By Travis Nielsen (IMCC5 Meeting Manager)
Waking from a night of website building and meetings, I shower off and walk out my hotel doors and clumsily sit myself down in the Mee Sin Café, a few doors away from my hotel. It’s my last day in the city, and I’m on my way to a conference in Australia. I meet my friend to share a final breakfast with him before I must call for my taxi to the airport. My friend always orders for me when we share a meal; he knows the local cuisine amazingly well and somehow knows exactly what I like. Every time! After some shouting in Hoikken, a steaming cup of ‘Kopi o’ and bowl of ‘Kolo mee wonton’ – black coffee and egg noodles in a sweet savory sauce topped with shrimp wonton – are plated in front of me, and we share the meal and enjoy each other’s company. Kolo mee is a staple, served anytime and possibly one of my favorite things in the city of Kuching.
My friend is from a village nearby Kuching. He moved to Kuching to work in the tourism industry. He is proudly an Orang Bidayuh – one of the original tribes of Borneo, and very proud of his tribe, culture, city, and country. He is always telling me “A guest in Kuching should gain at least a kilo a week from the food.” I’m not sure if I gained a kilo in the 10 days I was in Kuching for this visit, but I do know I tried pretty hard to do it, and when it comes to Malaysian culture, they are serious about food!
A delicious lunch being served at a restaurant in Kuching. (© Kirkland Photos)
The food culture of Malaysia is an amazing mix of cultures that results from being a maritime trading hub between China and India, with a strong influence from local tribal cuisine and influences from Britain, The Netherlands, Portugal, India, China, and many, many others countries. The food in Sarawak – the largest province of Malaysia, situated on the northwest coast of Borneo Island – has an even more unique flair and strong influence from local tribes, and Chinese and Indian influences.
Kuching, the capital city of Sarawak, is the largest city in the area and has an amazing food scene. The many dishes seen around the city, from breakfasts of curried chicken with roti canai (a type of wheat flour Indian flatbread), lunchtime pork satay (roasted strips of pork on skewers served with peanut sauce) at the Chinese hawker stalls on Carpenter Street to the late night kolo mee will have your mouth watering, but these are all just the first act… the main event in the Kuching’s culinary world is Kuching laksa!
Kuching’s famous laksa dish, a favorite served all over the city. (© J. Jamaludin)
Kuching laksa is noodles (usually rice noodles) served in an aromatic broth coconut milk and spices. Laksa is then traditionally topped with shredded chicken, egg, bean sprouts and local prawns; however, you can get laksa with an infinite variety of toppings. Garnished with a few fresh sprigs of coriander, its then served. Laksa brings together the fusion of cultures that is Kuching. Every restaurant that serves Laksa claims theirs is the best laksa in the city, so you will have no shortage of varieties to try.
The only problem you will have, is staying long enough to try them all!
So see you in Kuching, where we’ll hopefully share many a scrumptious meal!
Travis Nielsen is the Meeting Manager for IMCC5 and founder and CEO of Azurigen Management and Consulting Solutions Inc. A STEM project management firm that specializes in linking conservation based science to business and government. He is a published Marine Biologist with 10 years experience in STEM, and 10 years of experience in management and leadership. He has been responsible for projects with budgets up to $500,000, working with multiple stakeholders, large public engagement mandates, and with staffs up to 100 people in locations all across the globe.