As you may have seen from my instagram feed, we have been relaxing and enjoying a fabulous vacation on the beautiful island of Borneo. Borneo is famed for its luscious rain-forests, wildlife, and monkeys, but it also has some incredible food. While our time was short and we didn’t get to try as many dishes as we would have liked, we were lucky to have more than enough to make a top ten.
1. Satay – Satay is probably one of Malaysia’s most famous dishes, and for very good reason, it’s bloody delicious! You can find good satay pretty much everywhere but we were lucky enough to have our resort’s head chef prepare some us specially. The delicious little sticks of meat, usually chicken or beef, are cooked with handful of spices and lemongrass and then barbecued to give them their unique flavour. They are then served with a scrummy dipping sauce usually made with coconut and peanuts among other things.
2. Butter Tiger Prawns – Tiger prawns are a specialty in Sabah, because they are found locally. They also grow to a humungous size, thanks to the great conditions of the Mengkabong river. We tried them two ways, wet and dry. While the wet sauce was absolutely divine, it did make them very hard to eat if you didn’t want to spit out the shells. I have no idea what the etiquette of eating them is, but I preferred to get my hands messy and de-shell them before eating them.
3. Sota – At both of our fantastic hotels, they offered Sota for breakfast which was a delicious local noodle dish. A selection of different noodles were available then we added the different vegetables and meats. If you are fan of noodle soups then you are sure to want to give this Indonesian classic one a try.
4. Nasi Goreng- This fried rice dish is again one the most popular dishes to eat and you should come across it in many varieties, usually served with crackers and topped with a fried egg. This can be eaten anywhere from street food stalls to high end restaurants.
5. Tuaran Mee – Tuaran Mee is Sabah’s signature noodle dish, so you can’t leave the area without giving this fried noodle dish a try. We were lucky enough to be able to make them during our cooking class it is made from egg noodles, shrimp or chicken, and stir fried vegetables. Again we found this pretty much everywhere we went and never turned down an opportunity to eat it.
6. Soft Shell Crabs – Soft shell crabs are always one of my favourite things to eat although they aren’t so popular in England where I am from. So when I found out that they are one of the specialties at the Welcome Seafood restaurants in Kota Kinabalu, I was very eager to give them a try. There were delightfully small and I think we all know how I feel about deep fried anything. A huge pile came with a sweet and sour dipping sauce and were the perfect snack while we supped a few afternoon beers.
7. Bajaus Coffee and Teacakes – This is not widely available but if you get the chance to take a tour down the Mengkabong river to visit the Bajaus ‘sea gypsy’ village then you do not want to miss out on trying their delicious sweet rich coffee and little fried pancakes. We also had a sweet young coconut to refresh us. Click here to see a full video of our amazing experience along the river.
8. Tuhau Fried Chicken – If there is one dish that is found in abundance in Borneo, it’s fried chicken. Man I thought South Korea loved its chicken shops but that was before I came to KK, there is one on practically every street corner. There are many different varieties, but we were lucky enough to find a local Tuhau version. Not too dissimilar to the Korean one as the chicken is cut into small pieces, bones included, battered and deep fried. It seemed extra dry and and extra crispy, we ate ours with a side of sambal which was the the perfect spicy dipping sauce.
9. D’Place – If you want to try a whole host of local Sabah food then the buffet at D’Place is not to be missed. They have an incredible range of meat dishes, curries, sides, salads, sauces and desserts all of which make great use of the local produce. Some of the dishes we tried wrapped red barrio rice, wild mango chicken, fried basung fish, sago, and stir fried Borneo fern leaves with garlic. The food was full of flavour and unlike anything I’ve ever tried before. We were even lucky enough to catch the dance show which happens each evening. The menu changes daily, but you wont be disappointed, especially as it only cost around $10 per person.
10. Butod – One of the most famous local specialties are the little wiggly wormy sago grubs. We had heard about these babies throughout our trip and finally got to face our fears when we visited D’Place who actually have a tank filled with them. After seeing them up close and personal I had to wimp out. Sorry guys, but they were still alive and I just couldn’t. Most people eat them raw but they also offered as a pizza topping, but even that wasn’t enough to persuade me to give them a try.