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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Visit to a Kuching Pasar Malam (Night Market)

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

Night Market at MJC, Kuching

Sarawakian Veggies

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.

 Paku 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!


Petai (Stinky Beans)

(by the way, does anyone know what those brown pods to the left of the petai are?)

Fresh Bamboo Shoots

 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.

 “Paku Iban” – Fiddlehead Ferns

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.


 Midin – Another Type of Fiddlehead Fern

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…

 Buying Fruits at the Night Market

…longans and langsat.

Longans and Langsat

Sago Worms!

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!

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

 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.)

Fried Goodies

 Fried Goods

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.

Aloha, Nate

We’re learning lots about our new home of Kuching, Sarawak. Won’t you stick with us as we explore our new stomping grounds? Subscribe now to receive all our posts to your RSS reader or to your Inbox!

Hungry for more farmer’s market finds? Click below:

Fried Sanddabs with Garlic and Oyster Sauce

Wild Salmon Cakes with Kaffir Lime and Ginger

Sweet Corno di Toro Peppers in Mexican Chopped Salad

Pimientos de Padron: How to Escape the Heat

Roli Roti Porchetta (San Francisco)

12 Comments: said...

We loved this stroll through a fascinating market! Thanks for taking us along. Best from Montecito, CA

pixen said...

Oh my... I sure missed Malaysia markets! I simply adore fresh market or Pasar Tani! Thank you for sharing the Borneo side of Malaysia :-)

billy@ATFT said...

wow first time I see grubs selling in Malaysia. You so should have try it man!

ICook4Fun said...

Seeing all your pictures make me miss Malaysia so much. By the way the brown pods if I am not mistaken is Buah Keluak. Use a lot in Nonya cooking.

delia said...

Apart from this MJC Night market, we also have the Satok Pasar Malam every Saturday and Sunday. At this moment, the Ramadan Bazaar is also located there. Do visit that place where you can see more varieties.

Life 2.0 said...

Seeing a new post by House of Annie always brings a smile to my face. I first heard about fiddle head ferns from Eating Asia, but did not know there were different varieties until your post. The ferns are something I am really interested in trying.

I directed my husband to the Ferry Market via your post about the oyster restaurant. Though my husband does not like oysters (give him a year or two, we are from the midwest), we do really love desserts. After reading your post, I went to the Ferry website and found Frog Hollow Bakery and the desserts are out of this world. He bought an assortment of sweets for a business meeting and they were a hit. Between Gold Gate Egg Tarts and Frog Hollow sweets, people now wait to see what new desserts he will bring to meetings.

Dorach said...

OMG we almost rubbed shoulders. I visited the MJC market for the 1st time last Fri evening! I'm originally from Kuching but live in NZ now. When I read about your move to Malaysia, I was already looking forward to read about your eating adventures but now that you're in Kuching, I am even more excited! :)

A very warm welcome to Kuching. It is not a very big place but the people are friendly. If you can't speak Hokkien, Mandarin will do too. Hope you settle down soon.

My Taste Heaven said...

Love to have a walk at this night market.

Tuty said...

Nate & Annie,

The brown pods are called JENGKOL in bahasa Indonesia. Not sure what it is called in Malay. I personally don't like jengkol since it has strong aroma just like the petai beans. You have to peel the skins before you cook them.

babe_kl said...

seems like pasar malam in Kuching really looks like farmer's market. in KL, it depends on which area's pasar you go to get such produce. otherwise it's mostly cooked food, clothings and wares.

Nate-n-Annie said...

@all - thanks for your comments!

@Sherry - you're welcome!

@pixen - stay tuned, we have more interesting market visits in store!

@billy - you first ;-)

@ICook4Fun - no, these pods are smaller than buah keluak.

@delia - thanks for the tip, we just went to the Satok Market today. Check back soon for the writeup!

@Life 2.0 - heh, there are so many places to find desserts in SF. You should get him to bring back some macaroons from Miette.

@Dorach - I (Nate) can speak neither Hokkien or Mandarin. I'm just a monolingual ABC. Fortunately, Annie can get by on her Hokkien.

@Tuty - that's it! They call it "jering" here in Kuching. I don't think they're as stinky as petai, though.

@Babe - well you know, being foodies, we are most interested in the food. Of course, there were other things for sale besides food at this pasar malam. (I just chose not to photograph them.) I will have to say, though, that the MJC pasar malam is more like a pasar tani (farmer's market) than a KL-style pasar malam.

Tuty said...


I'd rather deal with garlic or durian breath than jengkol/jering or petai breath. LOL.
Luckily, no one in my household is fond of those. However, those who enjoy them, don't seem to care about breath nor urine smell (pardon the expression).. more power to them.