Sarawak Food Trail: 12 Dishes in Kuching You Must Try!

Sarawak Food Trail: 12 Dishes in Kuching You Must Try!

Your gastronomic journey into Sarawak is just getting started!

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.

sarawak food trail map

Image credit: Sarawak Food Trail

Offering a fusion of traditional delicacies and modern classics, the bustling capital of “the Land of Hornbills” has every right to be recognised as a world-class foodie destination! Don’t believe me? Well check out this list of must-eats in Kuching you simply must complete during your next visit there! Without further ado, it’s time to hit the Sarawak Food Trail! 

1. Kolo Mee

sarawak kolo mee

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

As far as noodle dishes go in Sarawak, none are as popular 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 (usually pork) and slices of char siew (barbecued pork). The noodles are then garnished with fresh spring onions to give it an extra depth of flavour 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). 

photos of sarawak kolo mee

Image credit: CCFoodTravel.com (L; R)

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 definitely 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 budget 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. 

Noodle Descendants
Address: No. 188, Jalan Padungan, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 7am to 2pm daily

2. Sarawak Laksa

sarawak laksa

Image credit: Kai Hendry

Who says you need to tear a hole in your wallet for a world-class meal? Despite not being as 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. 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 savoury 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 omelette, and chicken slices. For garnish, a dash of fresh mint and a wedge of lime (remember to squeeze it before eating!) bring it all together. Yum! 

 

View this post on Instagram

 

#Laksa #Kuching Breakfast of the Gods

A post shared by anthonybourdain (@anthonybourdain) on May 28, 2015 at 6:57pm PDT

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. 

Choon Hui Cafe
Address: 34 Jalan Ban Hock, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 6.30am to 12pm on Tuesday–Sunday; closed on Monday

Teresa Laksa
Address: Jalan Bukit Mata, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 6pm to 4am daily

3. Kampua Mee

kampua mee

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

A lot of people, including Malaysians, sometimes confuse kampua mee with kolo mee. In all fairness, at first glance, they do look quite similar to each other but there are actually differences that most true blue foodies can appreciate. 

Originating in Sibu, kampua mee is a delicacy of the Foochow community. It uses similar ingredients to that of kolo mee, but rather than a light sauce, the springy noodles are tossed in shallot oil and soy sauce, which gives it a slightly saltier flavour. It is also slightly drier compared to kolo mee and often enhanced with a sweet chili sauce to complement the simplicity of the dish. Another subtle difference is that while kolo mee is often served in a bowl, Kampua Mee is served on a plate. 

Much like kolo mee and laksa, you can usually find kampua mee in almost any food court or hawker centre in Kuching. However, if you’re looking for the best, head to the stall in the kopitiam (‘coffee shop’) at Song Corner, which has been consistently voted the best kampua mee by locals for years! 

Fun fact: The “kampua” in kampua mee actually means “dry plate” in the local dialect, hence why the noodles are served on a plate rather than a bowl. 

Song Corner
Address: 1447, Lorong Song 4b, Tabuan Heights, 93350 Kuching
Opening hours: 6.10am to 1pm daily (kampua mee stall) 

4. Kueh Chap

sarawak kueh chap

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

To understand what Sarawak kueh chap is, one need only look at the name. In Hokkien, kueh refers to a unique kind of flat rice noodles (slightly larger than kueh teow) whereas chap refers to a mixture of ingredients. 

This hearty dish consists of flat rice noodles in a rich, herbal-based broth containing various different pieces of pork, including stomach, intestine and skin (think Malaysian Bak Kut Teh but with more ingredients). While the mixture may seem weird and a little off-putting to some, one sip of the flavourful broth is all you need to fall in love with this rustic delicacy. It’s no wonder that many of the locals in Kuching consider this their go-to comfort food! 

As many Kuchingites will no doubt tell you, the best kuey chap in the city is from the stall at Woon Lam Cafe 1999. Despite the name though, the kuey chap stall has been operating since as early as 1985, serving up piping hot bowls of kuey chap to the locals for the better part of almost 30 years! It’s no wonder then that this humble establishment is a local favourite amongst young and old alike! 

Woon Lam Cafe 1999
Address: 187–189, Jalan Song Thian Cheok, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 6am to 6pm daily

5. Tomato Crispy Mee

No conversation about the Sarawak Food Trail could ever be complete without mentioning this culinary gem! Keo jiap mee (tomato crispy noodles) is Sarawak’s spin on a unique Cantonese classic that you’ll likely never find anywhere else in the world. 

Like its Cantonese counterpart (Kung Fu Cao), Sarawak’s tomato crispy mee starts with a nest of crispy pre-fried noodles on a plate. These noodles are then bathed in a slurpy, thickened tomato sauce and topped with slices of meat, vegetables and (sometimes) seafood. What sets this dish apart is its tangy sauce. It is much lighter compared to that which is used for Kung Fu Cao and has a sweet-and-sour aftertaste that makes it an irresistible dish to most foodies. While some versions of the dish can be a little pricey (especially if it’s topped with squid and other types of seafood), crispy tomato mee is generally an affordable option that is sure to satiate your cravings! 

Located in the Kenyalang Park market, Hap Hap Hin is a food stall that specialises in tomato crispy mee. While the stall itself has only been around for about 12 years (it opened in 2007), this family business started way earlier, when the current owner’s mother used to sell the dish at a nondescript bus stop by the roadside. Unlike most stalls, the tomato-based sauce is made to order rather than in bulk, ensuring that every serving retains its exceptional quality, perfect for breakfast!

Hap Hap Hin (Stall No. 37)
Address: 3F, Kenyalang Park Market, 93200 Kuching
Opening hours: 4am to 10am daily

6. Belacan Bee Hoon

This unique delicacy found in many Kuching hawker centres 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 special ingredient however, is century egg. 

For the uninitiated, century eggs are basically eggs which 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 simply 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 of the 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 stall when it was still a roadside shack swear by its taste! 

Song Kheng Hai Market Food Court (Stall no. 26)
Address: Jalan Song Kheng Hai, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 11.30am to 5pm daily

7. Gong Pia (or Kompia)

gongpia

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

If you’re looking for a budget-friendly snack in Sarawak that’s both delicious and easy to eat on the go, look no further than Sibu’s famous gong pia (sometimes spelled kompia). This yummy delicacy is sometimes also affectionately known as the Foochow burger or Foochow bagel. 

It consists of crusty baked buns that are as dense as bagels but lighter and fluffier in texture. Some vendors use plain buns while others top them with sesame seeds. These flaky buns are good to eat on their own, but most locals will tell you that it’s even better when you stuff them with a serving of savoury minced pork (other meat options are also available)! The juicy meat and toasty bun make for a delightful combination and you might just find yourself eating more than just a couple of these flavourful “burgers”! 

For the best gong pia in Kuching, head once again to the Song Kheng Hai Market Food Court! It is here where you will find the city’s famous Rihga Gong Pia stall! Popular amongst both locals and tourists, you’ll be able to savour freshly-baked gong pia in four different varieties: minced meat, cheese, ham, and garlic. Although, we would recommend that you try the garlic-flavoured gong pia last, lest the garlic overpowers everything else. 

Rihga @ Song Kheng Hai Market Food Court (Stall No. 7) 
Address: Jalan Song Kheng Hai, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 11.30am to 5pm daily

8. Kacangma Chicken

kacangma chicken

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

Of all the wonderful delicacies on the Sarawak Food Trail, perhaps none come with a backstory as fascinating as this unique dish. In the past, this was a dish that was strictly prepared for women of the Hakka community during their confinement period after giving birth. These days however, it is widely available to just about anyone who fancies giving it a try. 

Traditionally, kacangma chicken is prepared with a kacangma (a type of dried herb also known as motherwort) broth, plenty of ginger and rice wine. Because of its strong alcoholic aroma, some consider kacangma to be an acquired taste. However those who’ve grown accustomed to it swear by its delicate, slightly sweet flavour, best eaten with a bowl of rice. 

Believe it or not, these days, you can find Kacangma Chicken in plenty of food courts/hawker centres in Kuching. However, two establishments that deserve special mention are the stalls at Number 6 Kopitiam and Top 10 Food Court. These are the locals’ favourites and, as they say, the best way to find the best food in any given city is to eat as the locals do! 

Number 6 Kopitiam
Address: Tabuan Heights, 93350 Kuching
Opening hours: 5.45am to 9pm daily

Top 10 Food Court
Address: 2, Jalan Setia Raja, Taman Stutong Indah, 93350 Kuching
Opening hours: 7am to 9pm on Tuesday–Sunday; closed on Monday

9. Midin Belacan

midin belacan

Image credit: watiefatin_din

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! 

Bukit Mata Seafood
Address: 25, Jalan Padungan, Taman Kereta, 93100 Kuching
Opening hours: 5pm to 11pm on Tuesday–Sunday; closed on Monday

Sin Soon Lee Seafood Restaurant
Address: 17, Jalan Kampung Muara Tebas, Sungai Buda Kecil, 93010 Kuching
Opening hours: 9.30am to 9pm daily

10. Manok Pansuh

manok pansuh

Image credit: CCFoodTravel.com (L), Sarawak Tourism (R)

The next dish on the Sarawak Food Trail brings us closer to the roots of the local, indigenous heritage. Manok pansuh is a popular traditional dish that is often prepared by the Iban and Dayak tribes. It consists of chicken marinated in lemongrass, ginger, and tapioca leaves. What makes it truly special is the way that this authentic dish is cooked.

Once the chicken has soaked up the flavours of the marinade, the pieces are stuffed into a bamboo shoot and roasted over an open fire. This method of cooking seals in the flavour and ensures that the chicken comes out succulent and packed full of flavour. The marinade also turns into a rich gravy infused with the aromas of lemongrass and bamboo! Just thinking about it is making my mouth water! 

Since manok pansuh is an indigenous dish, you’ll be surprised to know that one of the best places for this wonderful dish is The Dyak, a modern-looking cafe in the heart of Kuching! However, don’t be fooled by the modern ambience of this air-conditioned eatery, because The Dyak serves some of the best authentic Dayak cuisine in town!

The Dyak
Address: Sublot 29, Panovel Commercial Complex, Jalan Simpang Tiga, Kampung Kenyalang Park, 93300 Kuching
Opening hours: 12pm to 10pm on Monday–Saturday; closed on Sunday

11. Sarawak Layer Cake (Kek Lapis)

sarawak kek lapis

Image credit: Sarawak Tourism

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 (S$3), which is a steal considering the price of desserts these days!

sarawak layer cake from mira cake house

Image credit: Mira Cake House

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).

Mira Cake House
Address: 43, Jalan Brooke, Kampung Gersik, 93050 Kuching (Flagship store)
Opening hours: 8am to 12am daily

12. Tuak

bottles of tuak

Image credit: The Dyak

Finally, after all that eating, it’s time to wash it all down with a good drink. Although you probably won’t need much help looking for an ambient location in Kuching to savour the nightlife, I simply must recommend that you try tuak, which is a local fermented rice wine.

Made from glutinous rice, sugar, and water, tuak has a pretty diverse range in terms of flavour and alcohol content. Some versions of it contain as little as 5% of alcohol and taste quite sweet while others could have as much as 20% alcohol content. These have a drier taste. Apart from traditional tuak, there are also flavoured versions of the wine you can try, such as rambutan, grape, and mangosteen. Just remember, before you down your drink, it is customary (okay, not really) to exclaim “oohaa!”, which means “cheers” in the Iban language.  

There are many establishments in Kuching that serve tuak, but for the most authentic experience, head to the aforementioned The Dyak, where they serve flavoured versions of the rice wine in addition to the original. 

The Dyak
Address: Sublot 29, Panovel Commercial Complex, Jalan Simpang Tiga, Kampung Kenyalang Park, 93300 Kuching
Opening hours: 12pm to 10pm on Monday–Saturday; closed on Sundays

Eat to your heart’s content

Believe it or not, we’ve only barely scratched the surface with this list. There’s plenty more culinary delights in Sarawak to savour! 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 savour all these gobsmackingly delicious food! No time for second thoughts, the Sarawak Food Trail awaits you (make sure to bring an appetite, you’ll definitely need it!)

Can’t wait to start your culinary adventure on the Sarawak Food Trail?

Get Your Sarawak Food Trail Guide

For more information on where to find the best eats in Sarawak, visit the official website of Sarawak Tourism or drop by their Visitor Centres in Singapore. Sarawak tours and packages are available as well.


Brought to you by Sarawak Tourism Board.

About Author

Darren Yeoh
Darren Yeoh

Darren enjoys the finer things in life and loves exploring unfamiliar places on foot, guided with nothing but instinct and a good-old fashioned map. He enjoys cultural experiences and exciting adventures and is not a stranger to travelling alone. When he's not putting his travel experiences into words, he's probably sitting behind his laptop, planning his upcoming adventure.

CLICK TO SEE MORE ARTICLES BY Darren Yeoh



Related Posts