As election fever grips the state, the pots are boiling over for the delicious and justly famous Sarawak laksa.
With the influx of visitors in recent weeks, business is booming, especially for the laksa sellers in many parts of the city.
For a bite of the “breakfast of the Gods” - in the words of world-renowned travelling chef Anthony Bourdain - people head for Choon Hui Cafe in Jalan Ban Hock where the strong aroma of spices tickle the nostrils even before they join the morning queue.
Chie Yat Ming, the owner of the Sarawak laksa stall in the café, said preparing the local favourite is no easy task.
The still spritely 58-year-old wakes up at 3am every day to prepare the ingredients, soaking the rice vermicelli in warm water before she cooks the spice paste on medium heat for about two hours, stirring it constantly.
Cooked chicken meat has to be deboned and shredded for the topping before she goes to the Kenyalang Park Market to buy fresh prawns and coconut milk. Then it’s off to the cafe to start her business at 7am. By 11am, the laksa will be sold out.
“It is difficult to prepare a bowl of laksa. I prepare the ingredients all by myself. That’s why I only do a small quantity. I’m thinking of retiring but none of my family members, including my sisters-in-law, are interested in taking over the stall,” she said.
Like other Sarawak laksa sellers, Chie has her own recipe and secret ingredients.
A short drive away, Laksa Sarawak Ambal is the latest hit in town.
Nor Ryezan Raduan introduced it, using ‘ambal’ (local bamboo clams) as the shellfish is very popular locally.
“Sales has been soaring after the announcement of the Sarawak election. I had to order extra ambal,” said the 31-year-old whose stall is at Warung Nusantara at iCom Square in Jalan Pending.
So popular is Sarawak laksa that it has spawned an industry for producing the mildly spicy paste that is made with over a dozen spices including lemongrass, shallot, long red chili, cumin seed, clove, nutmeg, cardamom, coriander seed and galangal.
Packets of these paste are sold across supermarkets and Kuching city’s Main Bazaar near the Kuching waterfront for about RM7 each.
Bourdain, who returned to Choon Hui café last May after a decade to shoot for CNN ’s travel programme ‘Parts Unknown’, picked Sarawak laksa in his top 10 wish list of foods for his new New York City food market venture.
Asked if her famous laksa can be replicated in New York, Chie said: “That would be difficult because it would be hard to get the same ingredients... I remember the ‘ang moh’ (white foreigner) who came and filmed me preparing the laksa.”
Looks like Bourdain will have to return to Kuching if he wants to feast once again on his “Breakfast of the Gods.”