Category: Distinctively Kuching Kuching Food Awards 2008 Winners

Ten categories, seven days and two inches added to my waistline later, it’s time to announce the winners for the 2008 Kuching Food Awards.

Here, stands up and takes his hat off to the best of the best local fare. These awards applaud not just to the obvious, but also to those quietly making a difference. And of course, I encourage everyone to try the good food listed here.
For visitors to Kuching, not to worry. The location of all the winners are noted on my handy Google Maps application.

10. Best Fine Dining

Winner: The Steakhouse, Hilton Hotel Kuching.
If you want to dine at The Steakhouse, be sure to bring along your wallet, an arm, a leg and your first-born child.
Because that’s about how much you’ll be expecting to pay for a meal over there.

Dare I say though, it was absolutely worth it. Fine-dining is never meant to be a cheap affair.

I dined at The Steakhouse once only on Chinese New Year’s Eve. It’s a special occassion so we all thought about splurging a little bit.
It was such a fantastic meal, my mouth waters just thinking about it. We had Yee Sang (raw salmon and jelly fish) served in cocktail glasses, chicken consomme in a Chinese teapot, garoupa grilled to perfection and beautifully presented.
In terms of visual presentation, it’s 10/10. In terms of taste, it’s another 10/10.

Unfortunately, mathematics tells us 10×10 = 100, and I got the shock of my life when the bill comes up to RM100 per person.
Having dined at most of the other finer restaurants around Kuching, I have no doubt in saying that The Steakhouse beats all competition with its boot firmly impaled up their arses.

9. Best Casual Dining

Winner: Chef At Home, Lorong Taman Hui Sing 5/6.
For first-timers, it is not easy to find the place because there aren’t any visible signboards outside the house.
Chef At Home is located inside a residential house where the car porch and garden are conveniently converted into an alfresco dining area. It’s nice and romantic.
Very cozy, and it doesn’t cost a bomb.

What I like about this place is its range of delectable grills. Their steaks are juicy and their chicken chop are so tender it literally melts in your mouth. You can never go wrong with the meat here.
They have quite a sense of humour when it comes to naming their mocktails.

This one is called Malaysian Sunrise. Orange juice with grenadine syrup topped up with 7-Up.

And this mixture of chocolate milk with sprite is called Michael Jackson.
Why? Because it’s black and white.

8. Best Food Court

Winner: Hui Sing Hawker Centre, Lorong Taman Hui Sing 3.
Just across the road from the winner of Best Casual Dining is the winner for Best Food Court in Kuching.

Click on map for details on location

Hui Sing Hawker Centre is in my books, one of the best local eats in Kuching.
Sure, it is not as big as the triple-combo Jalan Song food courts, nor as flash as the brand new Food Avenue in 4th Mile that offers retractable rooftop, projector TV and free WiFi. But what Hui Sing Hawker Centre lacks for in size, it more than make up for in quality.

It is here that the delicious White Lady was created, alongside other famous icy delights such as ABC and Matterhorn. These creations are not easily found outside of Kuching, and they are absolutely delightful especially with the hot and humid weather over here.

Other dish worth trying in this excellent food court are the pork satays, the fried taugeh noodles with clams, the tomato kueh teow, the sotong kangkung and the curry chicken rice.

7. Best Nightspot

Click for map

Winner: Mojo, Jalan Abell.
While we’re still waiting for Zouk and Ministry of Sound to set up a proper nightclub in Kuching (won’t happen at least for the next 10 years), Kuching people are still partying their weekends away in pubs.

Mojo deserves a big thumbs up for introducing something a bit different to the locals.
While Soho gets heavily crowded and overrun by wannabes on weekends, Mojo manages to do their part to keep their customers happy. It is not Velvet Underground of KL, but it’s close enough.
Funky DJs, plush couches, a proper dance floor and a memorable theme party last Halloween made Mojo officially the coolest place to hang out in Kuching.

I’m sure after winning this award, more people will be coming in to further crowd the place.
What the Teng brothers need to do next is install more freakin’ airconds!

6. Best Place To Have Breakfast

Winner: Choon Hui Cafe, Jalan Ban Hock.
This legendary establishment has been feeding hungry Kuchingnites for many years.

Click on map for details on location

Located close to town, right next to Grand Continental Hotel, Choon Hui is as authentic as it can get to a old-fashioned Kuching Chinese-style coffee shop. It is open during breakfast hours only, starting business very early in the morning and finishes around 11am.

This is what my typical breakfast at Choon Hui looks like. A bowl of laksa, a roll of popiah, kaya butter toast and a glass of iced coffee served in a Guinness Extra Stout beer mug. You may also order kolo mee, chicken porridge or soft-boiled eggs here.

The laksa here is very popular among the locals. In terms of visual presentation I give it a 10/10, though taste-wise it is not the best in Kuching.
The popiah served here, on the other hand, is nothing short of perfect. I love how they wrap the vege and crushed peanut so perfectly, it never falls out of place when you take a bite.

Make sure you dip it in the sweet sauce. It is mouthwateringly awesome.
Even with the mushrooming of newer and trendier kopitiams all around Kuching, Choon Hui has shown no signs of losing its loyal base of customers. Not only is the quality of food here consistent, the people running the shop are all genuinely warm and friendly.
Not matter how busy they are, they will smile, joke and make small talks with you even if you’re just a total stranger. This is authentic Kuching hospitality at its best.

And the best part is? You don’t have to pay 10% service charge for it.

5. Best Beverage

Winner: Honey Sea Coconut, Ching Chang Drink Stall at Song Kheng Hai Food Court.
I love this drink. It’s a cool and refreshing concoction of honey and sea coconut, and Ching Chang Drink Stall serves the best version of this drink.
The uncle manning this popular stall is also very lame.

Order a drink at this stall. If your order comes up to RM1.50, he will come up to you and say, “RM1,500 please!”
And he does that EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.

4. Best Chicken Rice

Winner: Hainan Street Restaurant, RH Plaza.
Hainan Street Restaurant used to operate an outlet along the same stretch of shophouses at Chicking Eating House at Jalan Petanak.

Click on map for details on location

My office is located around the area so I often eat at both places.
It’s the same everytime. Chicking will be filled up like crazy and Hainan Street will be dead quiet even during the busiest lunch hour. I have no idea why.
My tastebuds tell me the chicken at Hainan Street is more oily, more juicy, more tender and more chock full of flavour of the two.

Hainan Street is no longer operating their outlet in Jalan Petanak, but their nice air-conditioned outlet at RH Plaza in BDC is still doing comfortably well.

3. Best Tomato Kueh Teow

Winner: Ah Kau Fried Kueh Tiaw/Noodles, Expert Food Court Jalan Song.
This is one of my all-time favourite Kuching dish.

Click on map for details on location

From the picture, it may not look like much. But trust me on this, it tastes better than it looks. A lot better,
Many establishments in Kuching serve tomato kueh teow, but none do it as good as this one does. Very rarely will you find one where the tomato-based gravy is cooked and fried to the right amount of flavour. You can literally taste the bite of the tomato on your tongue.

Not a lot of people come here for the tomato kueh teow. Actually, if I didn’t stumble across this place myself, I wouldn’t even know it is capable of serving such a fabulous dish.
Ah Kau Fried Kueh Tiaw/Noodles is located in the busy Jalan Song food courts and opens for lunch and dinner only.

2. Best Sarawak Laksa

Winner: Golden Arch Garden Laksa, Golden Arch Shopping Mall.
The Golden Arch “Shopping Mall” (to use the words loosely) is a dump.

Click on map for details on location

It is never a “shopping mall” because there’s absolutely nothing for you to “shop” over here.

There are only two places worth going to in this “shopping mall”. First, is Planet Karaoke Pub.
The other is Golden Arch Garden Laksa for breakfast, serving possibly the juiciest prawn-iest laksa in the whole of Kuching.

The laksa served here skimped on a few basic ingredients (eg eggs, coriander). But every laksa lover knows that the secret of the flavour lies in the gravy.
At Golden Arch Garden Laksa, the spiciness of the laksa has the right amount of “oomph”. Not too mild until you couldn’t taste anything.

But not too overwhelming until a pair of hands reaches out from the bowl, grabs you by the collar and gives you a tight punch in the face.

1. Best Kolo Mee

Winner: Min Joo Cafe, corner of Carpenter St and Bishopgate.
Let me teach you how to order the best tasting kolo mee you could possibly find in Kuching at Min Joo Cafe.

Click on map for details on location

When you rock up at the coffee shop on the corner of Carpenter Street and Bishopgate, 99% of the time this old and rundown establishment will be packed with customers filled to brim. So if you wanna taste good food, you have no choice but to stand on the side waiting for your turn.

So you stand there and wait. And wait.
And wait some more.

30 minutes later, a customer leaves and you sit down at his place, sharing the table with two other strangers. A loud and feisty uncle yells at you, “It’s like that over here. Everyone sits with everyone!”
And then you continue waiting. And wait.
You wait, because there’s nobody coming to take your order!

So another 30 minutes later, the loud feisty uncle comes by and take your order.
You already know what you want. There is only one dish here that kept all the customers come back for more. It’s their signature kolo mee with mixed pork soup.
So you made your order with the uncle. And guess what?
You continue to wait! Very very patiently wait.

15 minutes later, your order finally arrives. It’s a bowl of kolo mee with nothing but fried shallots on top.
A moment afterwards, a bowl of soup with all the spare parts of the pork arrives.
One spoonful later, you immediately understand why us locals keep going back to that unhygenic Grade C hole to wait another one hour plus in that stupid queue.

Hungry yet?

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Nomination For Kuching Food Awards 2008

A year ago, I wrote a entry titled the Kuching Food Awards.

It was meant to be a list of what I personally think are the best food around Kuching, Sarawak.
In the end, it turned into a topic of wild debate and controversy. Although there are many visitors to Kuching who found that list useful to find good food here, there are also many Sarawakians who hated me with vengeance because I erroneously left out a lot of good recommendations on my list.

See? Even Nicholas Teo agrees

The Kuching Food Awards honours the best-tasting food you’ll ever lay your tastebuds on in Cat City.
But it was last updated one and a half years ago. Since then many new eateries have popped up all over the place.
Good places go bad, bad places go bust, and big ass franchise chains from KL have taken over the casual-dining scene in Kuching by storm.

Yet, even with the unforgiving assault of the Starbucks, the Secret Recipes, the Sushi Kings and the Kenny Rogers over the past 18 months, I believe there’s still a place for good ol’ cheap hawker food in the unpretentious side of Kuching.

Carrying a RM3,000 LV bag to queue up for half an hour just to eat a RM4 bowl of noodle. Only in Kuching.

So here’s the thing.
I am a proud Kuching boy, and I stand by my belief that my hometown has the BEST hawker food scene in the whole of Malaysia. (Sorry Penang and Ipoh, its our time to shine.)
In two weeks time, Pussytown will be inundated with thousands of visitors from all over the world descending here for the Rainforest World Music Festival.
I’d love to have everyone enjoy themselves at the music fest, but I also want everyone to go home at least 2kg heavier after sampling all the good hawker food in my hometown.

Forget The Miele Guide. It is worthless. They have included Tokyo, Hong Kong and Singapore, but tragically it does not even include a single Kuching eatery on their list.
That’s the reason why I’m compiling a fresh new list of the Kuching Food Awards for 2008, and I’m seeking help from everyone in Kuching to nominate their favourite outlets to include in the list.

Over the next one week, I’ll go on a food-tasting mission all over the city. Right before the visitors come down for Rainforest, I shall reveal which eatery is worthy enough to be on the prestigious winners list of the Kuching Food Awards.
I’ll be the judge with a few friends, and I’ll be as impartial as possible. Therefore any attempts to bribe with food, cash, hot chicks or otherwise will not be entertained.
Ok lah, maybe I’ll accept the hot chicks.

Here are the categories up for nomination.

1. Best Kolo Mee

Past winners: KY Cafe, Sekama Road; and Ah Ping Mee Stall, Siang Siang Foodcourt Tabuan Jaya

2. Best Sarawak Laksa

Past winners: Madam Tang’s, Petanak Road; and Chong Choon Cafe, Abell Road.

3. Best Tomato Kueh Teow

Past winner: Hap Hap Hin, Kenyalang Market.

4. Best Chicken Rice

Past winner: Good Thumb Food Centre, Dogan Road.

5. Best Beverage

Past winner: Teh C Special, Fresh Food Court 7th Mile; Iced Milo Dinosaur, Mambo King at Travilion which has since closed down.

6. Best Place To Have Breakfast

Past winner: Kaya & Toast, several outlets throughout town.

7. Best Nightspot

Past winners: Links, Kuching Civic Centre; and BarZing, Travilion.

8. Best Food Court

Past winner: Jalan Song food courts

9. Best Casual Dining

No past winners, but basically casual-dining places are one step above hawker food centres, one class below fine-dining. Prices are usually around RM15 per meal.
Sushi King, Bella Italia, Chicago 7 and so on would fall under this category.

10. Best Fine Dining

No true fine-dining exists in Kuching, so let’s just assume this refers to the type of restaurant you’ll bring your partner to on a romantic Valentine’s date. Prices in this category of restaurants are usually more than RM20 per meal.
Past winners: Bla Bla Bla, Jalan Tabuan; Magenta, Jalan Nanas.

So, who should be on my list this year? Nominate by leaving a comment.
Winners shall be revealed next week!

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Good Name For a Nail Salon

The owner of this nail salon must’ve got her inspiration during a boink.

Or more likely, she just didn’t know the double-meaning of the word “nail”.
Who the heck calls their nail salon “NAIL ME GOOD” anyway? Now we know all her customers will be going to her salon to get nailed good. Real good.
Hey! Maybe next, she’ll open a massage centre, called “BANG ME HARD”.
P/S: I take what I said earlier back. Waddya know? It wasn’t obvious to me at first, but turns out “Nail Me Good” was deliberately named as such to be tongue-in-cheek. The ladyboss said so herself. Go check out her blog at

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Chicago 7

Recently there’s been a lot of new places popping up all over Kuching.

Chicago 7 is one of those new fast food restaurants that has only recently started business here.
The franchise outlet offers all the standard American-style fast food like burgers, hot dogs, fries and “broasted” chickens. I like it. They are pretty much like your regular KFC or McDonald’s, except the quality of food here is a lot better and cleaner.

The only problem is that Chicago 7 is new. Very new.
They are so new that half the stuff on their menu isn’t even available yet.

When I was there last night, the hot dogs are sold out, the chickens are not here, and the only thing they have left are the burgers. But even then the burgers at Chicago 7 are not the same as the ones I’m used to.
For instance, I’m used to burgers being called either “chicken burgers” or “beef burgers”. Over at Chicago 7, they don’t call it Bar-B-Q Beef Burger. They call it Bar-B-Q Cow.

So if you wanna order a beef burger, you tell them you wanna order a cow.
And I couldn’t resist pulling some lame jokes on the poor cashier.

Cashier: What would you like to order?
Kenny: I’ll have a Bar-B-Q Cow.
Cashier: Bar-B-Q Cow? Or meal?
Kenny: Just the cow.
Cashier: Just the cow?
Kenny: Yeah. Do I have to feed the cow grass or… what?
Cashier: -_-
Kenny: Does it come with milk?
Cashier: No!
Kenny: So how am I gonna fit it in the car?
Cashier: -_____-
Kenny: So if I want milk shake, I just take the cow and shake it a bit, is it?
Cashier: -___________-
The cashier was so put off by my lame jokes, her expression was exactly like this.

I think she was very annoyed lah. Because in the end, she did not even deliver my order!

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Top 5 Weirdest Restaurant and Food Court Names In Kuching

There are generally two types of restaurants and food courts here in Kuching.

The first type are the ones that play safe go along with conventional names. These are places like Siang Siang Food Court or Rock Road Restaurant, where there’s nothing exceptionally fancy nor memorable about their names.
And then there are ones that have gone the extra mile when it comes to naming themselves. In fact, they’ve gone so much past the extra mile that we have to scratch our heads and wonder, “How the heck do they come up with a name like THAT?”
Today, pays tribute to these restaurant and food court names, the ones that do not stick to the convention and the ones that simply does not make any sense. Presenting, the Top 5 Weirdest Restaurant and Food Court Names In Kuching.

1. Thank Food Restaurant

The Chinese name of this restaurant is pronounced “Thian Fook”. But for some weird reason, it’s English name is translated into “Thank Food”.
Some people, when they feel a sense of relief, they say “Thank God!” or “Thank Goodness!”
This restaurant says “Thank Food!”

2. Da Light Food Court

The Chinese pronounciation of the name of this food court is Da Lai. Like the previous one, the English name is nothing like its Chinese pronounciation.
Maybe they have their own reasons why they don’t have a matching English name.
Da means “Big”. Lai means “Come”. So the name Da Lai can be literally translated into English as “Big Come”.
That is really unfortunate, because the term “Big Come” is equivalent in meaning to “Heavy Orgasm”.
For example, “Julie slept with a 9 inch Russian. She had so much fun, she had a Big Come.”
Maybe that’s why the owners of this food court decided to call it Da Light. Maybe what they really meant was, “Hey, other food courts suck. Come eat here and eat, and you will see DA LIGHT!”

3. Handsome Court

I know when you wanna give a name to your business, you’d normally want to name it something good. That’s alright. Nothing wrong with calling your business some praise-worthy names like “Siang Siang” or “Expert” food courts.
But to call yourself a handsome food court just smacks full of arrogance.
What next? “Leng Chai” laksa and “Chio Bu” curry? Please, if you were that handsome, you wouldn’t be opening a food court.
Handsome Court?
Sounds like what Steven Lim would call it if he opens a food court.

What Steven Lim’s food court would look like

4. Food Some Place Restaurant

On the opposite end of Handsome Food Court, is a restaurant that suffers from major memory issues.
I can imagine myself walking into this restaurant and having this conversation with the waitress.
Kenny: I’d like to order some food.
Waitress: Ok.
*Ten minutes later*
Kenny: Where’s the food?
Waitress: Food some place.
Kenny: Where?
Waitress: … Food some place lah!
Kenny: Where is my food?!
Waitress: Don’t know! Your food some place!

5. Ho Say Liao Food Court

Here is one food court that is proud of its Hokkien.
We don’t get a lot of food courts here named in Hokkien, which is sad because most Kuching folks speak the dialect.
I guess part of the problem is that there aren’t a lot of nice words in Hokkien that you could name your business after. I mean, a place called Lim Peh Food Court or Tu Lan Restaurant probably isn’t gonna attract much business.
Wait, I spoke too soon.

Believe it or not, THERE IS actually a place called TU LAN RESTAURANT!
I swear this is not photoshopped. It is a 100% real restaurant in San Francisco and they serve Vietnamese food.

What an unfortunate name.

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Underwater Photography

Got a wet dream a few nights back.
Was feeling restless, so I called up Ernest and asked him to satisfy my urges.

Diving urges, I mean. I haven’t been diving since Jakarta.
Kuching diving season starts in April and ends around September. I gotta satisfy my underwater cravings before monsoon season kicks in and force me to stay indoors. I also wanna test out the new wetsuit and snorkel I bought during the dive expo a while back.

Ernest brought us to Sematan – a little fishing village about 1.5 hours drive from Kuching. From there we took a chartered fishing boat out to Talang Island, which took another 20 minutes or so. I paid him RM210 (including gear rental) for the whole trip.
The road to Sematan was long and bumpy, but the gorgeous aquatic views made the difficult journey worth every bit. Armed with my trusty Sony T10 and a marine case, I was ready to shoot heaps of great photos underwater.

Kuching isn’t as popular as other better-known diving locations in Malaysia, but we still get a nice stretch of coral reef here.
For a lot of people, when they think corals, they think beautiful tentacle-like corals like these.

That’s not quite the case over here.
We have some standard-looking corals, but most of the other ones look a little strange.

Corals in underwater Kuching are very eerie-looking, looking more like props out of a B-grade zombie movie than Alice In The Wonderland.

This one has a surface that look like those octopus creatures from Japanese anime.

These one are hairy. Just like my legs!

These are fan corals. They are the only ones that look hauntingly beautiful.

These ones look like grapes.
My guide said they are bubble corals. I reckon they should be called condom corals.

There’s something surreal about being surrounded by thousands of fish circling above your head.
I feel so miniscule in such a huge space of magnificent underwater world.

Normally, the only chance we get interacting with marine life is looking them through an aquarium, or eating them on the dinner table. For once, I am in their territory and they are not in mine.
The presence of well-preserved corals in Kuching attracted heaps of marine life.

Butterfly fish

Some are colourful.


Some are cute.

Poisonous pufferfish

Some are dangerous.

My biggest fan

Some look like you could use it to fan yourself during warm days.

Some even look like Ah Beng cars with blue neon lights.

Then there are those that just look really delicious.
I’m not even sure what fish this is, but I reckon it should go well with sambal and a bit of lime juice.

One of the most fascinating discovery I made that day was a blue-spotted stingray hiding under the rocks.
These graceful creatures are so timid and shy in nature. It didn’t even flinch one bit as I swam closer to take a macro photo of its intense-looking eyes.

Can’t believe they’re of the same species that killed Steve Irwin last year.
I stayed for the longest time underwater during this dive – 82 minutes. That’s quite an improvement considering the first time I dived, I lasted a pathetic 25 minutes before I gulped up all the air in my tank.

I love scuba-diving.

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Kuching Happy Feet

Hollywood’s version of Happy Feet.

Kuching’s version of Happy Feet.

Something tells me having THAT as a logo looks way too freaky to attract customers.
By the way, why is it that within the past 12 months, so many massage centres suddenly popped up all over Kuching? Staying in Kuching very stressful meh?
So far we’ve got Genting Reflexology, Beijing Reflexology, Shanghai Reflexology, ThienJing Reflexology.

Soon you can visit massage centres named after any city in China you want in Kuching.

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Sarawak Bird

This is the Rhinoceros Hornbill.

It is the state bird of Sarawak.
We love this bird very much. We love it so much that, we call Sarawak the ‘Land of the Hornbills’.
That is why you can see images of this bird everywhere in Kuching.

We are so proud of our bird, we even erected a giant bird right in the middle of the BDC roundabout.
When you come in from the airport to town, the first thing you see is our bird.

You may think that our bird looks normal, but you are wrong.
In the morning, it may look just like any other metal bird.
But at night, our bird transformed into something very different. That’s because we zhng our bird with the same neon lights that Ah Bengs use to zhng their car.


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The Latest Place To Hang Out In Kuching

The newest, latest place to hang out in Kuching is not Secret Recipe.

It is not The Living Room.

Heck, it is not even bloody Bing!

It is right here, at the Kuching International Airport, aka The Poikeeteo.

Now, why the heck would Kuching people wanna hang out, of all places, at THE AIRPORT?

Because after opening a branch in virtually every single other state in Malaysia, Starbucks has finally opened its doors in our humble little city of Kuching.

Instead of making their mark in some huge ass shopping mall in Kuching, Starbucks chose to make their first impression at our airport.
For the first time, Kuching people, most of whom have never tasted this expensive coffee franchise before, flooded the airport eventhough they have no flight to catch.

As much as I am a fan of Starbucks and enjoy a bit of quality coffee every so often, I can’t help but to wonder the big question on every Kuching folk’s mind.
Would the humble average-income earning Kuching population pay RM10 for a coffee just to sit under green umbrellas indoors, when they could’ve easily paid just RM1.40 to sit at the nearest kopitiam?

Clearly, not everyone here is a fan of Starbucks.

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