The greatest irony about hari raya/eid is that we go back to Kuching and we visit a lot of people to try to spend time with as many people as possible but I always leave feeling like I’ve spent time with absolutely no one and yet I’m so tired. Plus, this year, because I was fresh off the plane from the US and super-jet lagged, I really didn’t spend much time with anyone, so it’s nice that I got to be back in Kuching for another few days last week. Most of it was spent at my grandparents’ house—the house my mum grew up in!—eating, hanging out with my cousins and playing Bananagrams and other word games (by now you should know that this constitutes 90% of what I do when I’m back/on holiday).
I have so many memories in that house, which, according to my nenek, is now like ~45 years old. That’s like twice my age. I remember when I was like 9 or 10, I spent quite a bit of my school holidays there. I even went on my first flight alone to Kuching! I remember playing with my cousins in the garden, running around pretending to be teachers or mothers or witches. I remember the house before it was renovated about 15 years ago, and everything was still wooden and the toilet bowl was, what one of my aunties described as a “throne” because once you entered the bathroom, you had to walk up a few steps to get to the toilet bowl haha. The shower was basically a tap that was above your head! The house is so different now but still sometimes as I walk through it, I almost expect to see all of those old things. So yeah, it’s always good to be back, despite the lack of wifi and airconditioning.
Ok, anyway, first thing’s first, let’s do a cheeky little run down of all the places I went to eat in Kuching. See, the other thing about only going to Kuching during raya is that everything is closed the whole time I’m there. Like, all the shops I want to go to are closed for the whole week or something so I only get to eat it when someone brings some back to KL. But not this time!
We first went to Swee Kang for jagung susu, which is exactly what the name implies. Milk and corn with shaved ice. I have only ever eaten it with the ice all melted because once it reaches me in KL, it’s typically many hours after it was prepared. We also had some rojak buah and cha kueh there, which were so good.
Then we went to Mita, which is the go-to bakery in Kuching. I literally remember going there when I was little and getting the same loaf of… I don’t know what it’s called… butter cake, I guess? It just smells amazing. I got some egg tarts and buttermilk buns and they were perfect for snacking.
We also made a quick pit stop at Black Bean Coffee near the riverfront which is actually a super touristy place but I had heard from my mum that the coffee’s good there and I just really wanted to try it. I got some iced coffee and it was so satisfying, though I think it’s partly because I just haven’t had good strong coffee in ages, since school ended.
The next day, we went to Rumah Hijau, which is another thing that is almost exactly as the name implies. It really is a house that’s green which was made into a restaurant. My sisters and I wanted to go there to have nasi goreng bunga kantan, which is something I had never ever had and it was amazing!! I loved how aromatic the fried rice was. It was nothing like I had ever tasted before. The next time I visit though, I think I’m going to try their nasi kukus. My Mak Long had it and it tasted pretty good.
We got some ice cream at Sunny Hill, which is just this small ice cream stall next to a school on Jalan Cahaya (hence, the name). I have to say the ice cream itself is nothing extraordinary; it’s the really soft and melty kind which isn’t my favourite, but even if it was, I’ve definitely had better ones. But (!) the ice cream is topped with these crushed salted peanuts which makes for this perfect balance of tastes and adds some texture to the otherwise overly liquidy ice cream. 10/10 would go again.
I think our last food stop was Mom’s Laksa for a good ol’ bowl of laksa sarawak, probably my favourite variety of all the laksas in Malaysia (if you’re wondering, though they’ll all really good, I’d easily rank it Sarawak, Johor, Penang/Kedah). Laksa was amazing for breakfast, though it’s really not that much better than what my mum makes at home. It’s just less effort, I guess haha.
So yeah, other than that, we mostly just stayed and ate at home. My grandma made some amazing dhal which we ate with rice or roti bom. On the last day, she made nasi daging with air asam which was amazing. In true grandma fashion, she even made some extra for us to bring home to eat the next day.
The first morning we were there, my friend Lisa came over to visit! It was really funny. She came at like 9 AM, when we were all still kinda groggy. In fact, my sisters were still sprawled out on their mats on the living room floor where they’d slept the night before. So Lisa came and saw us all in our pyjamas, hahaha, it was quite a sight. Lisa is currently a Fulbright ETA in Serian, a couple of hours outside of Kuching, where she’s teaching English at a secondary school. We had some paratha and kari for breakfast together as we caught up and listened to my grandparents’ stories. I think she really enjoyed listening to my grandparents’ stories, seeing as they were both teachers/worked in education for a very long time.
This was actually the first time I ever heard that my atuk actually spent 4 months in Hawaii training some people in the American Peace Corps. He was in the US when JFK was shot, apparently. I literally never knew this. We also heard stories about his experience in Birmingham where he spent 2 academic years studying. He was telling us about how difficult it was to call home back then. I kinda can’t imagine just going abroad for so long when you already have a family and all of that, in a time when travel and communication wasn’t as easy or cheap.
Anyway, so yeah, we had a really nice morning at the dining table. I never would’ve thought that someone I met randomly at PAACH one day would someday be having breakfast with me at my grandparents’ house!! I’m so proud of Lisa and I’ve mentioned it before but I’m so amazed by her dedication to her students and her persistence in trying to keep students engaged despite language and cultural barriers. I honestly don’t think I would fare as well as her if I were to live in Serian but she seems to be enjoying it and has expanded her food palate way beyond mine (no tempoyak for me, thanks). I’m so glad we got to meet again and I honestly can’t wait to see what she goes on to do next.
I also really enjoyed spending time with my cousins, aunts and uncles, and my grandparents because I don’t get to see them a lot, since they’re a whole flight away. As we stood outside in my atuk’s garden, looking at all his plants (mangoes, grapes, pineapples, chilis…) I thought about how I have a lot of hopes and dreams and things I want to achieve and places I want to see. But what do grandparents want? They just want to tell stories to make us laugh and feed us so we’re healthy and happy and just be able to spend time with us as much as possible. I hope we got to make them a bit happier with our visit.