. However, if you’re looking for some good seafood to go with your midin, try Bukit Mata Seafood or Sin Soon Lee Seafood for a hearty meal you won’t soon forget!
Sarawak Layer Cake (Kek Lapis)
Although you can find layer cakes all over Malaysia, Sarawak’s kek lapis truly takes the cake (forgive the pun) when it comes to standing out from the crowd. Colourful and delicious, Sarawak’s layer cakes are the go-to choice for something to satisfy your sweet tooth! The cakes come in different flavours but it is the colours and the intricate designs that make them such a popular feature on the Sarawak Food Trail.
It may look easy, but every layer on a piece of kek lapis is individually baked and then carefully layered to produce stunning designs that are as much a feast for the eyes as they are treats for the palette! And better still, a medium-sized box of cakes often only costs about RM15, which is a steal considering the price of desserts these days!
For most Malaysians, Mira Cake House needs no introduction. It is the biggest kek lapis franchise store in the country, after all! But for the benefit of those not from Malaysia, Mira Cake House is an established Sarawak layer cake franchise that started out as a family business. Their kek lapis is more moist compared to other shops and comes in plenty of different flavours and colours! Baked fresh every day, their cakes also make amazing souvenirs since they are made to last (up to three months if kept in the fridge).
Believe it or not, we’ve only barely scratched the surface with this list. There are plenty more culinary delights in Sarawak to savor! What’s that I hear? Is it your rumbling tummy? Well then, there’s no better remedy for that than a trip to Kuching to savor all this gobsmackingly delicious food!