Unlike fellow Malaysians in Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah, the range of food and drinks in Sarawak, particularly Kuching is somewhat different. Here are the food you might never heard of when you browse through the food menu:
Sarawak Laksa. Sarawak laksa is the most noticably Sarawakian food in Kuching. It was a favourite among Sarawakian from Chinese and Malay decent. It has a base of sambal belacan, sour tamarind, garlic, galangal, lemon grass and coconut milk, topped with omelette strips, chicken strips, prawns, fresh coriander and optionally lime. Ingredients such as bean sprouts, sliced fried tofu or other seafood are not traditional but are sometimes added. Non-Halal Sarawak laksa can be found at most Chinese coffee shops while Halal Sarawak laksa can be found at most Malay coffee shops (and some Mamak too). Halal and non-Halal Sarawak laksa are not that different, except for the usage of Halal chicken meat and the cooking utensils used by the cook. The Chinese version of Sarawak laksa has a less thick gravy but is rich with condiments and toppings. The Malay version of Sarawak laksa has a thicker gravy but more taugeh (beansprouts).
Kolok Mee. Kolok mee is a type of noodle dish commonly found in Sarawak. It is served throughout the day - for breakfast, lunch or even supper though some eateries only serve kolok mee until noon because supplies run out. It is made of egg noodle, blanched in water that looks like instant noodle and served in a light sauce with some condiments like sliced pork, chicken cutlets, minced meat or sometimes shredded beef though this is unusual. The difference between kolok mee and wontan mee, which is popular in the Peninsula, is that kolok mee is not drenched in dark soy sauce and water is not added to the noodles when served. Kolok mee comes in two common flavours, plain or seasoned with red sauce. Cooks tend to season kolok mee with red sauce when they are served with pork. Occasionally, diners may also request their kolok mee to be seasoned with soy sauce, to give the dish a darker appearance with enhanced saltiness.
Mee sapi. Mee sapi (mi sapi) is a gravy-ish version of kolok mee. It is garnished and prepared just like kolok mee with a slight difference in cooking method. The noodle can be somewhat egg noodle been used in kolok mee, or mee pok, mi sanggul - a curly type of noodle similar to angelhair spaghetti).
Manok pansoh. Manok pansoh is the most common dish among Iban. It is a chicken dish which normally be eaten with white rice. Chicken pieces are cut and stuffed into the bamboo together with other ingredients like mushrooms, lemongrass, tapioca leaves etc and cooked over an open fire - similar to the way lemang is cooked. This natural way of cooking seals in the flavours and produces astonishingly tender chicken with a gravy perfumed with lemongrass and bamboo. Manok pansoh cannot be found easily in all restaurants and coffee shops. Some restaurants require advanced booking of manok pansoh dish prior to your arrival.
Manok kacangma. Manok kacangma is a Chinese type of dish which has grown in wider popularity in Sarawak. It is a chicken dish which normally be eaten with white rice. Kacangma is a type of herb which normally being used for medical and healing purposes. It is believed that woman who eat manok kacangma can enjoy ease menses. As for Malay, they normally cook manok kacangma without wine, while as for Iban and Chinese, they squinch in wine for more delicate taste. You can try manok kacangma when you eat 'nasi campur' during lunch hours in Kuching. However, it is extremely hard to find a coffee shop or restaurant who serves this.
Umai. Umai is a raw fish salad popular among various ethnic groups of Sarawak, especially the Melanaus. In fact, umai is a traditional working lunch for the Melanau fishermen. Umai is prepared raw from freshly caught fish, iced but not frozen. Main species used include mackerel, nawal hitam and umpirang. It is made mainly of thin slivers of raw fish, thinly sliced onions, chilli, salt and the juice of sour fruits like lime or assam. It is usually accompanied by a bowl of toasted sago pearls instead of rice. Its simplicity makes it a cinch for fishermen to prepare it aboard their boats. Umai Jeb, a raw fish salad without other additional spices, is famous among Bintulu Melanaus. However, it is rarely prepared in Kuching. You can try umai when you eat Nasi campur during lunch hours in Kuching. Most Malay/Bumiputera coffee shops, serve umai daily for 'nasi campur'.
Midin. The locals greatly indulge in jungle fern such as the midin (quite similar to pucuk paku that is popular in the Peninsular). Midin is much sought after for its crisp texture and great taste. Midin is usually served in two equally delicious ways - fried with either garlic or belacan. You can try midin when you eat nasi campur during lunch hours in Kuching. Most coffee shops, served midin daily for 'nasi campur'.
Bubur pedas. Unlike many other porridge that we know, bubur pedas is cooked with a specially prepared paste. It is quite spicy thanks to its ingredients, which include spices, turmeric, lemon grass, galangal, chillies, ginger, coconut and shallots. Like the famous bubur lambuk of Kuala Lumpur. Bubur pedas is exclusive dish prepared during the month of Ramadan and served during the breaking of fast. So don't expect to eat bubur pedas at anytime you want.
Mi Jawa. Mi Jawa (mee Jawa) in Kuching or Sarawak in general is somewhat different from the one served in Peninsular Malaysia, or even at its birthplace on Java island. It is a thick egg yellow noodle served with tiny slice of chicken and a sprinkle of 'daun sup' (or bay leaves). Some coffee shops serve a 'special' type of mee Jawa (which you need to add from 50 cents to RM1.50) with an additional few sticks of satay (chicken and/or beef). Mee Jawa is normally served at Malay/Mamak coffee shops.
Roti corned beef. Roti canai is a widely-known Peninsular-origin of Indian decent food of Malaysia. However, Sarawakian has modified one type of roti canai which you might not find on Peninsular Malaysia even in Mamak stalls or Malay coffee shops. It is a roti canai with a corned beef filling and is widely available at Malay and Mamak coffee shops. It can be bought for as low as RM2 per piece due to cheap canned corned beef. However, since the Gateway-brand corned beef was officially considered non-Halal, roti corned beef has lost its popularity and if it does exist, the price may range from RM4-RM5 per piece.
Nasik Aruk. Nasik Aruk is a traditional Sarawakian Malay fried rice. Unlike nasi goreng, nasik aruk does not use any oil to fry the rice. The ingredients are garlic, onion and anchovies, fried with very little oil and then the cook is added. The rice must be fried for a longer time compared to nasi goreng to allow the smokey/slightly-burnt taste to be absorbed into the rice. It is a common to see nasik aruk in the food menu list at Malay and Mamak coffee shops and stalls.
Kuching has also absorbed Thai favourites such as tom yam, nasi paprik and pattaya. Bakso and soto originally from Indonesia, and nasi ayam Singapura (from Singapore) have moved onto restaurant and other menus. Chinese restaurants have also been daring to try more exquisite cuisine from North China, Korea and Vietnam. Western food has also been widely accepted in Sarawak, especially Kuching. Fast food chains such as KFC, McDonalds, Kenny Roger's Roasters, Secret Recipe and Marrybrown, America's buffet has also taken place in Sarawakian's heart such as Hartz Chicken Buffet are also growing in presence. However, traditional nasi campur and traditional breakfast, high tea and dinner are always part of Sarawakian food ritual. It is however becoming common to see more modernised Kuchingites slowly adapting to Western food culture such as eating pasta or pizza for dinner.