Shopping in Kuching is quite a tricky thing. Modern malls are becoming a way of life but we tend to go for the other type of shopping when we’re here.
Local foodstuff and pottery are more of our kind of shopping.
First, pottery and ceramics are unique because Sarawak-made pots, mugs, lamps, decor items and vases have patterns which are distinctively Borneo.
We usually buy our table lamps when we are here in Kuching. They’re much nicer and cheaper than Semenanjung. The cool thing is you have the option of checking in your table lamps if you prefer not to hand carry them into the plane. Rest assured that these ceramic factories are old hands are wrapping up your ceramic pottery. The items are packed tighter than elephants in a phone booth and there’s nary a scratch or crack when you arrive at your destination.
Next, food. I like wandering in the aisles of local supermarkets here because by looking at what the locals eat, I get a definitive idea of the unique flavours of this verdant land.
Of course you cannot leave without some famous Sarawak pepper (black pepper and white pepper). You can get them in various denominations – coarse grind, fine grind, whole corns, in a sauce and in whole kilo bags.
You can also get them as pepper sweets which taste very much like peppermint sweets. Nic used to buy me pepper perfume but they smelled like regular cologne. It’s a novelty though.
Then there’s a local herb called Motherwort or what locals call Kacangma. It’s usually cooked with chicken for mothers undergoing confinement to get rid of ‘angin’ but it’s also a dish that many locals love. I’ve grown quite fond of kacangma but I only get my supply of this dried green herb when I come back to Kuching. I found some instant kacangma paste recently but have yet to try it.
Then there’s Sarawak tea. It’s not too bad though I think it lacks processing finesse. It’s not as fragrant as Boh tea but then again we cannot compare Sarawak tea, a lowland tea, to Boh which is a highland tea. It is worth a try though. (Did you know that Boh also has a lowland tea plantation in Bukit Cheeding, Selangor? Hah, betcha didn’t know that. Well it does. I wonder if what we term as Boh highland tea, with the romantic illusion of tea and scones, is actually mixed with lowland tea from the unglamorous Bukit Cheeding?)
And lastly, I never leave without buying some Sarawak laksa paste. Yesterday I saw instant Sarawak laksa paste! Cooking the laksa gravy is a tedious affair so I think having instant paste is godsend. But I also think anything that’s instant probably has MSG in it. Well, I bought some to try anyway.
I also saw some jelly sweets made from pegaga, another local herb. Didn’t buy that because I don’t want to load myself with too many things to carry home to Penang. After all, I still need to buy some kolo mee, kuih more-more, keropok and achar, fish chips and the list just goes on.
I’m Malaysian after all and food is my greatest indulgence!