The Kuching Open Air Market is often overlooked as a place to enjoy local Kuching street food and seafood.
Fact is, Kuching isn’t known by the masses as a seafood heaven, but to me, it is.
Seafood here is fresh, and it is comparatively cheap, and you can enjoy all these within the city area, without needing to go outside of town.
Of course, you do get more options if you are willing to venture out (like going to MUara Tebas, but if you aren’t able to do so, the options in Kuching are still pretty great.
One of my favorite joints for seafood in Kuching is the Kuching Open Air Market.
Since I am local, I go to the Kuching Open Air Market by car.
There’s not many parking spots near the market regardless of time, but since I frequent this place for dinner, I join the many locals parking ‘illegally’ at the side of the road.
Enforcement officers, perhaps knowing that traffic is less at night seem to turn a blind eye on such parking, which is good. However, be warned that parking along the road during the day may see you getting compounded by authorities.
For non-locals, ride sharing apps will enable you to get to the market with ease. Just download the ride-sharing apps available in Kuching.
Else, if you are staying in Kuching, and you live nearby the Kuching Waterfront – or the Darul Hana Bridge for that matter, the Open Air Market is just a few hundred metres away as you can see in the Google Map I’ve attached below.
A BIT ABOUT THIS ‘MARKET’
Just a bit of history here.
The Kuching Open Air Market wasn’t actually meant to be a ‘market’. In fact, during the British colonial time, the place where the market now sits used to be a Fire Station. As a matter of fact, it used to be Kuching’s very first fire station.
According to blog themaidensgiedd, the station was built by Sarawak’s first Governer of British Colony, Sir Charles Noble Arden Clarke in 1946. The land where the Fire Station sat on was reclaimed land and it was located along Jalan Gratak.
The information was corroborated by NST which also states that the fire station was built to accommodate Kuching’s very own coal-powered fire engine which was supposed to arrive in 1917 directly from the United Kingdom.
In the 50’s, the all of the fire station, with exception of the drying tower, was demolished because the Kuching Fire Station was moved to its new building at Jalan Padungan.
The site became a vacant land and it was quickly occupied by Chinese hawkers which came to sale a variety of food and drinks hence making it an open air market.
Due to its popularity, local authorities decided to put a roof over the area, and later on improved amenities within the area to help improve comfort of those trading in the area.
Despite already covered, locals still refer to the place as the ‘open air market’ until today.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT THE OPEN AIR MARKET
If you don’t enjoy being charged elevated prices for food, then the Kuching Open Air Market is perfect for you.
There’s two buildings known collectively as ‘Open Air Market’ by locals.
The one with the tower, officially known as ‘Tower Market’ has a white tower as its landmark.
The tower, as explained above, was previously a drying tower and is remnants of the old Kuching Fire Station.
This market is usually busy during the day with hawkers selling Sio Bee, Kolo Mee, Kuching Rojak, ABC, mixed rice and even the famed Gula Apong ice cream.
At night, this same place remains well visited for Sio Bee, Kolo Mee and ice cream.
The second building, which I do not know what is called, is just known as Open Air Market.
It is usually well visited at night with with seafood stalls offering cheap but delicious seafood and pork porridge.
I know both don’t exactly go together, but usually one will have one or the other when coming here.
Locals such as myself love the the Open Air Market not only for the price of the dishes, but also the breezy atmosphere.
This is largely due to the availability of an open air seating which literally enables customers to ‘dine under the stars’.
Aside from that, the service at the Open Air Market is also pretty speedy. On a normal day, orders will be served within 15 to 20 minutes after ordering takes place.
As an added intensive customers can easily pick and choose dishes they want to be served, or you can also request for a menu from the waiters.
Dishes range from seafood, numerous type of noodles, frogs, pork, numerous types of vegetables and a wide array of soups.
Personally, I fancy the fried pork with salted fish here, and some stalls serve good Salted vegetables mixed with tofu soup.
As far as I can remember, I am able to enjoy my food at the Open Air Market without much fuss on every visit.
By the time I ask for the bill, a meal for three or four will never really burn a hole in my pocket costing less than RM60 at times.
As development sweeps Kuching City, it is indeed surprising that a place like the Kuching Open Air Market is still around, able to offer such prices for their food.
I can admit that the market may look outdated, but to me, this adds to its rustic feel.
It also gives the younger generation a glimpse of how Kuching used to be when it was younger.
My hope is that the Open Air Market will remain as it is until years to come, and if there’s any improvements or developments made, it will retain the market as an important landmark to the city.