Where Malaysia's multiculturalism meets Borneo's characteristic biodiversity, the city of Kuching has a unique gastronomic heritage. Indeed, the city has been a centre of trade and exchange for the East Malaysian region since its foundation in the 1820’s. Now a modern city of 620,000 inhabitants, it is transitioning from a traditional food culture into international expressions of creativity. Food is a key feature of the city’s cultural and tourism calendar. The Rainforest World Music Festival, Kuching Jazz Festival and Sarawak Regatta host traditional food bazaars. Moreover, in local schools, cooking skills are delivered largely as an extracurricular activity, in addition to nutrition and biodiversity, which are broadly covered under the syllabus. Its local and indigenous food is based on unique ingredient sources from the Sarawak region’s incredible diversity, fostered by the close relationship between indigenous communities and the environment. This traditional gastronomy supports smallholders and cottage industries and has inspired traditional cooking techniques and know-how. Meanwhile, sustained immigration since the early 19th century has diversified the food culture, both in its blend and in its community dishes, creating the breadth of local cuisine that can be witnessed today and enjoyed through traditional street food centres and markets.
As a Creative City of Gastronomy, the following steps will be important:
- Supporting smallholders and cottage industries in the collection of heritage food products and ingredients by increasing access to both domestic and online markets;
- Encouraging entrants into heritage agriculture and gastronomy to increase creativity and sustainability and support intergenerational knowledge transmission;
- Diversifying income streams for heritage agriculture through responsible tourism;
- Increasing appreciation of gastronomy through documentation and awareness campaigns;
- Promoting health, hygiene and responsible consumption in the recovery phase from the COVID-19 pandemic; and
- Fostering knowledge exchange with UCCN member cities to embed creativity within traditional gastronomy.