Welcome to Kuching

Paku Fern

paku fern

The (eating) adventure in Kuching begins…

Packing Heavy

When we originally arrived in KL from America, we came with about 400 lbs (180 kilos) of baggage plus carry-ons. Today, we flew from KL to Kuching, taking Air Asia. If you know anything about Air Asia, they are a budget airline that charges you in 5 kg increments for baggage exceeding 15 kg. We purchased the max amount, 30 kg per person, which meant we could take up to 120 kg total with us – a 60 kg difference.

We spent most of the last day and night in KL packing our suitcases and carry-ons. We had to leave behind some clothes and a lot of books, but eventually managed to stuff the remainder into 5 suitcases and 4 carry-ons! It took two cars to get us and the suitcases to the airport.

Another thing about Air Asia is, they fly out of the “Low Cost Carrier Terminal” of KL International Airport. No fancy check-in stations, baggage handling systems, or jetways. In order to get on the plane, you have to walk out on the tarmac and climb the stairs to the plane. Now, imagine trying to do that with one heavy carry-on in each hand. (Not easy, considering I seem to have a bum shoulder at the moment).

Annie has a friend, Paul, living in Kuching. She contacted him through Facebook, and he offered to come pick us up at the airport. I thought there was no way he was going to be able to fit all our luggage, plus the four of us, in his car. I thought for sure I was going to have to purchase a taxi coupon and take two cars to our hotel.

Daniel with our baggage at the Kuching Airport

daniel at Kuching airport

Fitting In

Well, Paul arrived, surveyed the situation, and declared, “I think we can fit it all in.” We were incredulous. But, one by one, all the bags somehow fit into his Camry. And there was room enough for us to also get in as well! (I wish I had taken a picture, it was incredible.)

First thing Paul asked us when we got going was, “Are you hungry? I can take you someplace to eat.” Well, we barely had anything to eat for breakfast or lunch so we agreed. He took us to a coffee shop on the road from the airport, and treated us to a meal of Suan chicken rice.

Suan Chicken Rice, Expert Food Court, Kuching

Suan Chicken Rice, Expert Food Court, Kuching

He said that he hangs out here a lot because the food is good. The rice has a slight curry flavoring to it, a local touch. The also serve it with soy sauce eggs and a sweetish, tomato-based broth. We finished every bite.

Feeling at Home

Paul brought us to our hotel so we could drop our bags off. Then he stuck around, giving us the low-down on this and that. I seriously wish I had a voice recorder or something, because there is so much that both Annie and I have to learn about living in this city. I am really grateful that Paul was so helpful and forthcoming.

After a while, Paul told us that, since his brother was in town, there was going to be a large family dinner at his house. We were invited as well! Wow, first day in Kuching and already invited to a home-cooked meal. How could we refuse?

When we arrived, their maid was in the wet kitchen in the back of the house, preparing dinner. One of the dishes caught our eye. “Is that paku?” asked Annie.

Paku Fern

paku fern

Paku is a Malay word for a type of fiddlehead fern that is found and eaten here in Sarawak. North Americans like to eat fiddleheads either boiled or in salads, depending on the type. Here in Sarawak, they like to stir-fry the ferns with belacan (shrimp paste).

The maid used a stone mortar and pestle to grind together some shallots, garlic, and belacan into a paste. She then heated up some oil in the wok, added in the belacan paste and fried it until fragrant, then tossed in the ferns.

Stir-frying Paku

stir-frying paku

After a few minutes of frying, she plated it up.

Paku stir-fried with belacan

paku stir-fried with belacan

Besides this dish, the maid also cooked up some chicken curry, sweet-sour fried fish, and a couple other stir-fried veggie dishes. Paul’s mom came over with a big pot of homemade chicken soup. We were treated like honored guests, being served first. Everything was so delicious!

Simply Amazing

Dessert after dinner was longan, freshly picked from the mom’s tree. “No pesticides!” she declared. Ah, it was so refreshing to eat fresh longan. They were so sweet and juicy! It’s been so long since I had longan this good.

On the drive back to the hotel, Paul’s wife arranged for us to see a second-hand car that we might potentially buy. Her father will drive it over to their house, and Paul will drive it over to us to have a look. How awesome is that? I mean, who are we but an old acquaintance who just reconnected a few days ago over Facebook, for goodness’ sake?

Annie and I are just blown away by the hospitality we’ve received here in Kuching. It somehow almost feels too easy, like settling in should be harder. Of course, I expect there will be bumps and curves along the way. But the ones we were so worried about before didn’t turn out to be as bad as we thought, thank God! I really hope the rest of our adventure can be as smooth.

Aloha, Nate

This post was submitted to the August 30 edition of Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by The Crispy Cook and administered by Haalo.

15 thoughts on “Welcome to Kuching”

  1. >Oh yum! longan is one of my favorites. I found it at the local gourmet shop, but unfortunately they did not take care of their produce and fruitflies were swarming everywhere. I'm still itchy thinking about that. Hmm fiddlehead ferns. I would like to try those one day.

  2. >Glad you had a safe trip to both KL and Kuching. I had more than a few laughs about your luggage situation from SJ to PJ and KL to Kuching. We are planning on a move to PJ in 2010 or early 2011 and are eager to read about your transition to SEA. From your post, Kuching sounds wonderful and the people very warm. What was your impression of PJ?

    Now you are further away from Golden Gate Bakery's Egg Tarts than we are. While on business in SF, my husband shipped them to the Midwest, but arrived as custard mush. The second time, the ladies(they had a good laugh at my husband for trying to ship them) at the bakery carefully individually wrapped each tart and they arrived intact and sooooooooo delicious. My husband also bought some for a business meeting and people still talk about them. Thanks for the great post of Golden Gate Bakery, because we would never have known about it.

    Take Care,


  3. >@all – thanks for your comments!

    @Mrs L – yeah, I couldn't believe all that luggage would fit either.

    @Nila – Hopefully you can find fiddlehead ferns near you. They are quite nice.

    @Life 2.0 – You're welcome on the Golden Gate egg tart recommendation. Too funny about your hubby bringing back mush.

    PJ is busy, bustling, and full of places to shop, eat, shop, and eat some more. I have to say that the transition wasn't too bad because I've stayed in PJ for a month before. The things like dealing with government (getting registered and stuff like that) are kinda irksome but not insurmountable. You just gotta accept that things are done different than in the US. My biggest problem is that I don't speak anything besides American English. I look local but speak foreign – you should see the looks I get when I ask for something! Knowing Bahasa Malaysia and Chinese (Cantonese in KL, Hokkien elsewhere) is very helpful.

  4. >Hello!
    I am from Kuching as well and it's so nice to see Suan Chicken rice and paku again. Did you eat Midin when you were in Kuching? It's similiar to paku and is also a local favourite.

    Hope you guys had fun in Kuching! 🙂

  5. >Good luck with your new adventure in Malaysia and thank you for such a great submission for Weekend Herb Blogging. I've always wanted to try fiddlehead ferns, but my one foray into collecting them myself from the wild resulted in gathering the wrong species and they were inedible. And probably toxic.

    But yours look tender and tasty.

  6. >@Rasa – thanks! It'll be a little while before we settle down. But I can see us liking the place eventually.

    @Funkynomadeats – thanks for your comments! I haven't had midin yet, but will keep an eye out for it when we get to the markets.

    @Rachel – thanks!

  7. >I guess you all must have a tough time in packing the 120kg luggage. It reminds me of my own experience. I still have the phobia now. 😉 Glad that everything are running smoothly in Kuching. Hope you all will settle down in this new environment soon. Take care!

  8. >Wow, your first day sounds like a movie! Hope you get settled in and start cooking with some of those interesting ingredients!

  9. >hi there! my sis in melb saw your blog and thought it was interesting. I'm working in Kuching but am currently in Melb visiting my sister here. We'd love to invite you to visit our Church at 3rd Mile, opposite Timberland Medical Center. It's called Hope Of God Kuching.
    I'm on my way to the airport now, yes heading back to Kuching. Hope to see u!

  10. >@Food For Tots – Traveling is bad enough, but when you gotta pack everything you need to live on, that's just an extra scary burden.

    @Ben – stay tuned!

    @I am a 'C' – thanks for the invite! Is your church somewhere around the Siang Siang hawker center?

    @Kong-Kay – we would be excited to get to know you!

  11. >How does it feel to be back home? Wonderful, I hope. You are are eating well! But then again, you guys always know where to find the most wonderful tasting things, no matter where you are. 😉

  12. ohh,, I love paku pakis, my mom used to cook quite often as we all love it. We don’t normally cook with belacan, instead we stir fry it and add in the rice wine at the end for flavor. I love it so much.

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