When it comes to food, Kuchingites can get pretty opinionated about what’s good to eat and where as we pride ourselves on having the best food around.
Whether it is for breakfast, lunch, dinner of even snacking in between meals, everybody has their own preferences.
For first-timers here in the Cat City, here is the list of must-try, affordable dishes when you are in town.
1. Kolo mee
Considered by many as the poster noodle for Kuching, kolo mee is an all time favourite among Kuchingites.
Usually consumed for breakfast, you’ll still see this dish available for lunch and dinner… even after clubbing.
A basic bowl of kolo mee consists of its signature yellow noodles topped off with char siew, minced meat, and chopped scallion.
A simple yet satisfying dish, a bowl of kolo mee usually costs around RM3 to RM3.50, depending on the toppings.
I may be biased, but I find Sarawak laksa is the best kind compared to other varieties of laksas around Malaysia like the Penang Assam Laksa and Johor Laksa.
Anthony Bourdain himself called it the ‘Breakfast of the Gods’ during his second visit here to Kuching in 2016, putting other types of laksa to shame, as Sarawak laksa crowned itself the Queen.
A bowl of Sarawak laksa usually consists of bee hoon (rice vermicelli), shrimp, strips of omelette, shredded chicken and bean sprouts swimming in the dish’s most important feature, the spicy laksa broth. The whole concoction is topped with fresh sprigs of coriander.
For those eating laksa for the first time, take your time to enjoy the lingering fragrance of the laksa broth which gets its rich flavour from a paste made up of chillis, coconut milk, lemongrass, galangal, aniseed, cumin along with a host of aromatic spices.
An average bowl of laksa can typically cost anywhere from RM6 to RM8, depending on the size of the shrimp, the bowl portions or the topping.
3. Mee hijau/Spinach noodles
As its name suggests, Mee Hijau is a bowl of green spinach noodles. Depending on the stall owner, it can come topped with char siew or roasted chicken.
Currently, most Kuchingites get their spinach noodle fix at Chong Chon Green Noodle at 3rd Mile, costing about RM6.
Spinach is blended in with the noodle dough to create that lovely green colour. Chong Chon’s green noodle dish is chewy, springy and savoury from soaking in beef broth.
Simply delicious, spinach noodle is also a healthy meal for those who do not like veggies but still need to fill up on your fibers. Bon Appetit!
4. Mee sapi/Beef noodles
If kolo mee is the loud attention-seeking sibling, then mee sapi or beef noodles is the calmer of the two.
This simple yet hearty noodle dish is often overlooked when non-Kuchingites ask which dishes to try when they are in town.
While it looks similar to kolo mee, it is with topped slices of beef, bean sprouts and chopped scallions. It is the perfect noodle dish to have for breakfast.
You can have it ‘dry’ which means that your noodles will be served separately with a bowl of steaming hot beef broth, or as ‘Mee Sapi Sup’ which combines the soup and the noodles together.
Mee sapi can be found anywhere in Kuching, but my favourite place to get a bowl of freshly prepared Mee Sapi is at Green Hill (non-halal) in downtown Kuching which costs only RM6.
5. Cha Kueh
Cha Kueh – white radish typically fried with egg and sweet soy sauce – is usually served in a huge portion and as a side dish as it is meant to be shared with lots of people while waiting for their main orders to arrive.
Or am I the only one who does that?
Compared to the other dishes on this list, Cha Kueh is the fastest dish to reach your table taking perhaps about 5 minutes depending on the queue at that particular food stall.
Typically, the cost of this delectable hawker dish may range from RM3 (small) to RM5 (large).
6. Kueh Chap
If you love pork you will love this dish.
Kueh Chap is a Teochew dish made up of a whole variety of piggy parts like pork belly, pork intestines, pork meat together with boiled egg and sheets of wide, flat rice noodles drenched in a brown aromatic herbal brown broth.
A bowl of Kueh Chap may cost around RM4 to RM8. The best place to get Kueh Chap is at Carpenter Street.
7. Mani Chai Bee Hoon
Depending on which food stalls you go to, you’ll find a local vegetable called Mani Chai in Chinese or ‘cangkuk manis’ in Malay. It is a dark, leafy green vegetable and Mani Chai Bee Hoon is a simple dish that is fairly popular in Sarawak.
In Sarawak, Mani Chai Bee Hoon is a rice vermicelli dish usually stir-fried with egg and Mani Chai. Since it is almost a household dish, some places even serve it together sliced meat or even fish cakes.
You can find this dish in almost any coffeeshop in Kuching. A plate of Mani Chai Bee Hoon can cost anywhere from RM4 to RM6.
8. Nasi Goreng Dabai
Dabai (Canarium odontophyllum) is a local fruit in Sarawak. The outer coating of the fruit is glossy black while the flesh of the fruit is bright yellow covering an elongated seed.
Preparing dabai itself is quite easy; all you have to do is soak it in hot water for at least 15 minutes. Once softened, you can pull it from the seed and eat the flesh with soy sauce and salt.
A plate of fried nasi dabai may cost around RM5 to RM7.
9. Mee Tomato
Tomato noodles or Mee Tomato was my favourite noodle dish of all time when I was growing up.
Mee Tomato is made up of either yellow or crispy noodles topped with chicken or char siew drenched in a thick tomato sauce.
A plate of this reddish orange goodness can cost around RM4 to RM6.