I have friends and family visiting me from Semenanjung (West Malaysia) from time to time. One of the most challenging thing for me in those instances is to find the best places for them to eat and enjoy local foods. The thing is, I’m not too choosy when it comes to food. But others may have different tastes. I enjoy varieties of food without much complaint, unless they are really, really bad. Mamak stall, Nasi Ayam Penyet and KFC would do just fine with me.
Foods In Kota Kinabalu
But over the past year or two, I have become more adventurous and always on the lookout for better and a variety of foods in Kota Kinabalu. So, today, I decided to compile a list of restaurants and places where you can find great food at affordable prices.
Do try them when you are in Kota Kinabalu Sabah. I hope you will like them as I do.
10 Recommended Foods In Kota Kinabalu
Before I came to Sabah 15 years ago, I never heard or tasted Kolupis. Now that I have tasted it, I must say that I really love it very much. Kolupis is steamed glutinous rice wrapped in leaf. It is a traditional snack for the Bruneian Malay people in the country of Brunei and in the states of Sabah and Sarawak. Kolupis is normally eaten with spiced meats like curry or rendang. To me it tastes somewhere between ketupat pulut and lemang and I prefer to eat it with rendang.
It is not easy to find Kolupis except during Ramadhan and Hari Raya season. You might find it at Tamu (day market) in certain areas but the best is to order from Kolupis sellers like Sweet Red Cherry. You could arrange for delivery around Kota Kinabalu area at a very reasonable cost.
Hinava Sada At Mango Garden Restaurant
Hinava is Sabah’s sushi. It is one of the most popular local delicacies of the Kadazandusun community in Sabah. Hinava Sada is made using freshly selected fresh fillet, marinated in lime juice, shallots, ginger, sliced chillies and grated wild mango seeds (Badu). You can easily find Hinava Sada in Kadazandusun areas such as in Penampang. In fact, almost all Kadazandusun households know how to prepare the hinava (I was told).
Alternatively, you could visit Mango Garden Restaurant of Rumah Terbalik Borneo in Tuaran. They have in their menu Hinava Sada prepared using Barracuda fish. So tasty and yummy! Rumah Terbalik Borneo is about 30 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu city.
Fried Prawn with Salted Egg Yolk Sauce At Kak Nong’s Restaurant
This is one dish that my other half will always ask for whenever we eat at Kak Nong’s Restaurant. The Fried Prawn with Salted Egg Yolk Sauce is Kak Nong’s special recipe which we can’t find anywhere else in Kota Kinabalu. I like the creamy taste of the sauce and the PRAWN. Well, who doesn’t like prawn, right? Especially when it is cooked in a special way (only at Kak Nong’s).
Kak Nong’s Restaurant is located at Harbour City which is next to Sembulan and opposite to Sutera Harbour Resort.
Chicken Mushroom Dumpling At He Jia Sea Food Restaurant
Anyone loves ‘chinese food‘? Well, He Jia Sea Food Restaurant is a great place to find delicious chinese food. Plus, it’s certified HALAL, too. My favourite is their Chicken Mushroom Dumpling. The Chicken Mushroom Dumpling (6 pieces of dumplings) costs RM7-00 (steam / fried). It is best eaten in the morning for breakfast.
If you wish to try the Chicken Mushroom Dumpling, do visit He Jia Sea Food Restaurant at Luyang. It is only less than 10 minutes drive from the city centre.
Ambuyat At Sagang Tialiu at Grace Point, Sempelang, Kota Kinabalu.
Ambuyat, is a gluey “porridge” with sago starch. It is a traditional staple of the Brunei and Bisaya people of Sabah, eaten usually during special events, substituting rice. Ambuyat is eaten with a bamboo chopsticks called ‘chandas‘, by sticking chandas into the ambuyat, rolling the starch around the prongs and then dipping it into a sauce, of which there are many varieties. There is also a similar dish in eastern Indonesia called papeda. Ambuyat is also famous in Sarawak especially among the Melanau people . It is because they like sago very much, too.
There are many places where you can get raw sago, but not many places that serves a decent Ambuyat meal in Kota Kinabalu. You can find sago at most of the markets and Tamu (day market) in Sabah. The easiest place to get Ambuyat meal is at Sagang Tialiu at Grace Point, Sempelang, Kota Kinabalu.
Mee Kolok At Restoran D’Kenyalang, Tuaran
Mee Kolok is a type of noodle originating from Sarawak. The mee is quite thin, but not as thin as bi-hoon. It tastes like most ‘chinese noodle‘ – not spicy and plenty of beef/meat inside. Those who like soya sauce (kicap) will also love this noodle as they put a lot of kicap into the Mee Kolok.
I don’t know many places that sell Mee Kolok. But one place that you can get the original recipe of Mee Kolok is at Restoran D’Kenyalang, Tuaran. It is pretty close to G-Mart Tuaran and Tuaran is about 40 minutes drive from Kota Kinabalu city centre.
Nasi Ayam Penyet At Rumah Makan Daun Pisang
Another food that I love to eat in Kota Kinabalu Sabah is Nasi Ayam Penyet (Smashed Fried Chicken) and there is no better place to eat Nasi Ayam Penyet than at Rumah Makan Daun Pisang at Alamesra. The Ayam Penyet originated from Indonesia. It is prepared as a dish of fried chicken, lightly smashed and normally served with rice, raw salad as a side dish plus super hot sambal chilli and lime. If you can’t eat spicy, then you have to give ayam penyet a miss because this food is mighty hot and spicy.
You can find many places and restaurants in Kota Kinabalu selling Nasi Ayam Penyet. You can even find it in Hypermall like 1Borneo and Suria Sabah. Still, the best place to eat Nasi Ayam Penyet in Kota Kinabalu is at Alamesra which is just opposite to 1Borneo Hypermall. Look out for a small restaurant called ‘Rumah Makan Daun Pisang’.
Lava Gunung Kinabalu Burger At KK Burger Bakar
Everybody loves burger, right? However, if you are tired of eating KFC, Burger King or McDonald’s burger, then how about trying Sabah’s very own local burger at KK Burger Bakar? It is grilled burger prepared using KK Burger Bakar’s secret recipe that could blow your mind away. Lava Gunung Kinabalu Burger is extremely delicious and HUGE. Yup, it is quite big as the name (Gunung Kinabalu) suggests and it tastes really good.
Anyone wishing to taste Lava Gunung Kinabalu Burger at KK Burger Bakar, just head to Kepayan Ridge Plaza at Kepayan. It is only 10 minutes drive from the city centre.
Nasi Campur At D’Lengkuas Restaurant, Kota Kinabalu
Like I mentioned before, I have many friends visiting me from Semenanjung and Semenanjung folks normally like to eat Nasi Campur. The best place to eat nasi campur in Kota Kinabalu for me is at D’Lengkuas Restaurant at Grace Point Kota Kinabalu. At D’Lengkuas Restaurant, you will find mouth-watering dishes such as fish head curry, chicken rendang, grilled squid, beef, mutton, veggies, etc. It will tempt your appetite so much that you’d probably need an additional plate, or an additional stomach.
Nasi Ayam Rohayu
Nasi Ayam Rohayu (Rohayu Chicken Rice) has been served in Kota Kinabalu for decades, probably 3 decades, actually. The chicken is marinated with a special recipe, cooked to perfection and served with chicken rice, chilli sauce and cucumber. Sure there are many other Nasi Ayam offered in Kota Kinabalu, but Nasi Ayam Rohayu is special because of it’s blend of spices used to marinate the chicken. And the Chicken Rice is just nice – not too dry nor too oily.
Nasi Ayam Rohayu is served at Restoran Rohayu which is about 10 minutes away from city centre, is located quite close to St John’s Ambulance and the Sabah State Mosque.