After a brief rest and shower, I take this photograph from the window near the lifts near my room on the 16th floor. Our group meets in the hotel lobby and then we’re off on a walk along the Kuching Waterfront. Dinner time approaches.
For those who don’t speak Malay, “kucing” (pronounced “koo-ching”) means “cat”, which is why Kuching is sometimes called “cat city”. There are a number of cat statues and sculptures around Kuching. This one at the grassy area next to the waterfront is my favourite. I didn’t make it to the Cat Museum but hope to next time, when I return to Kuching with Jac.
The Kuching waterfront is approximately 1km, dotted with stalls and adorned with colourful lights that are switched on when it gets dark.
There are stalls selling popcorn, noodles, burgers and hot and cold drinks – but we are drawn to the rainbow of colours at a layer cake stall.
There are free samples to taste, with flavours such as lemon, chocolate cheesecake, Milo, strawberry and pandan. They are as sweet as they are colourful. To be honest, I can’t really tell the difference in flavour from one piece of cake to another. But I love the bright, pretty coloured layers of sweet, moist cake.
All along the water’s edge, people line up to board boats.
This grand building by the Sarawak River is the New Sarawak State Legislative Assembly Building.
In the photo below, the skyscraper second from the right is our hotel – the Pullman Kuching. The wide building to the left of the Pullman is the Hilton.
Top Spot Food Court
For dinner, we’re off to Top Spot Food Court. It’s an open air, partially undercover food court located on the top level of a multi-level car park. Look for the big red prawn with TopSpot in neon letters! If you have read my previous post featuring Fairy Cave, you can probably guess what I’m thinking when when I see this…
Yes – OMG, MORE STAIRS!
After climbing to the top, we walk into a spacious dining area. Some diners are clearly tourists like us but most look like locals, which we take as a good sign. Staff move briskly to deliver steaming plates of food and to clear dirty dishes from tables. It smells delicious here.
The stalls are numbered and lit up with luridly dazzling neon signs.
Every stall has an abundant display of fresh vegetables and seafood, some on ice and some still alive and swimming in tanks. You select what you want, choose how you’d like it prepared and with what sauce, and it’s cooked to order for you.
At every stall we see gleaming glassy eyes and shiny scales. It all looks gloriously fresh.
A few of us notice the enormous prawns with huge spiky bright blue “claws” and are keen to try them. But what else to have? There are so many delicious ingredients everywhere it’s hard to decide.
After walking around the food court looking at all the stalls, we settle at No.33, Ling Loong Seafood.
The woman in charge at No.33 shows us to a table. She is very friendly and happy to answer all our questions and chat to us about the dishes. We don’t hesitate to order some of those magnificent large blue prawns (she tells us they are river king prawns) and ask if there are any Sarawak specialties we should try.
She suggests we order midin, Sarawak’s famous jungle fern that grows wild in swampy forests. She recommends midin stir-fried with oyster sauce and garlic.
None of us have eaten midin before. I really like it. It’s more stalk than leaf, with an enjoyable crunchy texture. There’s a slight sliminess to these thin curly frond-tipped shoots, reminding me of another green vegetable that grows in water, kangkong. If you ever visit Sarawak, definitely give midin a try – you won’t find it anywhere else. There’s more midin to come on this trip – stay tuned for a post to come where we cook midin with sambal belacan at a Malaysian cooking class.
It seems like every second table has ordered a oyster pancake! The pancake is crispy, thin and brittle and it’s hard to break off a piece without causing major ruptures. The clear savoury sauce in the bowl in the centre is loaded with white pepper.
We order a serving of razor clams with chilli. We have to hunt around the pile of shells to find the rubbery yet tender white clam meat.
The claypot tofu includes soft pillows of Japanese-style silky egg tofu, carrots, chunky cut spring onions, Chinese cabbage, straw mushrooms and large black juicy Chinese mushrooms. The garlicky sauce is delicious on my steamed rice and (not sure if anyone notices!) I can’t stop drinking it!
Our giant river prawns are cooked with butter and garlic and smell amazing. They have been sliced in half for easy access to the succulent tail meat. I love how the blue and grey has been transformed to vivid Sunkist orange.
We’re keen to try some of the fresh fish and order a whole fried snapper in black pepper sauce. The fish is butterflied and crispy, topped with a dark peppery sauce and a sprinkling of chopped fresh spring onion. The teeth of the fish are still intact and I’m sure its eyes are still there somewhere. The skin of the fish is crisp but the flesh is beautifully tender.
The drinks sellers come right to your table to take your order, but if you prefer, you can go to them. This stall sells fresh coconut juice served in the coconut shell, but as far as I can tell, ice-cold Tiger Beer is the drink of choice for the majority of the Western tourists at Top Spot that night.
It’s a fantastic meal and a relaxed, social atmosphere. All around us, families and friends are sharing dishes and enjoying banquets of their own. It’s all very reasonably priced, so design-your-own seafood banquets are the best way to experience Top Spot.
On every table, there are bottles of soy sauce and chilli sauce, bowls of freshly chopped garlic and chilli, and not napkins, but wet wipes! We see locals putting their prawn shells, fish bones and other scraps directly on the table. Just eat and enjoy.
I can’t sit still, and after dinner while the others finish their drinks, I take my camera for a walk around the food court. I bump into the friendly No.33 lady, who asks me if we’ve enjoyed our meal – I assure her we have. She tells me she runs both No.6 and No.33 and is busy working at both stalls.
The food court is still buzzing when we leave. There’s evidently a lot more cooking and eating still to be done at Top Spot.
Top Spot Food Court
Food court on the top floor of a multi-level car park. Definitely worth a visit if you like seafood. Wish we had a Top Spot in Perth!
Bukit Mata Kuching
Open for lunch and dinner
Déjà Vu bar at the Pullman Kuching
Back at the hotel, we stop at Déjà Vu, the Pullman Kuching’s bar, for a quick drink before retiring for the night. It’s cocktails all round.
Except for me. I order a Lychee and Pineapple Fizz, a mocktail made with lychee, pineapple juice, yoghurt and honey. It’s thick, creamy and frothy and needs constant swizzle stick action to keep it drinkable. It tastes like a Lychee Pine Splice ice cream (if such a thing existed) – my favourite ice cream is a Pine Lime Splice, so this is delicious!
After I finish my drink, I’m well and truly ready for bed. When I get up to my room, I find a plate of complimentary buttery cookies waiting for me. It’s been a great first day in Kuching.
More Kuching posts
Where is Kuching, Malaysia?