Saturday, June 29, 2013

Some enchanted evening... at Siniawan

IT WAS ALWAYS a big thrill to venture out of Kuching to Bau and swim at Tasek Biru back in the mist of time. On the way, we take the ferry across the Sarawak River at Batu Kitang, through Siniawan, then Buso before reaching the gold mining town of Bau. These townships were thriving trading centres for the farmers and market gardeners around.

Then a bridge was built and access to Bau was not ruled by the ferry. You can now drive to Bau via Batu Kawa or Matang. Siniawan and Buso were by-passed by a highway. To revive the fortunes of Siniawan, the idea of a night market was born, local businesses would create a fiesta of food and song every Friday and Saturday night. My art mentor Apai Michael Lim is a great supporter of night markets and his deep love of the countryside, being one Sarawak's most famous artist of batiks. He brought us there with Moses, Jessie, David and Darlene who are more interested in eating.

Siniawan is half an hour out of Kuching. We took the turn-off from the highway and ventured down the somewhat unlit road to Siniawan township. In the distance was an alluring glow, a night of reminiscing was unfolding. We could see that the road that passed through the old township has been closed off, lanterns strung across the two rows of colonial-style shophouses. Tables and chairs lined across the road right to the end of the street. All the shops were open and the restaurants, cafes and food stalls were all set for an evening of eating, drinking and shopping.

Apai ordered for us. He was engrossed in deep conversations with the chefs as there was all manner of fresh food, Jungle produce, wild boar meat and venison, seafood and shellfish. We had a fish ball and tau pok soup, chicken kachanma (my favorite confinement food) with dried kachangma, ginger, chicken and Chinese wine (Shaoxing). What a delight it was to have another favourite, stuffed bitter gourd. The pork mince was mixed with flavour-enhancing grilled salted fish. No meal is complete without a sambal dish, the squid was served on banana leaf, with calamansi on the side.

The karaoke had started from the far end of the street on a stage decorated with a Chinese scenic backdrop. The music was from the old days and the singers made tuneful renditions. Thankfully there were no tone-deaf wannabes, no shameless egotistical blow-up dolls and the music added to the atmosphere. The dishes kept on coming; Pak Lo Duck and then the big hit Rojak, the Malay salad, topped with finely chopped peanut. As the rojak has hay ko (prawn paste), I took leave to check out the food stalls selling deep-fried foods on skewers, fritters of all kinds and nonya kuehs.

We had cooling drinks like calamansi on ice, with singboi. And teh tarek or kopi-o. As there an army camp nearby, the men in battle fatigues were present in full force, drinking Tiger Beer.

Sipping on an iced calamansi drink and eating a Kueh Talam, I could't help thinking that this is the perfect scene for one of the many popular swordfighting films of yesteryear. Cheng Pei Pei would at any moment decend on the roof and leap across to the other side of the street. Just hope she doesn't get entangled in the hanging lanterns.

Some enchanted evening...


  1. Are those brown little cakes, kueh kosui?? Yum!

    1. Yes, kueh kosui! Palm suger topping, green other half.