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Malaysian Food Blog, Travel, Diving & More

Category / East Malaysia

After getting down from the Mt. Kinabalu climb, we decided that the best course of rehab from all that physical exertion was spending a few nights at Kundasang. The area is close to 2000 meters above sea level with temperature that’s about 10-20 celsius, and a scenery worthy of postcards, so why not?

The only thing left to do then is, where do we go for dinner?

best non-halal meal to have near Kinabalu Park or Kundasang
best non-halal meal to have near Kinabalu Park or Kundasang

So we consulted our mountain guide and they came up with the suggestion for 89 Station, which is conveniently located only about a kilometer from Kinabalu Park entrance, and coincidentally, also pretty close to our hotel – Nik Gold (which was an “ok” place to stay.)

89 Station is one of the few places that offers “tai chao” style dishes that features quite a variety of dishes, including wild boar, deer, ostrich, and more.

black pepper ostrich, clay pot beancurd, fish maw soup
black pepper ostrich, clay pot beancurd, fish maw soup

The menu came in the form of a giant blackboard on the wall, and the server is pretty well-versed in Mandarin, Cantonese, English, and probably several other languages.

We went there twice for dinner, tried 5 dishes in total, including black pepper ostrich, clay pot beancurd, fish maw soup, wild boar with salted egg yolk, and yau mak vegetable. Prices are pretty reasonable at RM 10-15 per dish and portion is rather big as well (which is why we ordered only two dishes 2nd time around)

wild boar with salted egg, yau mak
wild boar with salted egg, yau mak

Most importantly though, the quality of food is well above average. One thing though, if you haven’t had vegetables from Kundasang, you absolutely have to, they are crunchy, sweet, and really come close to those fancy imported Japanese produce you’d find in up class restaurants in KL.

The restaurant opens from about 9 or 10 am till 8pm (it gets dark much earlier in Sabah), so give it a try if you’re around the area.

map to 89 station, Kundasang

Address:
89 Station Restaurant
AH 150 Highway
(1 km from Kinabalu Park Entrance)
Kundasang, 89308 Sabah
GPS5.999966, 116.546559
Tel08-888 1300

If you’re at Sabah traveling from Kota Kinabalu to the Kinabalu Park or Kundasang, the only sane ground road to get there involves driving a long stretch of winding hilly road that is a dream to any motorcyclist (especially those who’re stuck driving a beat up rental Perodua Viva).

On this road you’ll come across a few road side stalls that is really, really smokey, and that’s where you’ll find one of the must-try indigenous Dusun food for those who consume non-halal food – Sinalau Bakas.

Sinalau Bakas along AH 150 Highway in Sabah
Sinalau Bakas along AH 150 Highway in Sabah

In the local language, Sinalau Bakas translate to smoked wild boar, and the dish is simple as it sounds – slabs of marinated wild boar meat smoked on an open BBQ pit, with the operator usually flipping those glorious meat while squinting or seated on a small “bangku” fanning the wood fire below.

smoked wild boar sure is done with plenty of smoke
smoked wild boar sure is done with plenty of smoke

The meat is usually only transferred to direct heat for cooking once you make your order, which means you’ll get it freshly prepared, and that usually involves some wait time of 10-15 minutes or longer.

As some say – if you wait for the food, it’s gonna be great, if the food waits for you, well…

this was our ten Ringgit's worth of wild boar meat
this was our ten Ringgit’s worth of wild boar meat

The meat is very spicy in a traditional herbal way while not overly tough like you’d expect from wild boar. Get chunks with a fattier cut if you like it more tender. Sinalau Bakas is also served with traditional chili sauce that gives it a bit more kick. I actually found it overall to be rather tasty and we finished everything despite having a slightly leaner cut.

KY & Haze enjoying some wholesome wild boar meat
KY & Haze enjoying some wholesome wild boar meat

There’s no actual address for this place, but the GPS location below should help. You’re in better luck than me when I was asking Elfie the Sabahan girl where I could find these stalls!

P/S: and yes, I will be writing the long overdue Kinabalu Mountain Climbing post soon.

map to Sinalau Bakas stalls

Address:
Sinalau Bakas stalls
Along AH 150 Highway,
about half way from Tuaran to Kinabalu Park

GPS6.107336, 116.367638
Hours: late morning to after lunch, not regular

A dozen of so years ago when I went to KK for the first time for work, the one dish that left the biggest impression on me was fish noodle. Specifically, this one place which offers additions like fish skin, lips, and such, it was awesome.

Well, I don’t remember where that was, and this post isn’t about that place.

Jong Fa Pai kopitiam at Hilltop, Kota Kinabalu
Jong Fa Pai kopitiam at Hilltop, Kota Kinabalu

This instead, is Jong Fa Pai kopitiam, one of the popular outfit from Tawau that’s opened up several branches in and around Kota Kinabalu, offering mostly fish head & fish noodle since 2008.

We ended up here for our first meal in KK right after touching down at KKIA and picked up our rental car. It was suggested by my friend Ben as an alternative to Fatt Kee, arguably the most popular fish noodle place, also located at Hilltop.

slices of garupa meat in milk & tomato broth
slices of garupa meat in milk & tomato broth

The menu is simple, choose between fish head, fish slice, prawn ball, and have them either boiled or deep fried to go with milk based broth and meehon. We had the basic with slices of garupa at RM 10 per bowl, and it was actually pretty good. May not take B & Best out as my current favorite, but they were definitely pretty delicious. The broth is similar to Woo Pin at Taman Desa, but the quality of seafood is definitely better.

no regular coke or pepsi here but there's EST Cola
no regular coke or pepsi here but there’s EST Cola

In addition to fish noodle dishes, they also carry a few types of side dishes for sharing. We tried the beancurd skin prawn (RM 9) and found it complimenting the noodle dish pretty well. Crunchy & packed with fresh prawn meet in, it was pretty good especially after dipping into the sweet chili sauce.

Now is this place between than Fatt Kee? Well I guess I’ll have to find out the next trip!

jong fa pai kopitiam fish noodle kota kinabalu map

Address:
Jong Fa Pai kopitiam
Lot 11, Ground Floor,
Kolam Centre, Jalan Lintas,
88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
GPS: 5.950145, 116.092007
URLwww.jongfapai.com.my

Seafood in Sabah is like char kuih teow in Penang or Tomyam in Bangkok, if you find yourself in Kota Kinabalu, it is pretty much compulsory to get yourself to one of the many seafood restaurants and have a meal.

Salut Seafood, located within a prawn farm
Salut Seafood, located within a prawn farm

On our Mt. Kinabalu trip (more on that soon), we met up with one of my old friends Ben for dinner. On our previous trip we went to New Gaya, so this time around Ben suggested that we head to Salut Seafood, the restaurant located within a prawn farm.

It took us quite a while to get there due to the (un)expectedly rush hour traffic, but alas, we got there in time before sunset. The restaurant is located by the sea and accessible via cars, but if you’re on a tour bus, you’ll be out of luck. This place is built for the locals.

live seafood to choose from, including quite a variety of shellfish
live seafood to choose from, including quite a variety of shellfish

Like most seafood restaurants worth its salt in South East Asia, there’s a good selection of live seafood to choose from. Crabs, prawns, fish, and quite a few types of shellfish can be chose from the live tank to be cooked in the method of the customer’s liking. There’s also a big price list plastered on the wall to remove too many surprises.

haven't had this type of shellfish since Vietnam
haven’t had this type of shellfish since Vietnam

For the three of us, we ordered some live prawns, crabs, shell fish, and sabah vegetable to go with rice.

The prawns and shellfish were steamed, the simplest possible cooking method, this was to preserve the natural sweetness of the seafood. The quality were apparent as the prawn were quite a lot more difficult to peel than the usual “already dead for a couple days” variety.

butter crab, fresh prawns, and "sabah vegetable"
butter crab, fresh prawns, and “sabah vegetable”

This was also the first time I had the same snail since New Gaya & Hong Hai in Ho Chi Minh City, tasted a bit like a cross between lala & balitong, if you enjoy those, you will enjoy this.

The crab, while properly seasoned and prepared, was not as firm and “full” as I had hoped for, though it was nonetheless an acceptable dish.

great first meal at KK and to catch up with old friend
great first meal at KK and to catch up with old friend

Then there’s the unique “Sabah vegetable” that you can’t get in Peninsular Malaysia, with its slightly crunchy stem and soft leaves, I always make it a point to order this whenever I’m at KK.

Dinner came to about RM 50+ per person, right around the average for a good seafood meal at KK. We could have kept it a bit cheaper if not for the over ordering, but diet goes to hell when you’re traveling, right?

Thanks Ben!

map to salut seafood, kota kinabalu

Address:
Salut Seafood
Jalan Sulaman, Kampung Salut,
89200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
GPS: 6.103970, 116.160311
Tel: 019-881 8515
Hours: 11:30 am to 9:30 pm

Kota Kinabalu, and many parts of East Malaysia for that matter, is famous for its seafood, and there are many restaurants to choose from. For a visitor, this can get pretty tricky as there are always those TSH (tourist slaughtering house) that one should avoid.

So on my trip to KK last year, I got the help from locals to suggest a good seafood meal. When both Joyce and Ben agreed that New Gaya Seafood is the destination fit for purpose, it surely can’t go wrong.

New Gaya Seafood at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
New Gaya Seafood at Kota Kinabalu, Sabah

Unlike some of the fancier seafood restaurants in the city, New Gaya is relatively plain. There’s no cultural dance or elaborate interior decorations, but there’s plenty of live seafood to choose from, with simple dining area that’s complete with plastic chairs and relatively tired looking tablecloths.

We’re here for the food though, and so long it’s relatively clean, who cares?

Sabah vegetable, ostrich meat, tofu in hotplate
Sabah vegetable, ostrich meat, tofu in hotplate

To start with, we have something green in the form of Sabah vegetable (RM 12). While seafood is the main topic, if you’re in Sabah, you gotta order this. The vegetable has a very distinct sweetness that is absent in those you find in Peninsular, I highly recommend this.

Then there’s ostrich meat (RM 20) and tofu in hot plate (RM 20) to complete our non-seafood trio. All these dishes were very good and go along well with the garlic rice (RM 10 for 5pax) we ordered.

fresh prawns and clams
fresh prawns and clams

Then came the seafood.

We started out with 1 kg of live prawns (RM 48). To enjoy the freshness of these prawns in its most unadulterated form, we have them steamed. It was so succulent and full of seafood sweetness, it really is the best way to enjoy these prawns.

Then we had those thick shelled clams (RM 26/kg) prepared with minimal fuss – garlic and chives. Sweet and juicy.

steamed garoupa, more clams, soft shell crab, mud crab
steamed garoupa, more clams, soft shell crab, mud crab

Our most expensive dish of the night was the 1 kg steamed garoupa with superior soya sauce (RM 90), as with everything else, freshness is key and this fish was alive prior to us ordering. I think that garoupa at this weight is pretty much perfect when it comes to the texture of the meat.

We also had the shellfish (RM 22 per kg) that you eat by twisting out the meat with a pick. This was steamed and went really well with the supplied condiment.

these were not all the dishes we shared at New Gaya
these were not all the dishes we shared at New Gaya

No seafood dinner is complete without crabs, and for this purpose we had 1 kg of deep fried soft shell crab (RM 78) and another kg of mud crab (RM 38) prepared with salted egg yolk. These dishes did not disappoint either, though I probably like the mud crab to be prepared a little less dry or perhaps have them baked or steamed instead.

Joyce, KY, Maha, Raj, Ben, Chew, Michelle, Vicky
Joyce, KY, Maha, Raj, Ben, Choo, Michelle, Vicky

Overall it was a great dinner with very good company to boot, we ended up splitting the bill at just over RM 50 per person. If you happen to go to KK, eat where the locals choose to eat and you won’t be disappointed. New Gaya seafood is definitely one of those destinations.

map to New Gaya Seafood restaurant, KK

Address:
New Gaya Seafood Restaurant
Lot A & B, Wisma Lucky Centre, Jalan Kianson,
88450 Inanam, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
GPS: 5.988415, 116.138549
Tel: 088-385 020
Hours: 11:30am – 2pm; 5pm – 10pm