I am originally from Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia which is on the island of Borneo. Kuching was colonized by James Brooke; who was given the city by the then Sultan Of Brunei, after defeating an uprising by a local chief in 1841. James became Rajah Brooke or King Brooke and he and his family ruled the city until 1941 when the Brooke family gave Kuching to the British government in the advent of WWII.
I came back to Kuching for my 30th(!) high school reunion. I attended an all girls school, St Mary’s which was founded by Episcopalian missionaries in 1849.
Kuching, means cat in Bahasa Malaysia and there are some ridiculous cat statues in the city.
I had an idyllic childhood in Kuching which back then was a small town by the Sarawak river.
Kuching has a population of about 600,000 and my friends and family complain about Kuching not growing fast enough but I don’t want Kuching to change. I know change is inevitable but there is something to be said for small towns, quiet streets and care free childhoods spent catching guppies and playing jump rope with good friends on lazy afternoons.
Kuching and Malaysia was settled by Indians and Chinese immigrants who came early in the 17th century as traders and later in the 19th century as coolies or laborers. Kuching was settled predominantly by the Hokkien Chinese who came from the Fujian province in China. The laborers needed fast and cheap food and this led to the formation of hawker/street food which are found all over Asia. A lot of the hawkers have now moved into regular stores which are called “kopitiam” or coffee shops in Malaysia.
My good friend Linda kindly took me around town to show me the changes. Gasp! We now have 2 flyovers and 5 mini malls!
We had a Kuching food tasting spree. For breakfast we had char mee or fried noodles.
Bak kut teh or meat bone tea in Hokkien which is simply mouth watering goodness. It is essentially a soup consisting of pork ribs simmered with herbs and spices.
We had tomato kuay teow or flat rice noodles at the Sarawak Club; the oldest social and golf club in Kuching. Ketchup is the base for tomato kuay teow and the sweet and sour combination is so yummy that I would venture even non ketchup lovers would enjoy this dish.
I had kolo mee or noodles for dinner. Kolo mee can only be found in Sarawak and it is basically parboiled noodles which are tossed in a garlic infused oil and served with barbecue pork and fried shallots. It is so simple yet so scrumptious, delectable and most definitely delicious.
I ended the night with tuak ice cream. Tuak is fermented rice wine as prepared by the native tribe called the Ibans in Sarawak. The dish comprised of tuak poured over vanilla ice cream and topped with pistachios.