Discovering Sarawak's Delicious Cuisine: A Guide to Local Restaurants and Food for European Visitors

Laksa, Sarawak's Delicious Cuisine. Ai Picture

In December 2022, my friend Mark from Canada will come on vacation to Sarawak, one of the most beautiful places on the island of Borneo. Mark has requested various information, a week before his departure to celebrate New Year 2023 in Sarawak. Here are some information that I have given to Mark, and I think it's also good for me to share to the readers who might also be going on vacation to Sarawak like Mark.

Sarawak, located on the island of Borneo in Malaysia, is known for its diverse and flavorful cuisine. Some popular local dishes that may be enjoyed by Europeans include: 

  • Laksa: A spicy noodle soup made with a flavorful coconut milk-based broth, and usually served with shrimp, chicken, or both.
  • Kolo Mee: A type of Chinese-style egg noodle dish, it is served with a variety of meats (usually pork) and vegetables.
  • Nasi Lemak: A traditional Malay dish made with rice cooked in coconut milk and served with a variety of toppings such as fried anchovies, peanuts, hard-boiled eggs, and curried meat or vegetables.
  • Sago worms: A delicacy of the Borneo island, it is a type of caterpillar, it is usually fried and eaten as a snack.
  • Umai: a traditional seafood dish made from raw fish, it's marinated with lime juice, salt and chili.
  • Sarawak Layer Cake : a multi-layered sponge cake made with pandan, kaya, and buttercream.

Please bear in mind that these are just a few examples, and Sarawak cuisine is quite diverse and offers many more delicious dishes to enjoy. 

However, you should be able to find restaurants that serve these dishes in most areas of Sarawak, particularly in the larger cities like Kuching, Miri, and Sibu. Some popular options to look for include: 

  • Local food courts and hawker centers: These are a great option for trying a variety of local dishes at affordable prices.
  • Traditional Malay restaurants: These restaurants typically serve a wide range of traditional Malay dishes, including nasi lemak and laksa.
  • Chinese restaurants: Many Chinese restaurants in Sarawak serve a variety of Chinese-inspired dishes, including kolo mee.
  • Seafood restaurants: As Sarawak is a coastal region, seafood is a staple in Sarawak cuisine and you can find many seafood restaurants that serve dishes like Umai.
  • Fine dining restaurants: Some fine dining restaurants also serve Sarawakian cuisine and they could be a good option if you want to enjoy these dishes in a more upscale setting.

Please keep in mind that the availability of these foods may vary depending on the location, season and some of the dishes may not be available in certain places. It's always best to ask locals or other people who have recently visited Sarawak for recommendations.

As a European, you may find some of the flavors in Sarawak's cuisine to be quite different from what you are used to. Here are a few suggestions and advice to help you enjoy your dining experience in Sarawak: 

  1. Be open-minded and willing to try new things. Sarawak's cuisine is quite diverse and offers a wide range of flavors, so it's a great opportunity to expand your palate.
  2. Be aware that some dishes may be quite spicy. Laksa, for example, is a very spicy dish, so if you're not used to spicy food, you may want to order it with less chili or ask for it to be made milder.
  3. Ask the locals or staff for recommendations. They will be able to guide you on which dishes are particularly popular or which ones are less spicy.
  4. Don't be afraid to ask for modifications. Many restaurants will be happy to make a dish milder or spicier to suit your taste.
  5. Be aware of the etiquette when it comes to eating, for example, in some traditional Malay restaurants, it's customary to eat with your hands.
  6. Be aware that some of the dishes, like Sago worms, may be considered exotic for Europeans, so don't feel obliged to try it if you don't feel comfortable.
  7. Remember to check the hygiene and sanitation of the places where you eat, especially if you're eating at street vendors. 

I hope this information helps you enjoy your dining experience in Sarawak. The local cuisine is rich and delicious, and I'm sure you'll find something that you'll enjoy.

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