Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Things To Eat/ Drink/ Play/ See/ Buy in Kuching and Miri, Sarawak.

A 2-hour direct flight from Penang International Airport will land you at the east side of Malaysia (we flew with Air Asia if you must know); the city of Cat- Kuching, capital of Sarawak. The name Kuching sounds like Cat in Malay- "Kucing" but the derivation of Kuching has invited many opinions and various theories. Never mind on the name of the city, it is however, a true fact that the place is a melting pot for culture and a gastronomic paradise for adventurous eaters to explore. Weather is comfortable and backpacker-friendly but traveling from a place to another is rather inconvenient, we would advise you to rent a car, that might actually save yourself some time. 

Things to See in Kuching:
1) Kuching City's Mascot
Address: Right in front of Padungan China Town of Kuching.

The famous Cat statues attracted many tourists here just to take a photo with her. The Cats change their outfits according to different festivities; for instance, traditional Chinese wear will be worn during Chinese New Year. There are 3 different Cat statues around the city and they are not far from each other (all within walking distance). Good luck in hunting them down!

2) Dewan Undangan Sarawak and Astana 
Address: Shore of Sarawak River

Take an evening leisure stroll along the shore of Sarawak River and witness the majestic night view of the historical building of Astana and one of the most significant landmarks of Sarawak- Dewan Undangan. Astana refers to Istana in East Malaysia, which literally refers to Royal Palace; the current Yang di-Pertua Negeri Sarawak is residing there now at present. You may also opt to take the river cruise in the day time but we'd recommend the evening walk to enjoy the cold breeze and chilling vibe; the sultry tropical heat might be unbearable during day time. 

Things to Buy in Kuching:
1) Gambir Sarawak
Address: A kiosk somewhere opposite to Mira Cake House at Kampung Boyan.
Business Hours: Evening (we were there at 9 pm).

Some of you might have heard of the name- Gambir; supposedly a type of natural Herb, traditionally used to relieve pain resulting from cut or gum diseases but it has since being abused by many and claimed to be one of the most effective natural remedies to ease premature ejaculation  by applying on the male reproductive organ for a longer-lasting erection. It works by numbing the reproductive organ and reduces the sensation. Rm 10 for one small bottle if you must know. We were also told that the product is available in most major markets across Kuching.

2) Mira Cake House/ Kek Lapis
Address: 44A, Tebingan Permaidani BGS, Kampung Boyan, Petra Jaya, 93050, Kuching.
Business Hours: 8 am to 12 am. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: 082- 440 077

Sarawak's varicolored Layer Cake (also known as Kek Lapis) has been gaining its popularity in the recent past few years and many would buy the colorful fresh bake as gift to be brought back to homeland. Mira Cake House is a good option, the cake house opens till late in the evening and free testing is available. Test and find your preferred flavor(s) so you will not have any regrets for your trip. Each standard piece of Layer Cake costs Rm 10 nett. 

Things/ Places to Eat in Kuching:
1) Top Spot Food Court
Address: Jalan Bukit Mata Kucing off Jalan Padungan, 93100, Kuching. 
Business Hours: 5 pm to 12 am. Opens Daily.

Sugar Cane Juice with Lime (Rm 5/ glass)

Ayam Pansuh/ Bamboo Chicken (Rm 36/ Medium)

Stir Fried Sweet Leaves with Egg (Manicai/ Cangkuk Manis)

Crispy Fried Oyster/ Oh Chien 

Stir Fried Midin (a type of Wild Fern)

Crispy Noodles served with Tomato Sauce

Cheese-Baked Lobsters (Rm 100/ kg)

Ask a local for the best location for a seafood treat and many would answer 'Top Spot'. The name describes the place well; located on the 6th floor of a multi-level car park in the bustling heartland of Kuching. Top Spot is known to dish out fresh and reasonable Seafood dishes. The food court consists of many Halal and Non-Halal (pork-free though) seafood stalls. We visited the place on a weekday evening and it was jam-packed with locals and tourists. Stall 'ABC Seafood' was our pick and we savored some local delicacies. 

Midin seems like a staple for Kuchingites but the wild fern is undoubtedly delicious. We had ours stir fried with Belacan, it was crunchy, juicy and especially toothsome to go with Rice. Their Oh Chien is unique and different compared to ours. It came in a gigantic bowl shape with a few Oysters on it, served with a Belacan-like dipping sauce. The sauce was a tad salty to my liking but the texture of the Oh Chien was beyond amazing; though inevitably greasy but it can addictive, best washed down with a mug of icy cold Beer. Ayam Pansuh is a must try traditional exotic dish at Kuching, the Chicken was first marinated and placed in a Bamboo, together with Ginger, Lemongrass, Garlic and Torch Ginger Flower; stuffed with fresh Tapioca Leaves and cooked over wood fire. As a result, tender Chicken pieces with a delightful and herbaceous aroma. We washed everything down with a mug of Sugar Cane Juice with Lime. It was sweet but not monotonous thanks to the extra zingy touch of Lime.

2) Bungai Terung Ethnic Cafe
Address: Off Jalan Kota Samarahan, Kuching.
Business Hours: 5 pm till late. 

Tuak/ Borneo Rice Wine (Rm 18/ Jar)

Ethnic Cafes are gaining its popularity in Kuching recently, our local friend Mr Ch'ng brought us to Bungah Terung Ethnic Cafe, secluded and tucked away from the bustling Jalan Kota Semarahan. It has an interesting menu which features the traditional dishes of the aborigines. We savored a few but their Borneo Rice Wine left us with the deepest impression. Tuak is a traditional Dayak brew made from Glutinous Rice; with 12% alcohol, it was not strong but neither soft. It was crystal clear but the sweetness was apparent. We paired our Rice Wine with a bowl of Deep Fried Anchovies with Lime Juice (Rm 5). 

3) Gula Apong Soft Serve
Address: Along the shore of Sarawak River
Business Hours: Day Time

Gula Apong Soft Serve (Rm 5/ Large)

Another variant of Palm Sugar, native to Borneo; Gula Apong is a sugar syrup extracted from Nipah. The Soft Serve was silky smooth with a sleek of delightful burnt aroma. Sweetness was at its acceptable state, a worth-trying sweet treat for novelty sake. We had ours at UNIMAS but we were also told that the soft serve is available along the shore of Sarawak River during day time.

4) Sin Poh Poh Cafe 
Address: 194, Jalan Ban Hock, 93100, Kuching.
Business Hours: 6:30 am till noon. 

Pian Sip/ Soup Dumplings

Porridge with fresh Mud Carp Fish Paste (Rm 8)

Kolo Mee (Rm 3/ Regular)

Kampua (Rm 3)

Deep Fried Yam Cake (Rm 0.70/ piece)

Kampua with Mee Pok 

Stir Fried Vermicelli Noodles with Cangkuk Manis (Rm 5)

Enjoy breakfast like a Kuchingite at Sin Poh Poh Cafe, one of the many coffee shops at China Town. Do not leave Kuching without trying their Kolo Mee, lightly-blanched noodles drenched in light Soya sauce and Pork Lard Oil. Similarly, another variant to Kolo Mee is Kampua, originated from Sibu. Both served in similar way yet unique in its own way. We could not really tell the differences except the Minced Pork on Kolo Mee and the texture of the noodles. Kolo Mee is often eaten with vinegared Chilies but a fun way to savor Kampua is to mix the noodles with sweet Chili sauce. 

Kuchingites further professed their love for Cangkuk Manis by cooking them with Vermicelli Noodles. The marriage between Cangkuk Manis and Vermicelli Noodles was exceptional; the dish carried a hint of vegetal flavor with natural sweetness in it, best served with Sambal Belacan. We did not manage to try their Sarawak Laksa (compliments were given by many over the world of Internet) as it was closed on our visit. The best time to visit the place is probably around 8 am in the morning as finding a place to park after 9 am might be a challenge.

Things to Eat in Miri
1) WZT Coffee House (王世泰咖啡室)
Address: Off Jalan Merpati, 98000, Miri.
Business Hours: 6:30 am to 5 pm on Mondays to Saturdays; 6:30 am to 2:30 pm on Sundays. Closed on every third Monday of the month.

3-Layer Tea (Rm 2.80)

Sarawak Laksa (Rm 5)

Tapioca Kuih (Rm 0.70)

We stopped by Miri too, a small coastal city located northern part of Sarawak, right next to Brunei. We stayed at Imperial Hotel Miri, strategically located in the city center. The location could not be more strategic, right next to the hotel is one of the fashion-leading malls in the city- Permaisuri Imperial Mall. Shopping or chilling out after work did not seem like an issue for us. Same goes to savoring local delicacies, walk across the street from the hotel and you will be welcomed by a bunch of good hawker places. Regular patrons will start to throng in as early as 8 am so the best time to beat the crowd would be around 7:30 am in the morning.

WZT Coffee House was our first pick, we were convinced by the aplenty choices available as well as the promising crowd. A small corner was allocated for regulars to pick their favorite Kuih and we had a Tapioca-like Kuih dusted with desiccated Coconut. It possessed a chewy texture and it was reasonably sweetened. It was somewhat similar to our 9-layer Kuih. For something more substantial, we had their Sarawak Laksa too. The Laksa was well-spiced and we thoroughly enjoyed the luscious, creamy broth with a sleek Seafood sweetness. To put it simple, it tasted like a less-creamy Penang Curry Mee cooked with Seafood broth... with a stronger peppery after-taste. Squeeze in some Lime Juice for an extra zingy touch and savor with their Chili Paste for a more dimensional taste. We washed everything down with a glass of 3-Layer Tea. 

2) Meng Chai Seafood (明财海鲜)
Address: Lot 11A, Ground Floor, Jalan Merbau, 98000, Miri.
Business Hours: 5 pm to 12 am. Opens Daily.
Contact Number: 085- 413 648

Stir Fried Midin with Red Wine sauce (Rm 10)

Grilled Squid (Rm 25)

Mee Goreng (Rm 15/ for 3)

Steamed Free Range Chicken with Chinese Rice Wine, Fish Maw and Mushrooms (Rm 27.50/ half bird)

We asked around and many introduced us to this Ming Chai, one of the few famous Seafood places at Miri. It was conveniently located within walking distance from our hotel. We had a few dishes, praise-worthy was the Grilled Squid which was served in a humongous portion. It was nicely done with a delightful charred aroma, carefully cooked to the right doneness and not rubbery in texture. Dip the Grilled Squid in their home-made tangy Chili dip and it works as the perfect nibble to go with your icy cold Beer. Midin lived up to our expectation, we simply adored the crunchiness of the greens. We were very impressed with their Steamed Free Range Chicken as well. They were generous in ingredients, we did not expect to see Fish Maw but we were glad that they have included it in the dish. The Chicken was most tender and succulent, reasonably seasoned and enhanced with the touch of Chinese Rice Wine. The thick and rich delicately clear soup hidden underneath the Chicken highlighted the importance of Fish Maw here, which introduced the sauce a unique but identifiable flavor. We were too powerless to resist the allure of the flavorful Chicken essence... that we eventually clean the plate up without leaving a single trace of the soup.

3) Desserts (Ice Cream at Imperial Mall)
Address: Ground Floor of Imperial Mall Miri
Business Hours: 11 am to 10 am. Opens Daily.

2-Scoops (Rm 7.40): Calamansi and Christmas Pudding  

For those with a sweet tooth, hop over to Imperial Mall for a sweet treat. We stumbled upon this quiet Ice Cream parlor at the ground floor of the mall. Some of their unique Ice Cream flavors caught our attention. We could not help but to order a couple scoops of their Ice Cream. We quelled the heat by having Christmas Pudding and Calamansi Ice Cream. The former one tasted similar to a Fruit Cake except that it was in the form of an Ice Cream; while the latter one struck the palate with a jolting sourness. Good try for novelty sake. If I must choose, I'd prefer Christmas Pudding over Calamansi. 

4) 28 Coffee House 
Address: Off Jalan Merpati, 98000, Miri.
Business Hours: 6:30 am to 2 pm. 

Sarawak Laksa (Rm 7)

Kampua (Rm 3)

A stone's throw distance away from WZT Coffee House is 28 Coffee Shop... another coffee house that seems to be one of the locals' favorites. We had the usual Sarawakians' breakfast fare- Sarawak Laksa and Sibu Kampua Noodles. The Sarawak Laksa at 28 Coffee House costs Rm 7, priced slightly higher than its competitor further down the street. However, we thought the Sarawak Laksa here possessed a stronger seafood flavor and the portion seems to be more inviting. We appreciate the extra effort to devain the Shrimps; it makes the entire dish more presentable and the sincerity of the owner speaks for itself. The Kampua was alright; the noodles were silky smooth and lightly drenched in Pork Lard Oil and Soya Sauce. It did not really hit us but it was perfectly fine as a breakfast staple. 

*As we had limited time in both Kuching and Miri, these were some of the many places we managed to visit. Though not extensive, we hope that it provides as a simple guide for you, knowing what to expect in both Kuching and Miri. Have Fun!*