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
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
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
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!
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
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
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
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”
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
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?
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
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
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
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
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
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, 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.
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
After the 6 dives at Mabul, Kapalai, and Sipadan islands, we decided to take day 4 easy and not go for any extra diving sessions.
We checked rather early at 8am, had some breakfast and went for a short snorkeling trip instead.
Uncle Chang’s Sipadan Mabul dive lodge
At Uncle Chang’s, a 3-dive package is priced at RM 560 for Sipadan and RM 260 for Mabul/Kapalai. Extra dive at Mabul is priced at RM 150, and snorkeling at Mabul is free of charge if you’re staying there.
Rental per day for snorkel and mask is at RM 15, and there’s another RM 15 for fins too. It is important to have both items for snorkeling, as Gun found out the hard way by over estimating his ability to swim without fins. We had to cut short our expedition due to tiredness as the dude did not wear a life jacket either.
giant blue clams, star fish, and lotsa neon colored fish, Jen & Lynn
After diving, snorkeling can be a bit disappointing. While it is still beautiful, the variety of fish at shallow depth tend to be a lot lesser, and we are limited to one breath per short dive to the bottom to get a closer look.
around Mabul island, a beautiful mess
After coming back to Uncle Chang’s, we still had 3-4 hours to kill before the boat ride out of Mabul. Irene, Lynn, and I decided to walk over to the other side of the island to get some souvenirs.
On the island, you really do see the way hardcore poor of Borneo lives. Kids below schooling age normally doesn’t even wear anything, and they seem quite content to be running around naked and be peeing whenever they feel like, even in front of you. Houses here often consist of only one room, with a window that can’t really be shut and a frame that doesn’t’ really have a proper door.
Oh, they do have electricity, but only at night.
Nemo Island Shell Fish Shop
To support local economy, we went to Nemo Island Shell Fish Shop to get some souvenirs. As the name suggests, they sell mainly seashells here, anything from RM 5 for a big one to RM 20-30 for those that are more intricate. The lady gave us discounts without us asking first, probably cos we look like really nice people. 😀
There were a couple low quality t-shirts for sale too, with one printed “KLCC”.. heh.
Mabul island to Uncle Chang’s dive lodge
After we went back to Uncle Chang’s with our purchase, Lynn and I went on the island one more time to kill another hour or so, this time soaking our legs on another private resort’s swimming pool. No one came to disturb us, I guess we really did look like nice people.
I took a video on the way from Mabul to Uncle Chang’s, the few jokers: Lynn, Irene, Jen, Gun, and Chan appeared in this short video. I wanna go back there, now!