Food Hunting In Kuching City Part 1: Delectable Local Hawker Delights

Besides being known as a land where adventure lives, Kuching is also known to have a wide array of tantalising food options. Although I don’t think we can be called foodies, we were still excited at the fact that we would be able to try some of the famous local hawker delights in town. Below is a compilation of the local hawker delights that we tried throughout the short trip, & our real reviews of these food. 😉

1. Lau Ya Keng Food Court

Address: 19 Lebuh Carpenter, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Open: 10 am – 11 pm daily except Fridays

The airy food court in front of temple (Lau Ya Keng)

The Lau Ya Keng food court is just a stone’s throw from The Waterfront Hotel where we stayed at, just across the road from hotel entrance in Chinatown Carpenter Street. At this open-air food court, we tried food from 2 recommended stalls we read about online.

Traditional Sarawak Laksa from Mui Xin

We read a lot about how sedap & different the Sarawak Laksa is from the coconut milk laksa we are familiar with here, or even with the famed Penang Assam Laksa that is more towards the sourish side. Being our first time trying the Sarawak Laksa, we didn’t know what to expect & thought the one at Mui Xin was really good!

Unlike Singapore laksa which has a rich coconut milk flavour, the bowl of Sarawak Laksa we had was not too jerlat (heavy). The spicy level was just right & it wasn’t sour like Penang Laksa too. The beansprouts added crunch to the bowl of noodles. According to my friend, the prawns were quite fresh. Chicken meat was also added into the soup. We fell in love with Sarawak Laksa after chomping down this yummy bowl of laksa (7 MYR, ~S$2.25) from Mui Xin! 😉

We also ordered a plate of 10 sticks of pork satay from the satay stall to share. The stall name is simply “Satay Pork”, which explicitly tells customers that they are just selling pork satay at 0.80 MYR (~S$0.25) per stick haha. At first I was worried if 10 sticks would be too much for us, but the pork satay was so tender & tasty that all 10 sticks were gone before we knew it. 😛 We both enjoyed the tangy satay sauce that came with the pork satay too.

2. Kim Joo 锦裕

Address: 73, Jalan Ewe Hai, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Open: 6.30 am – 2 pm. Irregular shop holidays

Phone: +60 82-243 053

After tasting the delicious food at Lau Ya Keng food court for our first meal in Kuching, we walked down the quiet street of Chinatown & stumbled upon Kim Joo, an old-fashioned coffee shop that has been around since 1953. We were bent on trying some famous kolo mee, given so many people around us had been raving about how wonderful the legendary Sarawak noodles were. We vaguely recalled that Kim Joo was 1 of the recommended shops to enjoy a bowl of good noodles, so was quite happy when we found it. However, the shop looked quiet & we weren’t sure if it was still open for business, as it was almost 2 pm its closing time.

A big-sized friendly-looking man (as pictured above, he’s the boss cum chef) came to greet us & gave us some introduction to what the shop had to offer. Apparently, Kim Joo is famous for their Teochew-style “cheng” noodles, which is essentially mixed pork soup with a bowl of plain noodles. Frankly, it wasn’t purely mixed pork ingredients in the soup. Instead, there was an assortment of ingredients in the soup, including fishballs, meat balls, fish cake, fish dumplings, slices of pork and seaweed. The bowl of dry plain noodles we had was topped with char siew slices, which the boss said was special addition for us. I think it was probably because we were their last customer before closing so might as well… haha. Not really sure which item on the menu was presented to us, but regardless, it was very good! 🙂

We also ordered a “limited edition” Kedondong drink to accompany our “cheng” noodles

The noodles might look plain, but it was surprisingly flavourful. We also like that the soup was neither too salty nor bland, just right without the nasty MSG aftertaste. As for the Kedondong drink, the amicable boss highly recommended us to try, saying that they didn’t always have it. The taste needed some getting used to, as the first few sips felt as if we were drinking some raw vegetable juice, but it felt refreshing after a while. I would say, this is a great drink to complement the noodle dish. 😉 Our total bill came to 11.50 MYR (~S$3.70) for the noodles & drink.

We love the food & friendly service at Kim Joo so much that we decided to skip the complimentary hotel breakfast the next morning, & returned for breakfast! This time, we asked for the soup version & it was equally wonderful!

PS: It was quite busy that morning & we could feel the friendly boss getting tensed up, so he wasn’t as friendly as the afternoon we first met him. But it’s OK, as long as he continues to whip up delicious noodles for us to enjoy. 😉

3. Aladin Cafe 神灯鸡粥食店

Address: 23, Lebuh Carpenter, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Open: 10 am – 2 pm & 6 pm – 9 pm.

Aladin Cafe is actually just a few steps down the street from Lau Ya Keng food court, but it was closed in the day when we passed by. I told my friend I wanted to check it out at night after our Santubong Wetland Wildlife cruise, as I had read that it serves really good chicken rice. So yes, we did return to the shop at 8+pm that night:

I wonder if the shop was dimly lit on purpose to create that “Aladdin” ambience. Anyway, it did make us confused whether the shop was still open at the time we reached. 😅 As described by other bloggers online, the staff manning the shop looked fierce, with big tattoos over their bodies haha. We ordered a plate of fried chicken rice + an extra plate of chicken to share & also 2 glasses of lime juice. The bill came to 16 MYR (~S$5.15).

Looks can be deceptive. The fried chicken meal was better than we thought!

Our dinner might look very normal, but the fried chicken were crispy & tasty. Rice was fluffy & fragrant. The best part was the powerful chilli sauce that got us choking (because we didn’t expect it to be so spicy!). The aggressive-looking chef with big tattoos may look scary, but he’s a great cook, so don’t be scared to enter hehe.

4. Jalan Power Open-Air Market

Address: Jalan Power, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia

Open: 7 am – 11 pm daily

The Open-Air Market along Jalan Power is in front of Electra Building, & accessible from the back gate of The Waterfront Hotel / Plaza Merdeka towards India Street. We first visited this market for dinner on day 2 after Sarawak Cultural Village tour, following recommendations from our guide who said that there are quite a number of zi char stalls here. There are 2 sections to the Open-Air Market, which we came to realize on our last day in Kuching, as we stumbled upon the day-time market area in the next block.

In the evening market section, there were only zi char stalls that were open. As we walked past them, all were trying to tout for business just like the hawker centres we had back in the old days in Singapore (which I didn’t really like). After walking 1 round, we decided to order from Cai Shen Ye 财神爷 stall. There was no specific reason, just a random decision, or maybe because they didn’t appear as aggressive keke.

1 of the reasons why we decided to have zi char dinner that night was because we were looking forward to try the local special vegetable – midin fern, a type of jungle fern nicknamed as curly vegetable because of how it looks (pictured in the middle row towards the far right). We also ordered a meat dish + a fish to go along.

Guess how much we paid for the above 3 dishes + rice for 2 & iced drinks? Only 53 MYR (~S$17.10) where the fresh pomfret cost only 25 MYR (~S$8.05)! Where to get such fresh deal in Singapore you tell me? You can’t even get a raw uncooked fish at such price in the Singapore market haha. & when I said fresh, I mean really fresh. So fresh until we could gobble down its stomach because it didn’t stink at all! 😆 The other 2 dishes were OK but not fantastic. The curly vegetables tasted like sambal kangkong, like what others had claimed, just that the stalks felt a bit more taut than kangkong. Overall, it was still a good dinner, & a value for money one that we didn’t regret. 😉

On our last day, we accidentally discovered that there is another section opened in the daytime at this market. No wonder I read recommendations suggesting we try the Gula Apong Ice Cream at the market. I saw the stall when we browsed through the stalls, but it was still early & not open yet. There weren’t many customers & the stall owners looked at us eagerly as we walked in, but we weren’t too enticed or hungry to eat at any of them. I only stopped at 1 stall because it served finger food, where I bought 1 Sio Bee (siew mai as more commonly known here) to try.

I had wanted to buy a handful, but my friend insisted she was too full to eat any, & even suggested we shared 1. I snorted at the suggestion. The Sio Bee (0.80 MYR, ~S$0.25) was so tiny, I could easily finish it in 1 mouthful. 😅 I was right, but I was also wrong to just buy 1 piece just because I felt full from the breakfast we took. It was so delish I should have ordered a few more as originally planned! No wonder online bloggers were recommending people to try the Sio Bee at Open-Air Market (there is only 1 such stall here). Sigh… next time…

5. Annie’s Kolo Mee

Address: 240, 228, Jalan Padungan, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia (Inside Fook Seng Cafe 福升茶室)

Open: from 5 pm onwards till coffee shop closes

Located in Fook Seng Cafe on the other side of town away from The Waterfront Hotel, nearer to Tune Hotel/ Hilton Hotel, is Annie’s Kolo Mee, a Kolo Mee stall that serves the national dish in the evening. This is a rare sight to find in Kuching because Kolo Mee is one of the nation’s favourite breakfast items, so it isn’t easy to find Kolo Mee stalls open at night. Since we didn’t really have a chance to taste the national dish before we went on day trips, we decided to pop by Annie’s to check it out.

It was raining cats & dogs that evening so instead of walking there, we took Grab to the coffee shop, as it was an estimated 25 min walk from the hotel. The coffee shop was very quiet when we arrived at about 6.30 pm. If I remember correctly, only Annie’s Kolo Mee stall was open. We placed our order & found a table inside. Shortly after, the assistant served us our bowl of original Kolo Mee (3.50 MYR, ~S$1.15).

NB: In general, there are 2 versions of Kolo Mee, you can either ask for original where no red char siew sauce is added, or the red version with the sweet char siew sauce.

Personally, we thought the Kolo Mee here was just average only. In fact, after the meal, we asked each other, what’s so special about Kolo Mee that has kept everyone so hyped up? It’s just plain noodles topped with some minced pork & char siew right? & we had to take Grab specially to come & try… -_-“

6. Teresa Sarawak Laksa

Address: Jalan Bukit Mata, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia (In a halal coffee shop behind Tune Hotel)

Open: 7 pm – 1 am

After sharing the bowl of Kolo Mee, we began our hunt for Teresa Sarawak Laksa, having read good reviews about it being a great bowl of laksa that was available in the evening. Like Kolo Mee, Sarawak Laksa was more readily available in the day. Kuchingites usually prefer to eat at home or do a zi-char style dinner. Because Mui Xin Laksa left us such a marvellous impression of Sarawak Laksa, we were determined to down at least 1 more bowl of yummy laksa that night. But Teresa was extremely difficult to hunt down, especially when it was still raining & the streets were dark.

Finally, when we were about to give up, we found the deserted halal coffee shop tucked at the back of a building, which was actually where the side entrance of Tune Hotel could be found. Without further ado, we ordered a bowl of the small laksa (6 MYR, ~S$1.95) to try. The lady (not sure if she’s Teresa) at the stall couldn’t speak any English or Mandarin at all so we could only point. 1 sip of the laksa gravy when the dish was served & we were very disappointed. It tasted nothing like Mui Xin, & just felt like a weird concoction of spices with noodles in the laksa gravy. We also felt out of place in the coffee shop with us being the only Chinese. Even ordering of drinks was a problem because the assistant couldn’t understand us (neither did we understand him). Arrghh…. it seemed to be a night of fruitless food hunt in the rain. 😦

7. Oriental Park Kolo Mee 

Address: Gertak Lane, 93000 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia (located next to the old Cathay Cinema)

Open: 7 am – 1 pm

Frankly, after trying Annie’s Kolo Mee, we lost faith in the national breakfast dish & weren’t too keen to purposely hunt for this famous shop highly raved to be 1 of the best Kolo Mee stalls in Kuching. But perhaps it was fate that brought us here. We didn’t really know what to try for breakfast on our last day in town so just wandered down Jalan Power hoping to find another market for some inspiration. We didn’t find that, & stumbled upon this shop standing out (of place) in a hidden back alley, because we lost our bearings haha. Despite not being located along the busy street, there were quite a number of customers when we arrived around 9 am.

Since we were already in front of the renowned shop, we decided to sit down & ordered a bowl of its signature red Char Siew Kolo Mee (4 MYR, ~S$1.30) to try. We had read online that its char siew were freshly roasted in-house & hence different from other shops.

Ironically, food tastes best when you don’t go out on purpose hunting for it. 😉 At least that was what we thought the moral of the story was, LOL. The noodles at Oriental Park were springy & flavourful, & the char siew really were more aromatic with a tinge of chow-dar smell compared to others. Even the minced meat topping was more flavourful! OK, so at least we could leave Kuching without regrets as we managed to sink our teeth into 1 great bowl of Kolo Mee, haha.

8. Poh Lam Laksa 宝兰叻沙

Address: 275, Jalan Chan Chin Ann, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia (inside Chong Choon Cafe 泉春茶室)

Open: 6.30 am – 12.30 pm except Tuesdays

Encouraged by the fact that we started the morning with a great find, we went to search for the last good Sarawak Laksa before we leave Kuching. Based on research, Poh Lam Laksa, a stall inside Chong Choon Cafe was 1 of the very popular laksa in Kuching, so we made our way there for early lunch. Although it was only about 11.30 am, the coffee shop looked like it was closing. Fortunately, Poh Lam Laksa was still open & we quickly laid our hands on a bowl of piping hot Sarawak Laksa (6 MYR, ~S$1.95).

The tantalising bowl of Sarawak Laksa

Thankfully, this was as good as Mui Xin’s, with chewy noodles soaked in flavourful laksa gravy & topped with tender chicken meat & crunchy beansprouts. We seemed to be the last customer at Poh Lam, because the guy who prepared our laksa packed up & left in his car after serving us. Phew! Luckily we made it in time! The only not so lucky thing was, the coffee shop was also closing & only canned drinks were available. So we endured the heat & didn’t order any drinks to quench our thirst. 😛

Post-trip thoughts

While we had some hits & misses for our 4D3N food hunt, it was still a fruitful food tour after all, with most of the dishes we tried to our liking. As I write about these delectable hawker delights, I feel like eating them once more. Kuching, I will be back to tuck into your yummy delicacies again! 😉

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