We read in our guide book that Kuching was a great up and coming foodie destination, but we didn’t think much of it. I do love Asian food, but I often grow tired of it pretty quickly. Not so in Kuching. We were eating dinner at the waterfront, watching boats make their way down the Sarawak river when I said to Dan, “All I want to do is eat. The time in between eating is just waiting until we can eat again.”
We have had some of the best Asian food of our lives in Kuching, the small provincial capital of Sarawak in Malaysian Borneo. We have eaten at a wide variety of restaurants, from classy upmarket affairs where you ought to make a reservation, to cheap little noodle stalls where the chairs, plates and all the cutlery are made of plastic. And every time we just could not get enough.
We stayed at a little hostel called the Hero hostel. It offers cheap rooms with Queen beds all with superhero themes. But this post isn’t about that. It’s about food. And the food place directly next door to our hostel called Warong Nusantara is certainly worth a mention. This is one of those little generic looking local restaurants with plastic tables and chairs and exceedingly cheap food. These places can sometimes be hit and miss, but this one is definitely a hit.
We went here every morning for breakfast, so I can’t really comment on their other offering, can I can certainly rave about the Roti Canai. Roti Canai is a type of crepe, which can be served plain or with fillings. It comes with a small bowl of fragrant but mild curry for dipping. I will never, ever get tired of Roti Canai for breakfast.
We would get three serves of roti with cheese and egg filling, and two iced coffees for about $4.50.
James Brooke Cafe
James Brooks was an Englishman who came to Borneo and helped the Sultan of Brunei put down a rebellion in Kuching in 1841 and became the first white Raja of Sarawak. He is now the figure this great little waterfront restaurant is named after. This restaurant offers great riverside views and is a favourite among ex pats.
It also serves Western style food, but don’t be fooled, that doesn’t mean it is just another run of the mill ex pat restaurant. The laksa here is to die for. We had the Sarawak laksa, a local specialty as well as the Wild Borneo laksa, a creation of this particular restaurant.
The Sarawak laksa, which is traditionally a breakfast dish but whatever, is a fragrant soup with flavours of lemongrass and galangal with noodles, chicken, bean sprouts and prawns. The Wild Borneo laksa, which you can only get here, is a milder variety, with a coconut based curry soup and with chicken, tofu, bean sprouts, and a hard boiled egg.
This little restaurant, located across the street from the main entrance to the Hilton, features traditional food from the Kalimatan highlands. Ingredients are often organic, and the food is cooked the traditional ways. This is a great way to experience tribal food in all it’s authentic glory.
We decided to get a mix of some of their most famous specialties. Ginger shredded beef, river fish cooked with ginger, and cinnamon curried pineapple. I also highly recommend the cinnamon iced tea.
Our guidebook raved about this tribal inspired restaurant half way between the central city and the airport so we just had to try it out. This is the one restaurant we saw in Kuching with pork on the menu, I guess because the traditional tribal people have no qualms with eating pork or wild boar, as the now predominantly Muslim population does today.
If you are really adventurous and order at least two weeks in advance, you can try some real specialities, like puffer fish, or grubs.
To be honest though, we both preferred the highland cuisine from Tribal Stove, although the two restaurants feature cuisines from different tribal areas, so it is hard to compare them.
Fusion and Western Nosh
Bla Bla Bla
This place is an eclectic blend of tradition and kitsch, Chinese and Western. The atmosphere is instantly charming featuring red Chinese lanterns hanging everywhere, stepping stones leading you across a fish pond, and a giant Buddha head.
The food offers just as much of an interesting blend as the decor. We ordered the chefs noodles, crispy noodles in a seafood broth with fish, prawns, quail eggs, and 100 year old eggs. I’m not a fan of seafood but this gravy was divine. So much so that we accidentally started eating before we could take a photo.
We also got something a little more Western. The sugarcane and cheese chicken is a piece of large chicken breast, on a bed of bacon, and wrapped around two pieces of sugarcane. Oh, and don’t forget the creamy cheesy cheese sauce. Mmmmmm.
The pandan iced great tea also deserves a mention. I absolutely adore pandan, and this drink is one of Bla bla bla’s specialties.
The food here has nothing to do with Asia. This is an Italian restaurant, with a wine list to make any Italian restaurant proud. We wanted to come here as we had heard that this was the place that all the celebrities frequent when they are in town. And boy, do we understand why. My pasta bowl was bigger than my head. And although this place does not claim to be “fusion” my bolognaise was made with udon noodles instead of traditional pasta, a really interesting twist on an old favourite.