After a great morning featuring orangutans, kolo mee and bird’s nest soup, we return to our hotel, the Pullman Kuching, for a cooking demonstration with Executive Chef Joshua Er.
We take our seats and sip on ice-cold orange juice. Chef Joshua will show us how to cook three dishes and tell us all about the various ingredients used. I hope he cooks quickly as I’m hungry again and ready to eat.
The mise en place is all neatly laid out. Joshua passes around the dishes that contain the local ingredients we may not have come across in Australia. As these items do the rounds, we poke and sniff with great interest.
First, Joshua makes prawn umai, a simple chilli and lime marinated prawn salad. The raw prawns are left to marinate in calamansi lime (“limau kasturi” in Malay) juice for two hours, then tossed with sliced shallots, fresh ginger, onions and red chillies. Joshua grins and assures us we won’t need to wait two hours to taste the dish thanks to the magic of “here’s one I prepared earlier”.
Next, Joshua prepares the traditional Iban dish of chicken cooked in bamboo (“manok pansoh” in Malay). Fresh chicken pieces are mixed with a fragrant mix of fresh ginger, wild ginger shoot (known to the locals as “tepus”), garlic, shallots, turmeric leaf, lemon grass, local bay leaves and tapioca leaves.
We did get to try chicken cooked in bamboo on our first day in Kuching at the Dayak Home Cook Special stall at Da-Light food court, but the aromatics smell wonderful and I can’t wait to taste the finished product.
The chicken mixture is then stuffed into the bamboo tube. The ends of the bamboo are covered with fresh young tapioca leaves, and the filled tube is then placed in the oven or on the grill for 35 minutes to cook.
Joshua then shows us how to cook Sarawak laksa.
The Sarawak laksa paste smells so good I want to sit with my face in the bowl. Or at least, stick my finger into it (I didn’t do either!).
An enticing aroma wafts from the pot of simmering laksa broth. I can’t wait to taste it.
We all gather around the poolside bar to taste the dishes. First, the prawn umai, served with roasted sago pearls.
Next, the manok pansoh (chicken cooked in bamboo). The chicken is beautifully tender, but something’s missing! I ask if there is any rice.
As if by magic (well, as you saw in the first picture, chef Joshua was waving a ‘wand’ earlier!), a big bowl of warm red rice appears.
Last of all, the Sarawak laksa. The soup has a base of sambal belacan combined with galangal, tamarind, lemon grass, garlic and coconut milk. In the spicy broth are thin rice noodles (never thick egg noodles – that’s not part of a traditional Sarawak laksa), omelette strips, prawns, shredded chicken and bean sprouts. We squeeze fresh lime over the laksa before tucking in. It’s my first time eating Sarawak laksa – it’s fantastic! The broth is the best part. It’s thick and slightly gritty, with a rich peppery flavour, and it’s totally drinkable.
It would be lovely to relax by the pool with another tall glass of ice-cold orange juice and a second bowl of laksa, but there’s more eating to come, as next on our list is a visit to a local layer cake factory…
Hotel Pullman Kuching
No.1A Jalan Mathies, 93100 Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia
Telephone: (+60) 82 222 888
Read the posts in my Kuching Trip 2011 series
There are still more Kuching posts to come.
I’m also blogging about my Sydney trip and posting about eating around Perth too.
In the lead up to Christmas, check my other blog The LEGO woman to see the LEGO City Advent Calendar 2011 new item for the day!