Topspot Seafood Kuching: A CNY dinner with Mandy

I’m currently in Kuching to celebrate the tail end of CNY with Mandy (and to meet her family 😱). One of the things we wanted to do in Kuching was to eat a seafood dinner. There are many great places for seafood like Buntal and Petanak but we thought it’ll be a safer bet to eat in the city. Lots of places are closed during Chinese New Year.

I’ve been to Top Spot in the past, and even blogged about ABC (Ah Seng Seafood) and Bukit Mata Seafood Center. We went to BBQ Topspot Seafood (Ah Hock) this time. The guy warned us there’s a 1 hour wait and we’re on a special CNY pricing structure so it’ll be more expensive than normal.

One of the interesting things that all Topspot outlets share is the ability to choose your own mixed vegetable dish. There’s a row of various types of pre-cut vegetables, seafood, and other small assorted items and you take a plate and pile it up with the things you want. You pass it to the chef and he’ll cook up your special mixed vegetable dish. My favorite things to add in this are quail eggs and deshelled prawns.

I was also tempted to get a lobster (or at least one of the local slipper lobsters) but settled for King Prawns instead. These are huge freshwater prawns with big heads and long claw-like appendages you can eat.

Nowadays they even print and laminate menu cards with the updated CNY pricing so you know what you’re getting into. Off the top of my head, the huge freshwater King Prawns are RM 14/100 gram. I got two of those – one for each of us. I also wanted to eat fish and that limited the things we could order coz each fish is so large that you can’t eat much else.

This is o chio (black pompfret). RM 60 for this +- 800 gram fish. They recommended sweet and sour fish which turned out really good. This was the best dish of the night. Unfortunately Mandy isn’t a huge fan of fish so I ended up eating most of this myself. To be honest I didn’t know this was a black pompfret at first or I’ll have chosen a different fish coz I eat o chio a lot at zi char places.

Kuching-style oyster omelet (RM 28). This is how we do it here – the distinctive shape is from the wok. It comes out as a huge half sphere. The edges are crispy while the bottom bit is more moist. It’s not the soggy o chien that you get in Penang. This is a more crunchy variation. Served with fish sauce.

Midin! RM 14. This is a must eat in Sarawak. It’s a toothsome jungle fern usually cooked with belacan. This one is cooked with Shaoxing wine. We both liked it but it was served last and we were so full then we couldn’t enjoy the midin. There was at least a 30 minute lag between the first and last dish.

King prawn stir-fried with egg (RM 63). I went with their cooking recommendation but this turned out so oily and disgusting I immediately regretted it. Easily the worst dish of the night, without doubt. I should have asked them to simply steam it with Shaoxing wine. That would have tasted so much better. Urgh. The amount of cooking oil that the prawn retained is shocking. I tried sucking on the head and only got a mouthful of oil.

The food bill for 4 dishes with rice came up to RM 165. This is more expensive that what a normal meal here would cost due to the CNY surcharge. All this is communicated in advance and a proper menu with the updated prices given to customers – that’s a good thing. However, the 1 hour wait was excessive and the neighboring table (who came from KL and struck up a conversation with me) told us they found their meal underwhelming. They also found the seafood less than fresh. I agreed and said we could get better seafood in KL.

Annah Rais Bidayuh Longhouse

longhouse

Last post from the Kuching Season 1 Project Alpha blogger trip! This time we headed to a longhouse in Annah Rais – I’m familiar with this area, there’s a hot spring in Annah Rais which took us ages to find last time we were there. Here I present to you Aud’s tulan face – she doesn’t take very kindly to people waking her up (or the sun either). >.<

tuak

What do you do when you go to a longhouse? Why, my dear friends, you indulge in the hospitality of the local folks by drinking some tuak (rice wine). It’s also for sale for RM 10 per bottle. I drank most of the gratis tuak and bought a bottle so that everyone can have a taste and even lugged it to the bus (but finished it before I got to Kuching).

kettle

Old skool kettle for…boiling coffee or something.

headhunters

We Maoris, we once were warriors – headhunting and shit like that.

peeling prawns

I met this lady who has a husband working for PDRM. I instantly sat down and helped her peel shrimps while talking with her, much to Aud’s amusement. She knows Inspector K, MK, Sargeant AD from Narcotics too! Good thing she didn’t ask me how I knew them. ;)

betel nut 
 
…and what longhouse visit would be complete without an old woman chewing betel nut?

Bukit Mata Seafood Centre

bukit mata seafood center

Permata Carpark in Kuching is host to some of the freshest catch from the seas if you’re not in the mood to drive down to Lundu or Serian. It’s smack dab in the middle of the city. My favorite is ABC Seafood (Stall #10) and we went to Bukit Mata Seafood Centre (Stall #25) this very day a week ago during the Project Alpha shoot.

bukit mata

Verily, much has changed in Kuching but the popularity of this al fresco (a very atas word meaning open air) seafood court has not waned.

seafood

We had beef, prawns, ferns native to Sarawak, fish, noodles, bamboo clams and crabs.

crabs

Me and Aud ate quite a bit of the chilli crab – it’s pretty big by normal crab standards if you don’t compare it to Alaskan King Crab.

crab claw

Mmm…crustaceans.

crab meat

The sauce is tangy and sweet, with a hint of spiciness to it. It goes very well with rice, I just love the eggy and starchy texture of the gravy.

lacerations

It was so good that I didn’t realize I cut my index finger multiple times while digging for that elusive crab meat. Lacerations galore. >.<

Orang Utans @ Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

Semenggoh Wildlife Centre

We were at Semenggoh Wildlife Center to look at Orang Utans (which always reminds me of the way Caucasians pronounce it – orang as in “Oh, the phone just RANG) during the Project Alpha shoot in Kuching. This place is about 40 minutes from Kuching city proper.

orang utans

This looks like Mr. Hussein when he was captured, except his beard hasn’t turned white from fear of Death From Above (TM).

orang utan trees

One thing that I learned from the trip was that orang utans sleep in trees at night. These are tall trees on which they built nests using twigs to avoid pythons and other predators. I wonder how it can support the weight of an orang utan with those slender branches at the very top. That’s a view of their nest – they actually build one every single night to sleep in!

orang utan nest

Perspective: This is how high they build their nests.

guide

We had to walk down a muddy path to the feeding platform. These orang utans are semi-wild, fruits are placed there and the orang utans knows it. However, they will only eat the fruits if they can’t forage food – apparently they also eat stuff like lizards.

feeding platform 

Unfortunately we didn’t manage to see any orang utans…

orang utan

Except this one.

human orang utans

…and a bunch of escaped primates. ;)

Let sleeping cats lie

cat

I’ve been so sleep deprived during the long weekend that I can’t even think straight. I want to write about the Kuching Project Alpha shoot but I’m so sleepy I don’t think even propping up my eyelids with metal toothpicks would do the trick.

Thus, I shall just put up this photo of a sleeping feline I saw in the longhouse visit and get some sleep. Not. Able. To. Type. Coherant. Sentences. 

Jojo Struys 1

Oh ya, speaking of Project Alpha, first time I met Jojo, she was with Stephanie Chai (a fellow Sarawakian!). She just started a wedding portal called The Wedding Guide.

I reckon this would come in handy for me soon considering I’m turning 29 in about two months. ;)

Now…the only problem is finding the bride. Heh!

Sarawak Laksa @ Madam Tang's Cafe, Kuching

madam tangs

You know how I always say I prefer Asam Laksa to Sarawak Laksa? Well, I don’t know if it was the rather intense workout this morning but I just had lunch with the Project Alpha Season 1 bloggers at Madam Tang’s Cafe in Petanak and it was fucking good.

madam tang interior

The Sarawak Laksa Special (RM 10.80) comes with a lot of huge, juicy prawns. It is as good as the one in Golden Arch Garden Laksa which was a favorite haunt of mine when I was working in Kuching due to the proximity to my office back then.

sarawak laksa

Sarawak Laksa is a bit different from the other santan (coconut milk) laced concoctions and it was refreshing (not sure if this is the correct adjective but it feels right to me) to get reacquainted with this superb specialty from my hometown again.

A squeeze of lime into the belacan paste mixed into the Sarawak laksa is a ritual I haven’t done in a long time. Heavenly.

beef noodles

The Beef Noodle Special is pretty awesome too! We had a taste of it and ended up ordering a bowl to share.

I also managed to meet up with a lot of Kuching bloggers and good friends today – that was another highlight of the trip! :)

sarawak laksa special

Next up is dinner at Topspot @ Permata Carpark which is really famous for their seafood. I’m still full from lunch though so I’m not sure if I can handle a lot of that tonight. >.<

Meow!

kuching

Hello Kuching! It’s been a while since I was here, and a lot of things have changed – new malls Spring-ing up (haha bad pun), new hotels, and generally a lot more vertically inclined buildings scattered around the city. I daresay it’s about as developed as Penang now.

It’s a full day of shooting for us Project Alpha Season 1 bloggers and I only slept 4 hours last night so today is gonna be a long day! I’m quite excited though coz things look so new and different now.

We’re staying at 360 Hotel if anyone wants to drop by. It’s a pretty good boutique hotel.

Most of the people are here for the first time, and as a Sarawakian, I had to put up with a lot of “Oh, Kuching also got Shell/7-Eleven/(insert common franchise)”.

 >.<

Koreana review

koreana

Koreana restaurant is quite an established institution serving authentic Korean food in Kuching. It has recently moved its premises to 101, complete with brand new décor and fittings.

koreana interior

I went there with Irene and Emeric during my last trip to Kuching. The new Koreana looks much better than the previous restaurant and features an upper level for more dining space.

koreana utensils

I like the eating implements (and also using unconventional words instead of just “utensils”) in Koreana. The chopsticks at Koreana are Korean chopsticks – it’s angular and oblique which makes it difficult to handle the first time you come across it.

koreana green tea

We all had a mug of steaming green tea (RM 2) since we had just consumed an excessive amount of Slurpees previously, which made us a little on the cold side. The weather was chilly too, for some reason – rainy season, probably.

koreana entrees

Koreana serves a select range of complimentary entrees for all diners. There’s kimchi (the staple of Korean food), clams in some sort of hot sauce, seaweed, anchovies, a salad and vegetables of some sort.

koreana slizzling

Irene had the Dolsot Bibim Bub (RM 20) which is described as “slizzling rice with assorted vegetables in stone bowl”. I’m sure they meant sizzling. ;)

koreana egg

The bibim bub (stone bowl mixed rice) comes with a raw egg which was cracked in by the waitress…

koreana mix

…and mixed thoroughly. Check out the look of concentration on her face. The raw egg is actually cooked by the excess heat from the stone bowl.

koreana kimchi

The obligatory kimchi is then added to the stone bowl mixed rice…

koreana bibimbup

…before it is served. Koreana serves a pretty mean bibim bup and a testament to the authenticity of the place is the Korean expatriates at a table beside us.

koreana kimchi rice

Emeric opted for the Kimchi Fried Rice (RM 12). It tastes a lot like the Dolsot Bibim Bub minus the theatricals. ;)

koreana cold noodles

I went for the Mulnaengmyun (RM 22) which is cold noodles in soup. It came with bamboo shoots and other vegetables and half a boiled egg. The dish was served in a metal bowl full of ice cubes. It’s not just cold, it’s freezing! I like! :)

koreana scissors

Koreana also provides you with scissors for the cold noodle dish to cut the noodles into more manageable lengths for slurping. I really liked the taste of this dish – the freezing cold soup tastes delicious and although the concept of having ice cold noodles may be foreign for some people, it actually tastes really good.

koreana chicken soup

We also ordered a bowl of Samgaetang (RM 35) to share. It is chicken soup cooked with ginseng Korean style and Irene insists that it is a very healthy substitute for ED meds. I’m not sure why she thinks me and Emeric has that kind of problem, but the chicken soup does taste good. ;)

koreana ginseng

The chicken soup with ginseng is served with half a whole chicken and lots of Korean ginseng. There’s also some rice at the bottom of the soup bowl and the rice expands and absorbs all the goodness of the soup and is meant to be eaten after everything else is consumed. It’s delicious!

koreana us

Koreana is a nice place to have dinner if you’re hankering for authentic Korean food. The bill came up to about RM 95 so it’s pretty reasonable for three people. Thanks to Irene for driving me around Kuching in search of the elusive Slurpee! ;)

Transit Point

transit point night

Transit Point is a budget accommodation facility located in the heart of Kuching. It has just been recently completed and features WiFi in every room. The rates start at RM 35 nett which is slightly more expensive than the RM 30 nett charged by it’s main competitor – Singgahsana Lodge. However, the two places are different in many ways.

transit point reception

Transit Point provides a more private environment with a room consisting of a double bed and air conditioning (and television and WiFi to boot) while Singgahsana provides dormitory style accommodations sleeping 10 in a room (without WiFi). Transit Point provides towels for free too, which is chargeable (RM 2) in Singgahsana Lodge.

transit point shower

Transit Point also features shared toilets and shower units but the place is very clean and there’s a soap/shampoo dispenser in the cubicles. Smoking is not allowed in both places (except outdoors).

transit point room

I would recommend Transit Point if  you want the privacy of your own room and a larger bed with an air conditioned room. Singgahsana Lodge would be more suitable for people who wants interaction (and doesn’t mind leaving their notebook filled with incriminating photos and videos in a room with 9 other strangers). ;)

transit point irene

Transit Point just costs RM 35 nett per night. I stayed there during my recent trip to Kuching (the 12 hour grueling trip where I nearly missed my express boat back) and was happy with the place. I’ll definitely do a return visit when I’m on a shoestring budget.



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