Don’t be alarmed if you did a quick Google search on what Pasar Satok is and found numerous blogs talking about how it isn’t there anymore. Well, it isn’t entirely true. What they mean is, the original Satok Weekend Market, which used to largely exist on Jalan Satok, isn’t there anymore.
The Malaysian government relocated it in 2013 and moved everyone across the river to a bigger, better complex called Medan Niaga Satok, in an area more commonly known amongst locals as Kubah Ria. It promises better facilities and ample space for the largely growing vendors.
I first heard about this market from a friend of mine who used to live in Kuching. Unknowingly, I did a quick search with an idea in mind – I thought it would be a trendy artisanal market where I’d be able to find some cool hipster outfits and baskets and maybe a terrarium or two. Read on to know how wrong I was.
What you should know
Ladies and gents, the Satok Weekend Market is a wet food market. More specifically, the market is a fresh ingredients market. I found this out as soon as I hit the ‘Images’ tab on Google and saw a pair of big, bright, dory fish eyes staring back at me.
I thought, “Ah, ok! WOOHOOO that means I’ll get to eat loads of fresh food while I’m in Kuching!” Being the foodie that I was, I began preparing for my trip: researching every type of food available at Satok to be discovered by my slobbering appetite. First things first: getting my big butt there!
How to get there
I stayed at Pullman Hotel, which is closer to the waterfront area, so the Medan Niaga Satok location is not within walking distance at all.
To be completely safe, get an Uber – the parking in and around that market can get pretty crazy on weekends. Some websites suggest taking a van from the Outdoor Market in town, but an Uber is cheaper and easier.
What to consider
The early bird really does get all the best fresh foods. It gets really busy as early as 7am on Sunday morning, but not so much can be found before noon on Saturday. To be safe, expect more goods/vendors after 4pm on Saturday. Also you can avoid roasting yourselves in the hot sun when picking fruits.
They have the same goods on both days, but do expect that some sellers may choose to open only on one day.
In the evening, some plant, orchid and flower sellers will start packing up by 6pm. The fruit sellers follow suit soon after that, but you will get a good bargain when they start clearing up.
Bring your own bags! Some of the vendors (especially the kuih lapis vendors) are used to people buying stuff in bulk, therefore some may even help you package the food items nicely in case you need to check them in as baggage.
It is also good to consider exotic foods or fruits that may not travel well (i.e., dabai fruit); so having an apartment or your own place to cook the food or taste them before leaving may be wise.
The weird and the wonderful
Meet the Dabai. This exotic fruit has been said to be an equivalent of avocados, with a higher fat content and a stronger flavor. It certainly is the more popular item at this market, and prices range from RM16/kg to a dearer RM34/kg, depending on the quality and size.
It has a deep purple/blackish skin, and reminds me of dates without the wrinkles. Dabai does not travel well, because the fruit is somewhat still ‘alive’ even after picking. You’ll need to keep airing them out, or they’ll spoil easily. Boil them, peel them, sprinkle some salt and eat them with rice. Mm-mmm! Goooood.
Pro tip: The dabai fruit has a yellowish area where the stem used to be, and the bigger the area of the yellow part, the more flesh you’ll get in the fruit.
Local pro tip: Don’t throw away the seeds! You can peel them and eat them just like sunflower seeds.
If you’re feeling rather adventurous, you can always go with this:
Now I know, this isn’t weird, nor may it be wonderful to those who aren’t a fan. But the rambutans on this side of town are branded with the name “Rambutan Budak Sekolah” or “Rambutan Anak Sekolah”. Isn’t that cute?
Apparently, this breed of rambutans got its name because the tree can bear sweet, red fruit even when the plant has not entered a ‘mature’ stage, and it’s known to be much shorter than other rambutan trees. Hence, “rambutan budak sekolah” – literally translated to “school-going rambutans”.
Quirky items you shouldn’t miss
I saw some locals here who place their groceries in this nifty basket bag – I looked everywhere for it but I couldn’t find a vendor who sold any. So I told myself that I’ll hunt for it the next time I’m in Borneo.
The Satok Weekend Market is a family affair for some families living in Kuching. You’ll notice that some vendors make a day of it by getting all their family members to help out at the stalls – like this lady here and her daughter, selling the cheapest and sweetest pineapples I’ve ever seen, and the brothers who sold keropok lekor. Some even brought their cats!
Don’t miss these!
Bunnies for sale
Although I have a very forlorn perspective on animals like these sold as pets, I was impressed as to how clean the conditions are and how healthy the pets look.
Need I say more?
Plants, far and wide!
The plant vendors here sell a wide, wide variety of plants! From Musang King durian plants, to rare, gorgeous breeds of orchids, to cacti and even succulents – yes you can even pick and choose to make your very own terrarium, which is all the rage now.
Not looking for fresh fruits, vegetables or plants? There’s a section of souvenirs just for you – with a wide variety of handcrafted items to choose from.
Last, but not least…
Make sure to walk into Pasar Satok with an empty tummy, because it’s a food fiesta in here!
Be sure to try these scrumptious edibles:
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