- Jln Satok W of Kuching
Lonely Planet review for Weekend Market
The Weekend Market, locally known in Malay as 'Pasar Minggu', is a Kuching institution that dates back several decades. Every weekend, traders and farmers from around the city and the surrounding villages and longhouses converge on a compact area in the Satok neighbourhood, setting up wooden stalls and colourful tarpaulin rain covers, and sell their products, ranging from fresh fish to wild jungle ferns, power tools to herbal cure-alls.
It's a garrulous gathering and a large proportion of the neighbourhood's residents, and some from farther away, show up to do their grocery shopping for the week. It is also a boon for self-catering travellers.
To get to the market from downtown, walk the kilometre or so from along Jln Tun Ahmad Zaidi Adruce, and turn right onto the westbound lanes of Jln Satok after you have crossed under the Satok overpass. The markets are liveliest in the late afternoons and evenings on Saturday, and mid-Sunday morning. If the weekend coincides with a major holiday however, then some of the stalls will not be open, for instance, the Dayak-owned stalls on Gawai.
A good place to start exploring the market is from the pedestrian overpass. The first section, directly south, has stalls selling a wide range of goods from hardware to souvenirs to clothing. This is a good place to pick up a bargain on batiks and cheesy Sarawak t-shirts. From here, head towards the fresh-plants section, where you can stop to admire delicate bonsais, pick up a bunch of local flowers for your dearly beloved, or see what a durian sapling looks like.
Walking south here, you will enter the general-produce section, which sprawls around and takes up space wherever it can, with stalls selling eggs, vegetables and fruits, sprinkled with various others hawking drinks and snacks. The fruits section sells in-season popular tropical fruits such as watermelon or mango, and at the far end is a stall selling cakoi, which is deep-fried bread dough, a popular snack item. Going back up, stalls selling kueh (small Malaysian cakes) jostle with others selling Malay food and Chinese pastries. Definitely try apam balik, a Malaysian pancake folded over and stuffed with butter and peanuts, or kueh salat, a small cake made from salty glutinous rice and pandan-flavoured jelly.
Malay rice and noodle staples such as nasi lemak and mee goreng can also be found here, as well as some imports from the mainland, such as nasi dagang and nasi kerabu (blue rice!) from Kelantan. Close by is a large aquarium-supplies stall selling exotic tropical goldfish. You can pick up kampung-style grilled fish just before heading into the fresh-seafood section, featuring fresh catch such as pomfret, Spanish mackerel, skate and local shellfish. This section lies next to Pasar Tamu DBKU, the covered market which operates on weekdays when the weekend market is closed. Halal (food prepared according to Muslim dietry laws) beef and lamb is sold by butchers next to the seafood section. From here, the produce in the stalls start giving way to more local vegetables and spices and stall-owners here are more likely to be Bidayuh from the surrounding longhouses. Keep an eye out for local vegetables such as kangkong (water spinach) or paku (jungle ferns found only in Sarawak), fruits such as salak (a sweet and acidic fruit with skin resembling that of a snake's) or dabai (an olivelike fruit from the Sibu area). If in doubt, ask the vendor as to the identity of what you are looking at, and how to eat it.
Those taking Malaysian cooking lessons will find this a great place to buy some serai (lemongrass), lengkuas (galangal) or kunyit (turmeric) as well as kerisik (ground coconut, look for stalls with a grinding machine). Other items of interest to foodies are fresh tempeh (Javanese-style fermented soy beans), belacan (shrimp paste) and cincalot (fermented krill dip) while the more adventurous might want to try live sago grubs, which are available from time to time.
The Pasar Tani Mega, which is a farmer's market organisation, is a new addition to the market, and features stalls selling strictly local produce, great for 100-mile foodies.
Finally, Chinese butchers set up their stalls in an isolated section, selling pork and other nonhalal meats. If you are here during the durian fruiting season (November to February), check out the durian stalls that are set up at the intersection of Jln Rubber and Jln Rubber Lorong to smell and taste what the fuss is all about. Just don't bring them back to your hotel.
If you are here on Saturday evenings, by all means head to the Malay hawker's area which starts at 17:00, where you can pick up some great satay and nasi goreng.