Think Sabah, think seafood! Before making a trip to Sabah, here are some tips on what to order and where to enjoy your seafood. A word of caution: you may want to sit out your skinny jeans for this.
Sabah and her seafood are inseparable! Whenever you think about Sabah, you will automatically think about all the fresh, succulent seafood that you can sink your teeth into. But enjoying seafood in Sabah is also quite an art — one must know what seafood dishes to have in order to make the most of the gastronomic experience. While personal preferences may influence your choices, it’s always good to ask a local about what is popular to have or the restaurant’s specialties. Here, we have come up with three of the most popular seafood dishes to have when you’re in Sabah. You’re welcome!
1. Deep fried soft shell crab
The hot and crunchy deep fried soft shell crab is one of the biggest hits in all the seafood restaurants in Sabah. Although it is actually a simple and straightforward deep fried dish, the freshness of the soft shell crab makes a lot of difference.
The seafood restaurants in Sabah normally breed their own soft shell crab in large aquariums, which are normally put just outside the restaurant. This way, patrons can pick and choose the crustacean of their choice and be assured that their food is served fresh from the tank!
Deep fried soft shell crab is made by soaking the freshly harvested soft shell crab in a thick batter that consists of equal parts egg white and ice water, flour, salt and pepper as required. The crab-batter concoction is then deep-fried in very hot oil (around 190 degrees celsius) for about three minutes to ensure crispiness.
The deep fried soft shell crab is then served hot on its own with chilli or tartar sauce as a condiment. Elsewhere in Malaysia (or the world, for that matter), the soft shell crab is also known to be a rather pricey dish due to its seasonal nature. Luckily, in Sabah, you can enjoy the soft shell crab all year round at a fairly reasonable price.
2. Butter prawn
The butter prawn dish is a pretty standard Malaysian favourite, but in Sabah it gets better. Enter the fresh, succulent and HUGE prawn of Sabah and you get an extra creamy, super juicy and uber satisfying butter prawn dish. The butter prawn dish is made using butter (as the main ingredient), finely chopped bird’s eye chilli, salt, sugar and soy sauce to taste, curry leaves for added aroma, egg yolk, as well as grated coconut and Chinese cooking rice wine (optional).
The butter prawn is prepared by firstly deep frying the prawn to golden perfection before preparing the topping by frying the garlic, pepper, curry leaves and salt until fragrance permeates the air. Next, on a medium low flame, whisk in the butter, soy sauce and sugar together, before adding in the egg yolk in the mix. Once the bits of eggs start to turn golden brown, pour the mix atop the fried prawn and serve hot.
Said to be a dish that represents the many facets of Malaysian cuisines — Malay, Chinese and Indian — the butter prawn offers a mouthgasmic burst of salty, spicy and savoury flavours. Especially when amplified by the freshness of Sabah’s prawn!
3. Tung fung lo (boiled sea snail)
For something simple yet incredibly delicious, try the tung fung lo (boiled sea snail), otherwise known to the locals as siput tarik. Sabah’s answer to the French escargot, the preparation of this dish is very simple. Just put a mix of garlic cloves, shallots, lemongrass and sliced ginger in a pot, add a little bit of water and salt as required. Bring the said concoction to a boil, add in the sea snail and bring it up to a simmer. The tung fung lo will then be served hot with a little pot of honey mustard dip — super delicious!
Now, the way to eat the tung fung lo is a bit tricky, but once you’ve got a hang of it, you’ll be slurping snails in no time! To dig the flesh out of the shell, you would need to use a toothpick to pin the snail’s ‘claw’ that protrudes out of the shell and pull (tarik) it out — hence the name siput tarik.
On its own, the tung fung lo tastes a little more savoury and juicier than the average clam or shellfish. The honey mustard dip, which embodies a little bit of vinegary, spicy zing and salty tang really complements its original flavour.
Where to enjoy Sabah seafood?
There are plenty of places to enjoy fresh and delicious seafood in Sabah. But if you’re looking for reasonable price, unbeatable value, good service and trusted reviews, here are the places you should go for:
WELCOME SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
GF, G-15 – G-18 , Asia City, Jalan Coastal, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah | +60 88-447 866 | 12pm to 12am daily
GAYANG SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Jalan Sulaman, 89200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah | +60 16-810 5385 | 11am to 10pm daily
SALUT SEAFOOD RESTAURANT
Jalan Sulaman, Kampung Salut, 89200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
| +60 19-881 8515 | 11.30am to 9.30pm daily except Monday