The food odyssey continues with visits to more of the kopitiams and food courts scattered round Kuching. I am amazed and bewildered by the sheer number of these eateries at what seems like every street corner, or every shophouse corner. You can take your pick from traditional, modern, open-air, air-conditioned, those specializing in a few dishes, to massive ones that reduce the hapless punter to apoplectic confusion.
I subscribe to the belief that too much choice is actually bad for you, so when I find a place I like, I tend to return over and over again. (Making life as a restaurant reviewer-in-training somewhat nebulous, but that’s a philosophical debate for another time). These are some of the popular ones, with the disclaimer that I have barely scratched the surface of all the offerings available….
Popiah at Choon Hui Café has became my breakfast of choice. I tried a different vendor, but the sautéed mengkuang (jicama) filling was definitely superior at Choon Hui at Jalan Ban Hock.
Cha kuih (fried kuih) – soft rice cakes fried with egg and salted veggie
Lui cha (pounded tea) – this is a Hakka dish that consists of a bitter green herbal tea served with a selection of finely chopped vegetables, anchovies and peanuts. This is supposed to be very refreshing, but it was just too bitter for me.
Satay – a traditional Malay skewered meat cooked over a charcoal fire, but you can also find Chinese pork satay.
Kueh chap – sheets of rice noodle served with stewed pork and offal in a herbal soup.
Kolo mee – Noodles tossed in seasoned lard and served with minced pork and char siau pork pieces. One of the two signature noodle dishes of Kuching. There are variations to this dish now.
Ais kacang – Shaved ice dessert with evaporated milk and palm syrup, – variations include ang tau peng – sweetened red bean; cendol – red bean and pandan jelly; ‘ABC’ – jelly, corn, fruit; white lady – with various fruit; jagung – corn. Swee Kang Ice Kacang at Jalan Jaji Taha are the maestros.
Laksa – The other dish which typifies Kuching. Bee hoon (vermicelli) served in a spicy coconut soup with beansprouts, egg, shredded chicken and prawns.
Char kuey tiaw – Wok-fried flat rice noodles, with beansprouts, chives, egg and meat or seafood. This is done over a very high heat, resulting is some charred, crispy bits. Variations include kuey tiaw in tomato sauce, – a Kuching invention.
Pau – Steamed buns. You can get bak pau which are filled with seasoned minced pork or char siau pau filled with pork pieces cooked with char siau sauce.
Rice porridge – this is a thick rice gruel traditionally served with minced pork, wedges of century egg and preserved vegetables.
Kuih – steamed snacks. The gorgeous display below is at the Nyonya stall at The Spring shopping mall’s foodcourt in Jalan Simpang Tiga.