Sibu Central Market

We visit the largest covered market in Sarawak, if not all of Malaysia

Sibu Central Market

Even after the previous day’s long and arduous trek from Kuching to Sarikei, culminating in a late night arrival in Sibu, we were still roused and readied for an early Sunday morning start. Our destination was the Sibu Central Market. It is the largest market in Sarawak in terms of vendors, eclipsing the Satok Sunday Market in Kuching which sprawls over several blocks.

The building is quite impressive. The main complex is a two-storey building stretching over a few city blocks. The ground floor is where all the marketing is done, while the upper floor is reserved for food courts and other small shops. Adjacent to it is a multi-storey parking garage. In between the two buildings is an open area where farmers from the various ethnic peoples display their produce on Saturdays.

Sibu Central Market Exterior Native and Interior

We stepped in to the middle of the market mania to get ourselves oriented. Vendors stretch as far as the eye can see in both directions. Here is a video I took from our vantage point, showing a 360-degree view of the market. It’ll make your head spin!

Follow the Bell

We ran into a man who was vigorously and joyfully ringing a handbell while carrying a wicker basket and swiftly making his way between the rows of vendors.

Sibu Central Market Benevolent Society Collector

We followed him out to a rally point where more people with baskets, carts and bells were gathering. They were all volunteers with the Sibu Benevolent Society, and they were there to collect food donations for the nursing home that they run. Each Sunday morning, they canvass the market, picking up whatever food is given to them by the vendors.

Fresh vegetables are always collected, as are fresh fish and sometimes meat. Sometimes, someone gets lucky at the lottery and buys some extra food from a vendor to be given to the Society. However much they are able to collect, everything is loaded up into a truck and taken back to the nursing home for the cooks to divvy up and use throughout the week. These cooks must be like Iron Chefs, since they don’t know what are the secret ingredients they have to use, week to week!

Sibu Central Market Benevolent Society Collection

I can’t begin to describe to you about all the produce available at this market. Sibu and the surrounding land is a major farming area. Corn, beans, radishes, cucumbers, squashes, and leafy greens of different types are all on display here.

Sibu Central Market Veggies

In addition to the vegetables, the market also sells tons of fresh fish. Sibu is a major port city situated near the mouth of the Rajang River. Seafood from the South China Sea, shellfish from nearby aqua-farms, and freshwater fish from upriver all find their way to this market. We bought a couple of the Sultan Fish (bottom picture) to take back with us.

Sibu Central Market Fish and Seafood

In another section of the market are the meat vendors. Slaughtered and cleaned chickens sit on display, feet pointing straight into the air. Piles and piles of chicken pieces from feet to wings to whole heads cover the tables. And then, there was this sight:

Sibu Central Market Chicken Rolls

That’s right. Live chickens, all in a row. Instead of cages, though, each chicken is neatly wrapped in some newspaper and tied by nylon string. You’d think they would be all making quite a ruckus, yet they are surprisingly docile. I’ve never seen anything like it!

Sibu Central Market Live Chickens

I havent’ even scratched the surface of all you can see at the Sibu Central Market. It’s a truly amazing place to visit. If you ever get to Sibu, this is the place you must see.

Aloha, Nate
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Other articles about Sibu Central Market: TheStar.com.my, Annie-Q, A Feast Everyday

I am entering this post in the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday roundup for November.

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24 Comments Post a Comment
  1. Jeannie says:

    The way they wrap the chickens is indeed a sight to behold! I think that way is also much cleaner.

  2. My goodness, that video did make my head spin. You must have spun around yourself taking that clip.

    That’s quite a market! I really miss the fresh baby corn and those wing beans and of course fresh fish, sigh…. Not live chickens though ;) I am surprised at how docile they look.

    • Nate says:

      The Sibu Central Market is very impressive. Almost overwhelming.

      Besides live chickens, they even had live ducks! Also surprisingly calm.

  3. sophia says:

    Wow! That’s so freaking damn cool that the chefs come here, not knowing what fresh ingredients they’re gonna get. That just makes my foodie sense tingle, and I know I could spend hours just walking around the market. Will probably stink when I get home though!

    p.s. Thank you for the wonderfully appropriate verse you left on my blog the other day…what’s funny is that my dad, the pastor, gave me the same verse when I called him today.

    • Nate says:

      Sophia,

      the cool thing about these markets is, they have huge food courts up on the second floor. So if you ever get hungry, you can just pop upstairs to have a quick bite, get refreshed, and go back down.

  4. I love visiting huge markets in foreign countries, so interesting to see how they do things and to just see all that food! The chickens look funny, but lucky there’s no foreign version of PETA because you know they’d get a feather up their …

  5. Chris says:

    Ohhhh…look at all those fresh veges and seafood…that’s what I miss the most. When I first got here, I did not understand why some people claim they don’t like seafood because they taste too “fishy.” ??? Well, I found out soon that the “fishy” taste people talk about is the taste of not fresh seafood. Unfortunately, a lot of people here think that’s how seafood is supposed to taste, never having eaten really fresh seafood before. Although I used to see chickens slaughtered around me when I was young, I still feel sad seeing all those live chickens (they probably know what’s coming). I still eat meat, don’t get me wrong but if I have to kill them myself, I may very well consider becoming a vegetarian. :-)

  6. Ida says:

    Very impressive! The chickens all tied up is such a sight to behold!

  7. cupcake says:

    Awesome! I’d love to visit that market!
    cupcake
    http://www.thefamily-table.blogspot.com

  8. Kirk says:

    Wonderful photos! I love places like this.

  9. babe_kl says:

    This market looks amazing and it’s so huge!

  10. GJoanne says:

    Oh man! I miss Sibu! I grew up all over Sarawak (born in Sri Aman, spent my toddler years in Sarikei, Bintulu and Miri) but Sibu is where I attended primary & secondary school. Now my family lives in Kuching.

    The chickens triggered a childhood memory for me: we used to buy one live chicken each week, fatten it up throughout the week and I’d hold it by its leg while my dad would slit its neck. I used to be so fearless, but now I’m scared of killing a spider.

    • Nate says:

      GJoanne,

      welcome! I’m glad that you shared that memory with us.

      Besides helping kill the bird, did you also pluck its feathers before cooking?

  11. What a market…I am impressed that the vender’s give donations to the volunteers for the nursing home and I am sure other worthy causes.
    The produce looks amazing :)

  12. babe_kl says:

    we have big markets eg Pudu but not in such a nice complex though. There’s on in TTDI but I don’t think it has this many things.

  13. Ruth says:

    That is one incredible market! Seriously beautiful presentations of extraordinary things. And those chickens!!! What can I say? Thanks so much for sharing your adventure.

  14. Jenny says:

    My mouth watered looking at those seafood photos! I noticed that the ones on the table don’t appear to be on ice. How do they keep them from going bad?

    I wonder what they do with the unsold chickens? Do they just unwrap them, take the back to the farm and then re-wrap them the next day?

  15. Mokihana says:

    Oh my goodness!! I’ve never seen anything like that. I wish I could go there to see all that produce! I particularly liked the photo of the guy with the handbell!.. Awesome post!

  16. Annie Q says:

    Hey! Thanks for promoting my blog here. I saw my blog link.

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