Kuching trip: celebrating Raya, Layer Cakes and icey treats

During our week-long stay in Malaysia, we flew east over to Kuching, one of two Malaysian cities located on Borneo. We were there for a very short two days, and we devoted most of that time to explore the culinary specialties of that region. We were fortunate to have the help of a friend's brother S who kindly used his Hari Raya holiday to act as a foodie and tourist guide for us. Like I have said so many times before: nothing beats having local knowledge when on holiday!

We arrived just before lunch time on the Monday, and first stop was a visit to S's friend's house who was hosting an open house for the Raya celebration. In short summary, Hari Raya is the Malay term for Eid ul-Fitr which is a Muslim festival that marks the end of Ramadan, the month of fasting. Some people open their houses during the Hari Raya period for people to drop in, socialise and eat some tasty food. Our hosts were a lovely couple with a beautiful house, and they had set out delicious food for us to enjoy. There were various types of layer cakes, which is a Sarawakian specialty. These cakes are made up of many thin layers of cake, baked one layer at a time. Apparently a small block of these cakes can fetch for more than RM100! These cakes are very labour-intensive and the more unusual patterned designs require special skills to make. Not just a pretty face, these cakes were scrumptious!

Sarawak's specialty - the Layer Cakes:

Close-up of one of the interestingly colorful layered cakes. No doubt one of the more expensive ones!

Hot dishes were chicken curry, a beef dish (sorry I can't remember exactly what), chicken and beef satay sticks with sauce, lemang and lontong.

Chicken and beef:

Satay sticks with a peanut-y sauce on the side, and the lemang and lontong to eat with the dishes:

After lunch, S brought us to have some Ice Kacang and ABC ("Air Batu Campur" which literally means 'stone water mix'. The terms Ice Kacang and ABC are popularly interchangeable, at least on the mainland, but apparently they are different. Our guide is a purist, preferring the "original" Ice Kacang consisting of just shaved ice, sweetened adzuki beans, condensed milk and syrup. ABC is a variant of Ice Kacang, with additional ingredients like cendol, corn, peanuts and attap chee (palm seeds, my favourite ice kacang ingredient!).

Plain Ice Kacang and ABC with cendol:

We also had Belacan Beehoon, a dish unique to Kuching. This dish was was slightly sweet and not at all pungent as one would expect with using belacan (fermented shrimp paste), The beehoon was served with chewy cuttlefish which gave an added texture to the dish. We also shared a plate of Rojak.

Belacan Beehoon:

Coming up next on our foodie tour in Kuching: overloading on delicious fresh seafood.

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