Michael Kwan

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Kota Kinabalu food – 7 locations reviewed

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**Note: Didn’t have the time to update with pics as I had other articles written simultaneously and well, work, lol – I’ll update with awesome pics soon!

Wrote this in the plane as I return to Kuala Lumpur. It’s been a wonderful experience and I’m writing this primarily so I can refer back when I return to KK. I hope this helps give you a few pointers as I share my experience.

Kota Kinabalu is full of delicious food and I only got to try the tip of the iceberg here. Ranked in no particular order:

1. Yellow wine Tuaran mee at Kedai Kopi Seng Hing

Locals say if you leave KK without trying Tuaran mee, you might as well not have come. I agree. These noodles were amazing and I wish I had the space to have more. I’m not one for flowery descriptions but trust me when I say the wine truly brings out the flavour in this dish. Very fragrant, absolutely delicious. I added fish slices, which were very fresh and certainly added a dash of flavour to the dish. Well worth it at RM 15.

Seng Hing is also famous for many other dishes so go ahead and Google for more reviews.

Google Map location here.

2. Seafood at Todak Waterfront (Malay area)

Note: I visited Pasar Filipina first due to all the hype, but trust me when I say the Malay seafood side is WAY better. More on Filipina after this.

Kota Kinabalu is synonymous with cheap seafood – and you really can’t get it any cheaper than at Todak Waterfront (cooked, at least – see further down for frozen seafood). King Lobsters at RM150/kg, huge black Tiger prawns at RM80/kg (ultra XL at RM30/ea) or regular tiger prawns at half that, 7-star Garoupa at RM30/kg, all super fresh and negotiable depending on your skills. Prices all around are about the same so the difference lies in the cooking, really.

My group of 4 dined at Anjung Qasih, which gave us quite good prices. Cooking was good, though in hindsight I should have tried a different place for my second visit, just for a better reference point. I’d give 3.5 stars for the cooking, versus the experience I had in Seng Hing above.

We had a LOT of seafood – this only cost us RM 210.

My second round – only RM50.

Sea Snail at RM15. Didn’t like it one bit – it’s like hard sotong (squid).

Fried Kaya toast at RM1. It’s exactly like how you’d imagine it. Like eating goreng pisang (deep-fried banana fritters) and roti kaya (bread with kaya spread) in one mouthful. Meh.

2. Pasar Filipina

Avoid this place unless you want to risk food poisoning. We visited this place and were ignorantly blown away by their live lobsters and rock-bottom prices (this was before we gained more experience around KK). Don’t get me wrong, food was good and we enjoyed it thoroughly. However the place was filthy and slightly more expensive than Todak. Feel free to look around to fulfil your curiosity, but I’d give this place a skip.

3. Little Italy

Good, but IMO doesn’t live up to the hype. I enjoyed the Carrot Soup and Tiramisu immensely, but the signature Ravioli and pizza were just good, not great.

4. Pork Noodles (Ngiu Chap) at Kedai Kopi Melanian

Everyone seems to call this “ngiu chap” noodles but that’s beef innards, not pork, so I’m not sure where I got it wrong… Regardless I don’t like innards so I had regular pork meat and pork balls with my konlou mee (dry soy-mixed noodles, as opposed to soup noodles, or “cheng thong”).

Food was quite delicious and I recommend adding some soup to your mouthful of noodles as it really adds to the taste, as opposed to drinking it on its own.

5. Yuk Seng laksa and claypot rice

Laksa was pretty good, though not groundbreaking. It’s creamy, and the sambal was quite flavourful.

Claypot rice was interesting with their half-boiled egg addition, but I think the rice is too soft and it’s not as great as some others I’ve had in KL.

The teh ping (ice milk tea) was pretty darn awesome tho, so make sure you get one of that.

It’s a good place to visit once you’ve tried the other popular places, but IMO not worth a dedicated trip there.

6. Tarap

A seasonal fruit, this is certainly one to try if you’ve never had it before. It’s sweet and delicious, almost like mangosteen but without the mess. It’s super easy to pry open with your fingers, and the flesh separates very easily from the seed (which, by the way, can be washed and roasted, and eaten like peanuts). Highly recommended if you have the chance.

7. Special mention – This guy’s Durians

Saved the best for last – DURIAN!

We stumbled upon this seller because he was the only person selling the rare Dalit variant. Turns out his durians were really quite awesome and I highly recommend him for all your durian cravings.

Rare durian Dalit – flowers only once yearly; very thick peanut-butterlike consistency and taste. There’s a redder version which unfortunately was out of stock when I arrived – this particular durian was literally the last Dalit available in the entire street. Rm55/kg.

We had his other regular durians which were good too, but on my final night I had a durian craving and got myself the smallest, cheapest durian he had to offer. Little did I know this tiny 800g durian kampung at RM10/kg was PHENOMENAL. Looks like crap, feels like crap, but hot damn it was incredibly pungent and tasted like the best XO durian ever, and has tiny tiny seeds. I was literally high walking back to my hotel, it was just that good. The owner said it was from an old tree but since its durian kampung he couldn’t mark up the price (his musang king was at RM75/kg btw).

Will. Definitely. Come. Back.

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I hope this article has helped you shortlist your food itinerary. Please feel free to add your opinions in the comments, and share any experiences you may have. I intend to return to KK next year so please help me build a new food itinerary!


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Michael

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