I’m blessed with many friends who know I love to explore different foods, and it is also from suggestions of these friends that I manage to experience all these different places documented in this spot on the interweb.
But even better than suggestions though, is when friends brought me to the source of food – like during my last work trip to Kota Kinabalu, May picked me up and took me to this place by the name of Sabah Keratang.
Restoran Sabah Keratang, Kota Kinabalu
Keratang is the local name for Giant Garupa – the largest bony fish that offshore Sabah. While there’s a misconception that giant garupa is just normal garupa that grew old and huge, it is actually an entirely separate species of garupa that can grow to half a tonne and has distinctively thicker skin.
Unlike full fledged seafood restaurants like Welcome Seafood, Salut Seafood, New Gaya, or fish noodle places like Fatt Kee, Taukefish, Sabah Keratang wedged itself pretty much right in the middle, offering fish noodle soup, fried rice or noodle with garupa, and a selection of seafood and other dishes to go with rice.
three dishes for two hungry souls
Over the dinner for two, we ordered a garupa soup (RM 30 for small), 3-in-1 seafood (RM 29.50 for small), and vegetable (RM 10) with a couple plates of steamed rice.
The garupa soup was as good as any seafood noodle places, with tomato and salted vegetable tofu soup base that compliments the fatty nature of the garupa meat with its thick skin. Portion was rather healthy as well even though this was a supposed to be a “small” one.
the giant garupa skin, check it out!
The 3-in-1 seafood came with prawns, squid, and of course, giant garupa slices. This turned out to be our favorite dish, the seafood was fresh and super tasty, and while it was slightly on the saltier side, with steamed rice it was perfect. I love it.
As for the vege, it wasn’t anything to shout about, not anywhere near the Kundasang sort of vegetable I enjoy.
Overall though, I thought Sabah Keratang is definitely a worthy place for a meal if you find yourself at Kota Kinabalu.
On my last trip to Sabah for work, Ben, as usual, brought me to one of those special food places where tourist business isn’t one of their aims. The place is called Taukefish Recipe, a restaurant with a rather peculiar set up that you’d think it is some sort of a joke.
Tauke Fish at Kota Kinabalu
The restaurant is converted from a house located at the deep end of a small kampung a stone’s throw away from the airport. While they have put up signboards leading to the eatery, they are about as tiny as half a piece of A4 paper, just to ensure that no one would ever notice it, but at the same time big enough to serve as a confirmation that you’re on the right track.
Secondly, the restaurant isn’t opened for business at all time. Ben mentioned that it is always best to call in prior, as the boss tend to only open for business when he could procure top quality fresh fish. Sounds good to me.
giant garupa fish meehun, only the freshest
Our lunch was their signature giant garupa fish meehun, served in typical Sabah style tomato broth (not entirely unlike the version at Fatt Kee), with a couple homemade fried fish balls, tomato, and salted vegetable. The meehun used here is also of the slightly thicker variety which does a good job of soaking up those broth a little bit more readily.
The portion of fish is certainly generous and of the best quality I’ve sampled from anywhere. They’re cooked just so you get to taste the natural sweetness of the seafood, perfect execution. If you like to spice things up, they also offer 2-3 different types of chili sauce to pick from.
you can almost smell the freshness from the photo
The taste and freshness of fish is definitely key to the existence of this place. If you’re at KK and love your seafood, this is a place to check out. Prices are definitely on the high side at over RM 30+ per bowl, but if you’re more than willing to pay such prices for some sushi, why not these?
The one food that you absolutely must try when in Sabah is of course, their seafood. Situated by South China Sea, Kota Kinabalu is blessed with some of the best the ocean has to offer.
And when it comes to KK seafood, the locals definitely have their own list of restaurants they prefer – Welcome Seafood at Penampang is one of those places.
Welcome Seafood, at Penampang, Sabah
The restaurant is situated some 10 KM away from the city at this place called Fu Guan Industrial Centre. Parking can be a bit of a challenge especially on weekends as the place is almost always packed with locals looking for a good meal.
Modus operandi here isn’t too different from many other seafood restaurants – pick your fresh catch or live seafood, weigh them, and get the restaurant to prepare them in the cooking method of your choice.
clams, fresh shrimps, and steamed jewel garupa
Since it was just Ben and myself, we were pretty modest on our visit. We had live clams with leek and onion, steamed live prawns, and a portion of steamed deep sea jewel garupa with soya sauce.
When the seafood is of good quality, you want the preparation method to be as simple as possible to bring out the natural sweetness.
the coconut jelly is a must order too
True to Welcome Seafood and Sabah’s reputation, the meal was absolutely top notch. The seafood was fresh, and the value offered was very very hard to beat, all those for RM 124.00.
If you’re there, be sure to leave some stomach space for their coconut jelly too!
A couple weeks ago we were invited to a food review session that promises a good dosage of “Dong Po” (東坡肉) pork belly, and since that is one of my favorite dishes of all time, it was an easy decision to not miss this one.
Secret Garden Chinese Restaurant, PJ
The restaurant is Secret Garden at Taman Megah nearby Wolf Modern Dining and almost a walking distance from our previous home in PJ, but alas, this time around it was a bit of a drive, which was fine for some a porking promise.
The restaurant is stunning, with vertical garden, beautiful wooden long table, and tastefully use of empty space. I’m going to go on a limb here to say that it is most likely attributed to the fact that the founders include an interior designer, a fine art illustrator, and a mural artist.
When the surrounding is awesome, appetite also increases, kan?
crispy fried prawn cracker
Anyway, let’s get on the food.
For the review session, we got to sample quite a few dishes from the menu, starting with the appetizer – crispy fried prawn crackers. This is not your typical prawn cracker, but rather thin layer of pastry stuffed with plenty of prawn meat in between, best enjoyed with a dip of Thai chili sauce. I had white wine to go with this, but beer would make for excellent liquid to wash this down.
home style Taiwanese chicken soup w pickled pineapple & bitter melon
Any Chinese restaurant worth it’s salt should serve up a decent bowl of hot soup.
At Secret Garden, the choice was a simple and comforting home style Taiwanese chicken soup with pickled pineapple and bitter melon. I love myself a good bowl of soup, and this version checked the box as well as any with simple everyday ingredients done right.
steamed free range duckweed fed chicken w homemade sauce
Up next was steamed free range duckweed fed chicken with homemade sauce. You can taste the difference in duckweed fed chicken meat compared to the normal wet market/hypermarket variety, the meat is firmer and the skin springier. With the condiments it makes for a good meal by itself with a bowl of rice.
If you love pork, you gotta try this dish named after the famous Chinese poet Su DongPo (蘇東坡) . The interpretation of this dish at Secret Garden is very, very good, and only made better when you have it with their super soft steamed bun. Can I get this combination for breakfast, please?
grouper fish head in yellow curry with fresh milk
Perhaps to demonstrate the range of dishes this kitchen is able to come up with, we had grouper fish head in yellow curry with fresh milk next.
If really spicy and rich Indian or even Nyonya style curry is your cup of tea, this may disappoint, but if you enjoy milder curry with all the necessary ingredients with a much gentler assault on your taste buds, then this yellow curry may fit the bill. I’m a Penang boy who loves me some really spicy curry fish head, so it was just a tad underwhelming for me.
pan fried fresh king prawn with soya sauce
Pan fried fresh king prawn with soya sauce was my favorite seafood dish of the day. Instead of the usual tiger prawns or “meng har”, this version uses fresh water king prawns, which has big and juicy prawn head to suckle on (human cholestorel isn’t from what you eat, right?). I liked it, and wished I had some rice to go with this.
(btw I’ve published a recipe to my version here, if you care to cook your own)
homemade organic black soya bean tofu in pumpkin gravy, & the hungry bunch
The last dish I got to try before we had to leave due to another appointment was the homemade organic black soya bean tofu in pumpkin gravy. I was told the tofu is made in-house, and it certainly tastes fresh as can be with the texture that’s almost like tofufar, it was nice, and pumpkin gravy certainly served as a good contrast to the salty and savory bits on top of the tofu.
our menu, and some live seafood for your picking too
Overall it was a more than satisfying dinner, and certainly an experience that is made unforgettable thanks to the beautiful dining area and excellent companions we had.
Secret Garden is current modelling the upper level and will be offering Private Dining. You give them a budget and number of pax, and the chef will come up with a menu from carefully chosen ingredients available. There’s currently no set price for Private Dining, I suppose the more you are willing to pay, the more exotic the dishes get.
Thank you Jessica for the invitation and for hosting us!
A week ago we bought three garupa fish for something like RM 25 from the Meru Pasar Malam nearby, and since we’re going to have to eat the same fish on three different occasions, it was an opportunity to try out different recipes.
I vaguely remember that we bought some fermented beans (tauchu) over CNY cos my brother had used it as a “secret ingredient” in his version of jiu hu char, so it was time to experiment on a version of garupa with tauchu dish.
raw ingredients – fish, tauchu, onion, garlic, ginger, chili padi
Thankfully, the version I ended up cooking based on what we had in the pantry and fridge ended up rather delicious, so I’m penning it here for my own future reference. As always, you’re more than welcome to try it out yourself, and if you do, let me know how it turns out.
one medium size garupa fish (siakap/barramundi should work too)
a couple of onions (sliced)
half a clove garlic (chopped)
an inch of ginger (strips)
2 tablespoon of tauchu
2-3 tablespoon of cooking oil
half a dozen chili padi, green or red
sautee everything minus the fish
heat up cooking oil and then stir fry everything except the fish
once fragrant, add 1.5 cups of water
bring water to boil, then add fish
lower the heat, let simmer and cover for 10-15 minutes (depending on thickness of fish)
serve while hot
simmer & steam for 10 minutes and you’re done
As fermented bean is already quite a salty product, salt is not needed in this cooking method. The result is a simple fish dish that brings out the natural taste of seafood while having a sauce base that’s flavorful with a bit of a kick. Goes really well with rice. Will not hesitate to use this recipe again.