West Kalimantan or Borneo is a province where Chinese descendant population is the majority. Statistically, Chinese ethnics comprise more than 30% of the entire population, and Malay is number two with 26%. Therefore, it is not surprising if you can find a large Chinatown here, and Singkawang Chinatown is one of the largest areas in West Kalimantan.
Like many areas in West Kalimantan, Chinese culture is very prominent especially during Chinese celebrations, and various ethnics join the festive atmosphere when Chinese celebrations come. Otherwise, Chinatown is also a popular spot for locals and tourists to shop for various things, including cooking spices and tools, Chinese sweet treats and foods, traditional medicines, clothes, accessories and many more.
If you visit West Kalimantan, going to the Singkawang Chinatown is the best way to blend with the locals and experience the atmosphere of Chinese traditional market that does not change much since many years ago. Do not worry, as long as you take time to learn some Indonesian, you can communicate with the sellers here (although you may also hear some Pontianak Malay, Khek and Tiociu languages being thrown around you).
Culinary Feasts in Chinatown
Although there are so many things to see in Singkawang Chinatown, the best thing to try is of course the food. Here, you can find various street side vendors and peddlers selling Chinese foods; some authentic, and some are modified so they can be accepted by non-Chinese tongues. The prices are of course much cheaper than those dishes at fancy Chinese restaurants in Jakarta, and you get bonus of warm, lively interactions with locals.
Here are some much-recommended dishes to look for in Singkawang Chinatown:
This is a favorite among Chinese and other ethnics alike in West Kalimantan. This food is steamed sticky rice mixed with chicken, dried prawn, peanuts and salted watercress. The flavor is rich and tasty, and the sticky texture from the sticky rice is both interesting and fulfilling.
This is a kind of sweet, thick soup filled with gelatinous white and red balls made of starch flour. Jan is a favorite snack among various ethnics in and around the Chinatown, and kids especially love this.
- Gwek Pia
This is a type of traditional Chinese cake that is also locally known as Kue Bulan (Moon Cake). The cake is made of mung bean and slightly hard, and it is often served during special occasions such as Chinese New Year.
This is a type of Chinese noodle with thin, wide strands made of flour and egg. There are several variations of this dish, such as fried kwetiaw, kwetiaw with broth, and kwetiaw siram (cooked kwetiaw poured with thick, viscous broth). The dish is served with vegetables, chicken, prawn or anything you can think of, and this is a popular lunch and dinner dish.
Singkawang Chinatown is clearly a must-visit spot in West Kalimantan.
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