I found myself in Kuching somewhat unexpectedly, which I realize sounds strange. How does one find oneself unexpectedly in a place that requires plane rides to reach? I’m still not entirely sure, but there I was, arrived with my Hong Kong friend via Singapore, where we picked up two others, old friends of his.
Kuching is the capital of the Sarawak state, in Malaysia. It is on the island of Borneo, a land mass shared by Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei.
It’s a city of about 600,000, but the central part is concentrated within an area easily walked. There’s a riverfront promenade with a few food stalls and juice stands, quays where sampans dock to pick up passengers wanting to cross the water. A bazaar sells local kitsch. Across the street, a stretch of furniture and craft shops yields to an aromatic line of produce sellers, spice dealers and fish mongers.
Carpenter street exhales incense, India street is a temple of another sort, to cheap goods. The state assembly building, across the river, is visible from almost anywhere.
It smelled like tamarind, ripe fruit, and rain.
There was food, lots of food, including laksa, which is basically the best thing ever.
Laksa is eaten all over southeast Asia. The Sarawak version is a curry laksa, a spicy coconut milk broth loaded with rice noodles, shrimp, chicken tofu, strips of omelet, and garnished with coriander, sambal chilies, and lime. The broth gets its kick from a paste that typically includes chilies, ginger, galangal, shrimp paste, garlic, lemongrass.
It’s widely available in hawker centers and coffee shops, though usually only in the morning and early afternoon, since it’s typically eaten for breakfast.
I could eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.