Where to Eat and Where to Buy Pasalubong
One of the most exciting things while travelling is the chance to sample different flavors and cuisines. Our trip to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia would not have been the unique experience that it was if we had been stuck with continental cuisine and international fare that we are already used to. Travel websites often caution tourists about eating local foods, but we really did not have anything to worry about since the restaurants that we went to are all known to serve delicious and well-prepared dishes.
Our introduction to Malaysian cuisine came when we had dinner at the Kampung Nelayan Seafood Restaurant during our first night. The sumptuous dinner was sponsored by the Sabah Tourism Board. This restaurant is known as Kota Kinabalu’s only lakeside floating seafood restaurant. Not visiting this restaurant when you’re in Kota Kinabalu would be a crime – the fresh seafood dishes they offer are to die for. It was not difficult for us to find our way to this restaurant as it is only about 10 minutes from the city center.
The Malaysian culture was evident the moment we stepped into the restaurant. There was a cultural and variety show while we were having dinner but I guess we were enjoying the food too much to notice. I also did not get to check out the menu for the prices, but I heard that the selections are quite pricey.
The watermelon shake I had was really refreshing after a day on the road; while John of Kumagcow.com ordered fresh raw carrot juice which became the most popular drink that night. You may ask him why. =D
Anyway, we were served with the Chicken Lemongrass Soup, an array of dishes for the main course, and Coconut Pudding for dessert. Everything was so delicious I can actually still taste them in my mouth. I could not really remember the names of the dishes but they were all delectably simple, basking only in their natural flavors and freshness. The prawns were really yummy, sweet with a little firmness just like fresh ones should be.
My other favorites, and certified must try recommendations, are the oyster topped with melted cheese and the soft-shelled crabs.
We also had fried fish with ginger and Sabahan ferns stir-fried with shrimp paste.
Unlike Filipino cuisine, these dishes were not all that elaborate in terms of ingredients and garnishing. The simple cooking served as the backdrop for the natural flavors of the food to shine through.
This definitely was the highlight of our dining experiences during our Kota Kinabalu trip. To bring home a taste of this amazing place, it was only right that we explore food items that we can pack in our bags for our friends and family – in Filipino, this is what we refer to as “pasalubong.” I’ve heard a lot of good feedback about Yit Foh Tenom White Coffee. These packets of coffee mix are made of the perfect blend of the finest roasted robusta coffee beans from Tenom which is a small town high up in the rainforests of Sabah known for the flavorful coffee beans its people produce.
Chocoholics can also find goodies at the Cocoa Boutique in Tanjyng Aru. Aside from the coffee beans, this place is also known for its cocoa beans. And so, it was not surprising to see all sorts of chocolate concoctions in this shop.
What is surprising is to see such unique combinations as chocolate and chili. They also have chocolate covered fresh fruit, the standard milk, dark, and white chocolate, and truffles.
Although I would have wanted to stay in Kota Kinabalu for a few more days, I had to pack my bags with all my coffee and chocolates for home. Along with my stash, I got a proboscis monkey Plush Toy. The proboscis monkey along with orangutans is endemic to Borneo. This is definitely one that will remind me of my first time in Kota Kinabalu. The next time we visit, I should make it a point to include the proboscis monkey and firefly tour in our itinerary.
Booking a flight back to Kota Kinabalu is not difficult. Zest Air has regular flights from Manila to this destination four times a week – every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Promo fares are offered from time to time, so I’m keeping tabs on this value airline. With the right package, I can be off to another Kota Kinabalu adventure soon.