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Kuching the UNESCO Creative City of Gastronomy

Launched in 2004, the UNESCO Creative Cities Network (UCCN) aims to strengthen cooperation with and among cities that have recognized creativity as a strategic factor of sustainable development as regards economic, social, cultural, and environmental aspects.

By joining the Network, cities acknowledge their commitment to sharing best practices, developing partnerships that promote creativity and the cultural industries, strengthening participation in cultural life and integrating culture in urban development plans.

The Network further commits to supporting the United Nations frameworks, particularly the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The UNESCO Creative Cities Network covers seven creative fields: Crafts and Folk Art, Design, Film, Gastronomy, Literature, Media Arts, and Music.

UNESCO has recognised Kuching as a “creative city of gastronomy” in 2021, thanks to the capital’s cultural and ethnic diversity that has led to its unique offering of local delicacies.

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



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