The Best Places to Eat in Kuching, Borneo

Kuching bustles with fantastic places to eat
Kuching bustles with fantastic places to eat | © Angus McComiskey / Alamy Stock Photo
Joe Lloyd

Kuching sits on the island of Borneo, surrounded by tropical jungle. With a diverse cultural make-up, the city is home to the most exciting cuisine in Malaysia, fusing pan-Asian recipes with centuries-old local specialities. For a great meal whatever your taste, here are some of Kuching’s best restaurants.

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1. Ling Loong Seafood

Restaurant, Seafood

A view of Ling Loong Seafood, a cooked seafood stall at Top Spot Food Court in Kuching
© Nick Gleitzman / Stockimo / Alamy Stock Photo

It would be folly to come to Kuching and not sample the seafood, plucked from the Sarawak River and Pacific Ocean. Excellent fish can be found all over the city, but for the very freshest you should head to the Top Spot Food Court. Follow the neon-lit lobster up five floors to the roof of a garage, and you’ll find half a dozen stalls jostling for your attention. Among them, Ling Loong Seafood is often regarded as the best. For fish, red snapper fried in garlic and grilled pomfret are local favourites, but the greatest joy is the shellfish. Try chilli crab, peppered squid and oyster omelette, with a side of chilli-drenched midin fern and kai-lan (Chinese kale). If Ling Loong is too busy, don’t fear; other stalls, such as the Bukit Mata Seafood Centre, have their own delicious fare.

2. Bla Bla Bla

Restaurant, Chinese, Malaysian, Vegetarian

Popular with well-heeled young locals and national celebrities alike, Bla Bla Bla is the epicentre of newly industrialised Malaysia. The kitschy decor is eclectic, with Japanese koi ponds, an Indonesian Buddha and a candlelit courtyard. The chilli midin salad is among the best around, made with fern freshly cropped from the jungle and garnished with a richly textured sauce. The mozzarella-stuffed ostrich is fantastic, while the sugarcane chicken is a seamless blend of spicy and sweet. Most dishes come in huge servings, designed to be shared. Sister restaurant the Junk, which serves Italian food, stands in three early-20th-century shop-houses just down the street.

3. 21 Bistro

Bar, Restaurant, Asian, Oceanian

Vietnamese noodles and fried spring rolls, served with chopsticks
© fannrei / Alamy Stock Photo

A fusion of cocktail bar and restaurant, 21 Bistro is the natural habitat of the young professional. Set in the heart of Old Chinatown, prepare for jazz, a zesty atmosphere and conversations with interested locals. The diverse menu offers visitors from around the world a taste of home. The fried bee hoon (Singapore vermicelli noodles) are excellent, as is the salmon teriyaki and the grilled red snapper. The lobster thermidor is crisp and juicy, and the meat, from lamb cutlets to New Zealand steaks, is finely done. A house band plays swing and easy listening most nights.

4. Life Cafe

Cafe, Restaurant, Tea Room, Asian, Tea , Chinese

Inside an enchanting old teahouse, with a grand Chinese doorway lined with lanterns, Life Cafe serves food from the great nation to the north. Chinese people make up over a third of Kuching’s population, and the food here is as good as anything found in their homeland. Enjoy a salty seaweed soup to start, then get a plate of delectable wonton dumplings before tucking into a healthy herbal soup. There are also abundant vegetarian options. Accompany your meal with one of the many delightful teas, including a plum-scented green and a mulberry leaf. The cafe’s success has led to two further branches in the city and two more in Johor and Kuala Lumpur.

5. Pinoy Fiesta Ihaw Ihaw

Restaurant, Filipino

The Filipino dish pata: deep-fried and de-boned pork leg
© Khristine Sumo / Alamy Stock Photo

While the flavours of Malaysian cooking are luscious, everyone needs a change occasionally. This is where Pinoy Fiesta Ihaw Ihaw comes in, selling the internationally underrated flavours of the Philippines. Run by a Filipino family with a propensity to burst into song while serving, Ihaw Ihaw is the place to come for satay-coated chicken skewers and sour pork sisig. The crispy pata – deep-fried pork leg, de-boned and tender, with soy, garlic and pineapple seasoning – is perfection. The pineapple chicken, doused in a coconut milk sauce, comes served inside a hollowed-out pineapple, offering a true taste of one of the world’s most vibrant cuisines.

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