Annie and I love to go to farmer’s markets. Whether it’s our favorite one in Saratoga, farther afield in Palo Alto, or even as far as the wonderful San Francisco Ferry Building Farmer’s Market, we can’t get enough of them. So when Annie’s friend Lily said she’d take us to a “pasar malam” (night market) here in Kuching, we happily agreed.
This particular pasar malam is held on Thursday evenings at the new-ish development called MJC township (Bandar Baru Batu Kawa) on the West side of Kuching. We arrived there a little before dusk, and the market was already in full swing. Hundreds of people were jostling about between the rows of vendors who were selling all kinds of foods beneath their canopies.
Night Market at MJC township, Kuching
A lot of stalls were selling paku, a type of fiddlehead fern that we recently had the pleasure of tasting. You could also find lots of ong choy, sweet potato leaves and other Sarawakian veggies.
Annie spotted a table containing plates of petai – stinky beans. They have a very strong, pungent odor and flavor. We enjoy them in Nyonya-style dishes like sambal petai udang – stinky beans with shrimp. You really have to try this dish!
(by the way, does anyone know what those brown pods to the left of the petai are?)
Fresh Bamboo Shoots
Here’s another type of fiddlehead fern, called “Paku Iban”. The leaves of this fern are broader and less feathery than the commonly seen paku.
Here is midin – another type of fiddlehead fern that is found only in Sarawak. The leaves are redder and thinner than paku, almost grass-like. Our friend picked up a packet of midin and gave it to us to cook. We took that midin home and stir-fried it with garlic and shallots.
Fish and Fruit
Kuching is right on the coast of Sarawak, so it stands to reason that it has an abundance of fresh fish available. We went past a whole row of stalls selling all kinds of fresh fish and seafood, from shrimp to squid to sardines to skate, even shark. These were not “previously frozen” and thawed out – look how clear the eyes are on these fish!
Fresh Fish for Sale at the Night Market
There were also lots of different fruits for sale. They had imported apples, pears, and plums from other countries. But I was more interested in the local fruits like jumbo seedless guava, bananas, papaya, dragonfruit…
…longans and langsat.
Passing by a stall, Lily stopped and pointed at a large tub. “Look at that!” she exclaimed. Inside the tub were dozens of writhing grubs as big as your thumb: Sago worms!
Sago worms are actually beetle larvae that live and grow inside the bark of the tapioca tree. Locals harvest and eat them as a delicacy. They normally fry them up, but the really hardcore will bite the heads off the live ones and consume the bodies. Uh, ok. Sounds like a job for Andrew Zimmern…
I much prefer these delicacies.
Kueh Kueh – Malaysian Sweets
(By the way, you can find recipes for many of these sweets in the “My Sweet Malaysia” roundup that was recently posted on Babe in KL.)
By the time we passed this table of fried goodies, we were getting hungry. Our tummies were rumbling and we needed to go somewhere for dinner soon. We hadn’t even made it through the whole of the market!
So we had to cut short our trip. But we will be back, for sure! And I hope we can make friends with some of the vendors, especially the fishmongers.