I was in Sarawak (Malaysian Borneo) for an unplanned family matter, specifically in the capital city of Kuching. ("Kucing" is cat in Malay - indeed the city is littered with various cat statues, monuments, a museum, etc.) My parents grew up in Kuching, and I was actually born there, but I mainly grew up in Miri (another city in Sarawak).
Made the best out of the unplanned trip to spend time with my parents and sisters; and also my relatives, whose house we stayed in for the duration of my trip. I haven't been to Kuching in years (maybe 15 years!?) so I haven't seen those rellies for that long.
Of course, I also took the opportunity to savour local Sarawakian food. As with any locality within Malaysia, each place has its own quirks, cultures and food. I suppose this is due to the flocking of migrants in the past to certain areas and them developing their own unique food and culture in that particular area. I'm not sure this is 100% accurate but a lot of settlers in Kuching were from Southern China, particularly Fujian / Hokkien or Teochew. Most Kuchingites speak Hokkien regardless of their race / heritage.
Sarawakian food is becoming more available in Australia but is still a rarity. These are some of the dishes I had in the past week:
(Photos taken with Samsung S4)
This is different from the dish commonly known as laksa in Australia. In Australia, laksa usually refers to curry laksa, which has a coconut milk base. This is also different from the asam laksa, which has a tamarind base.
The Sarawak laksa, instead, has a shrimp base. It is usually served with thin rice noodles, bihun, and not the yellow Hokkien noodles like curry laksa. It is also served with sambal belacan, a shrimp paste and half a lime, which again is unlike the lime found in Australia. It is a lot more tart and lends a unique zing to the dish.
This may make a lot of you queasy so you may want to skip this. This is one of my favourite meals for breakfast. Kueh Chap literally means "Mixed Noodles". The "noodles" are made out of rice flour and are the same stuff as flat rice noodles (Kueh Teow) except they are cut into squares / rectangles.
Ok here comes the queasy part. This dish is also known as "Pork Spare Parts Soup". This is because it is also served with every single part of the pig. Meat, intestines, ears, stomach, tongue, etc. etc. Yup.
I LOVE IT!
This is a fried radish dish. It is commonly fried with egg and tauge, bean sprouts. This is quite common in Miri too, but the ones in Kuching taste better. Also, Kuching also sells the 'sweet' variety which is not found in Miri. The 'sweet' version is not fried with egg or tauge, but is fried with a sticky sweet sauce. Both are quite different from each other.
Gu Bak Mee
This is very uniquely Kuching. This dish is quite scarce even in other parts of Sarawak, e.g. Miri.
It's noodles (much like kolok mee) served in a beef broth and served with slivers of tender beef. I had this in the old Kuching open air market and I believe these guys may have been there for 50 years or more! (I'm only guessing but it's been there since my dad was a kid.)
Ah, I ate plenty more but the ones above are more uniquely Sarawakian. Give them a go one day! :)