KUALA LUMPUR, June 25 — As a proud Sarawakian, I couldn’t resist featuring Borneo grub in this instalment. I’m originally from Sibu and had spent several years living in Kuching. I’ve missed the food from back home ever since I moved to KL 10 years ago and have made it a personal quest to find good Sarawak food in the Klang Valley.
There’s a large number of Sarawak “expatriates” working in the Kuala Lumpur/Petaling Jaya area and we often share our treasured findings and chance discoveries of delicacies like kolo mee, kampua mee, tomato mee, Sarawak laksa and belacan bee hoon with each other.
Here’s my specially curated list.
Belacan Bee Hoon @ SALTed
Belacan bee hoon may be a pungent dish but it’s also one of the most beloved in Kuching. The gold standard is the one at Song Kheng Hai in Padungan. I seldom see this dish being offered in the Klang Valley — at least not it its original form — because it’s very much an acquired taste. And if you do find it, it’s often watered down to suit the sensitive palates of KL-ites. Well, not at SALTed. Here the belacan bee hoon is unapologetically stinky and intense tasting. I love it! It’s served with century duck eggs and boiled squids, both strong ingredients in their own right, to make a biting dish that’s as delicious as it is powerful.
Kolo Mee @ Sarawak Corner
This stall at Restoran Meisek is run by a friendly aunty from Sarawak. She does Sarawak laksa and kolo mee for displaced Sarawakians hankering for a taste of home. I always go for the kolo mee special with char siew oil. The correct lingo for ordering this is pang ang (literally “add the red stuff”) in Kuching. A kolo mee special in Kuching parlance is kolo mee with not just char siew and minced pork, but also some seafood accoutrements like fish balls and prawns. This stall uses the authentic curly and springy noodles you’ll find in the capital of Sarawak.
Crispy Tomato Noodles @ Restoran Dapur Sarawak
Tomato noodles and its cousin tomato kuey teow are much-loved dishes in Kuching. Crispy tomato noodle, for the uninitiated, is a bed of crunchy noodles on which tomato gravy is poured over. It tastes better than it sounds. I like Restoran Dapur Sarawak’s version as the gravy is slightly acidic instead of just being one dimensionally sweet. This halal outlet, run by Dayaks, also sells kek lapis Sarawak. Oh… and be sure to try the First Lady, a pleasant combination of lemon and lychee with creamy evaporated milk served in a tall glass. There’s live music on weekend nights.
Sarawak Laksa @ Kuching Noodle House
This establishment serves up a variety of Sarawakian hawker food including kolo mee and Sarawak laksa. I’m partial to the Sarawak laksa here. The thick creamy broth hits all the right spots when I’m craving for my monthly fix of laksa. They also make their noodles in-house for kolo mee but be warned, it’s not the curly type typically served in Kuching.
Bien Nuik Noodles @ SRK Noodle House
Bien nuik is what Sibu folks call minced pork wrapped in thin, freshly-made dough. It’s different from wanton as the bien nuik is under filled so the excess thin dough creates a slippery feel in the mouth. This dish is meant to be eaten by itself but is often paired with kampua noodles, replacing the traditional char siew with bien nuik. SRK Noodle House is the only place in the Klang Valley I know that serves bien nuik like how it’s done in Sibu. There’s also a wide range of other Sarawakian delights including Sibu specialties like hong gang mee hoon and bien bien hu.
30-1, Jalan PJU 7/16, Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
MRT: Mutiara Damansara
From the station: 600 metres
Operating hours: 10am- 3.30pm
Sarawak Corner @ Restoran Meisek
12, Jalan USJ 14/1k, Subang Jaya, Selangor
From the station: 500 metres
Operating hours: 6.30am–3pm
Restoran Dapur Sarawak
No. 19, Jalan Sarikei, Pekeliling, Kuala Lumpur
LRT: Sentul Timur
From the station: 400 metres
Operating hours: 8am–10.30pm
Kuching Noodle House
B.08.GF, Garden Shoppe @ One City, Jalan USJ 25/1A, Subang Jaya, Selangor
LRT: USJ 21
From the station: 600 metres
Operating hours: 8am–10pm
SRK Noodle House
84, Jalan SS 15/4B, Subang Jaya, Selangor
LRT: SS 15
From the station: 200 metres
Operating hours: 10am–9pm
* The writer is a certified Sibu Ah Beng who swapped his slippers for a pair of leather shoes to better fit into the corporate world. He blogs at sixthseal.com.