Delia, a commenter on our post “Visit to a Kuching Pasar Malam” , suggested that we visit the Satok Market to see more varieties of food there. The Satok Market is the largest open market in Kuching, and is a major attraction for locals and tourists. Imagine this: you have blocks and blocks of shophouses in one district of the city. In between those blocks are parking spaces and roads. Now imagine that every weekend, all the parking spaces and roads are covered over with tarps and canopies, and vendors from all over Sarawak come to sell their wares.
Satok Market from the Footbridge
Even though the Satok Market is popularly known as the Sunday Market, it actually starts up on Saturday afternoon, runs all night, and shuts down on Sunday afternoon. Annie and I decided to go to see the Satok Market this past Saturday afternoon, shop a little, and pick up dinner from the Ramadan bazaar that was also being held at the market.
We drove toward the Waterfront district, turned in at Jalan Satok, and parked near the Wisma Satok mall. There’s a footbridge going from the mall over Jalan Satok to the actual market site. From there you can see just a small portion of the market, covered by canopies. Underneath the canopies, you will find vendors selling all manner of items. You can find clothes, shoes, toys, plants, kitchenware, books, magazines, and other household necessities.
Satok Market Under the Canopies
There was a cacophony of voices as the vendors called out, hawking their wares. We were undeterred. We were here for the food.
Just as at the pasar malam, you can find all kinds of fruits imported from Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, even the US. But nothing compares in freshness and quality like local fruits. These small bananas (pictured below) are small enough that you could probably eat the whole thing in one bite. But they have a pleasant, almost green apple tartness to them. We picked up a couple of bunches.
Another local fruit that we picked up was these jambu air or water apples. They are similar to the mountain apples I used to eat as a kid in Hawai’i. The sweetness of these water apples is muted, but the interesting thing is, there is no seed inside!
Jambu Air (Water Apple) Vendor
There was a large section of the market devoted to fresh meat and fresh fish. Here and there you would also find a vendor displaying bags and bags of dried anchovies, shrimp, and other fishes. I never knew there were so many varieties of dried anchovies. Next time, I’m going to have to get some to make the sambal ikan bilis that will go along with our nasi lemak.
Bags of Ikan Bilis (Dried Anchovies)
We found lots of fresh turmeric root, large chili peppers, and petai (stinky beans) for sale. I like how the vendors lay everything out neatly piled on plates with their prices clearly marked. The freshness and quality (tomatoes notwithstanding) were as good as the best supermarkets in town, but half the prices.
As dusk approached, we made our way to the Ramadan Bazaar to pick up dinner. During Ramadan, observant Muslims fast from eating and drinking from sunup to sundown. You can imagine how hungry people must be by the end of the day. At the bazaar, you will find not just Malay food but halal foods from many other cultures, even Chinese!
The bazaar was crowded with folks buying food to take home for buka puasa – breaking fast. Take dozens of food vendors all boiling, frying, steaming and grilling, mix hundreds of people packed under heavy canopies, add tropical heat and humidity and what do you have? Instant sauna. We picked up our food and got out of there as quick as we could.
On the way back out of the market, we stopped at a stall where they were grilling chickens over a hot charcoal fire. The cook held skewers of butterflied chickens over the coals, letting the fat drip down and the flames singe the skin for some great charred flavor. Every so often, he would baste the birds with his special sauce, kept in a large can on the side of his grill. The aroma was impossible to resist.
As we departed the Satok Market and headed back over the footbridge, we saw rows of food stalls and tables running off into the distance. At each table was a family, but no one was eating yet. Everyone was waiting for the evening call to prayer, which signals the end of the day and the time to break the fast. I can admire their willpower in the face of such a diversity of food available.
There’s a lot more of Satok Market that I haven’t shared in this post. So many sights, smells and sounds remain to be told. But I suppose if I tried to do so, this post would be 4 times as long! So I condensed the images into this slideshow on YouTube.
Visit to Satok Market