Any trip to far-flung places merits at least a taste of the good food it has to offer. You have to agree that it is indeed a waste if you just spend every day on a foreign country eating McDonald’s. And when you are in a place like Kota Kinabalu, you cannot disregard the fact that delicious food surround you, yes you’ve read it right– food surrounds you in KK as in the smell of bread being baked next door envelopes you or the thoughts of mee and dimsum at the eatery across the street can haunt you forever if you never give in. Despite the food being generally pork-free because of the Muslim culture, we would like to tell you that hunger will not be your problem in Kota Kinabalu (maybe crossing the streets is, but that’s another story).
By the time we set foot on KK, we were already starving. I do not mean starving figuratively like we are wanting to see the sights and eager to try new food, although that is true too; but at that time, we were literally hungry since our flight has been delayed for 2 hours. So after a quick check-in at our hotel, we walked to the nearest mall, Suria Sabah. We could’ve searched for eateries around the area but you can always be sure there is food on a mall at past 9 o’ clock in the evening. And when you are extremely hungry and in need of some culinary comfort, what better food to eat than the tried-and-tested comforts of chicken. Since you are in Asia, it has to be Hainanese Chicken. In Malaysia, Chicken Rice Shop is the go-to for fast food Hainanese Chicken Rice. Usually fast-food anything just translates to “must-be quick” and “must roughly resemble real food”: you don’t expect it to be the most delicious food you’ve ever eaten, but just enough to fill you. Surprisingly, though, the Hainanese Chicken Rice we had tasted sooo good (oops this is a tagline of some other chicken joint we know) and can even rival those served in restaurant. Well, that may be a stretch to say it like that but yes, it was actually good and we did enjoy it.
The crunchy garlic bits on top are sooo good (again!) with the chicken! They serve the Hainanese chicken with chicken rice (of course), their soup of the day (which is really just chicken stock soup IMO), spicy sauce and a paste made of ginger– all of which complements your Hainanese Chicken Rice meal. Not bad for RM 7.90 and did we say its delicious? If you want to try it out without going to Malaysia, there’s a Chicken Rice Shop here in Manila at Robinson’s Place Manila– and of course, we only got to know about this when we have gotten back from KK otherwise we wouldn’t have eaten here because you know, we want to try local stuffs…
…Then we had Italian on our second night. I know, I know, what happened to my speech on trying out the local cuisine? Well, the promise of an extremely good Lasagna ruined that. If anything, Little Italy in KK is an extremely popular restaurant in KK visited by locals and tourists alike. It has also won many awards, including tourism awards in Kota Kinabalu so you see, we also went to a tourist spot. 🙂
But Little Italy is not popular for nothing. Sure enough, the food was quite remarkable. It is run by an Italian family so you can be sure that it is also pretty much authentic. Walking inside the always-packed restaurant you are greeted by smell of freshly baked bread (Foccacia seems to both awaken and weaken a person at the same time) , the sweetness of basil mixed with the tangy tomatoes and of course that bit of saltiness that only Parmesan cheese can bring– you know you are in Sabah but for a moment you are probably in Italy. Amazing how food can transport you to a different place, isn’t it?
For starters we had their soup of the day, or as we are momentarily Italians, Zuppa della Casa. The soup that day is pumpkin soup. Doesn’t sound or look appetizing but the what it tastes like is all that matters and it tasted yummy.
The Lasagne Emiliana, a house specialty and with good reason…
P, our resident Lasagna expert who probably rivals Garfield with her love for Lasagna instantly crowned this as her new favorite. Now when someone who has been eating Lasagna forever says that, it can only mean that it is good.
We also had the spinach ravioli with ricotta cheese filling and the ravioli with mushroom in Salmone sauce. The salmone sauce is very delicious, we had to scrape everything of it off the plate.
Also delicious and gone in a few minutes is the main-stay for our every Italian meal soiree, the 4-cheese Pizza or more widely-known as Quattro Formaggi Pizza. In Little Italy they call it Ai Quattro Pizza and it is heaven.
Notice the nice browning of the crust? Only stone-baked pizzas could have that and at Little Italy, they all bake their Pizzas in a stone oven, just like how the pizzas are baked in Naples.
For Dessert, the Pistachio gelato and the Pepita gelato . Sadly, this is the only frustration with our meal– it tasted like ordinary Ice Cream. I even think Arce Dairy’s Pistachio Ice Cream is far better!
And of course, to wash them all down: Limonata and Peach Iced Tea all around! I love Peach Iced Tea– I have to have it whenever I see it. Lemon iced tea is sooo overrated (yes, my eyes are rolling when I say that).
Be warned though that the prices here are not exactly cheap but they are indeed worth it (except for the gelato– I still can’t get over it!) We spent a total of RM 155, quite expensive especially if you can have about five meals at Fook yuen for that. But Fook Yuen is not an Italian restaurant that uses imported ingredients and expensive cheeses. What is Fook Yuen, you ask? Well, it is a life-saver for budget travellers in KK, that’s what.
Located in Gaya street just across Hotel Sixty3 and between Sabah Tourism Board and Old Town Coffee, Fook Yuen is a favorite among locals for inexpensive, everyday meals.
If the locals love it then it must be worth trying, right? And if you can have a meal for under RM 10 then better! We are almost always here because aside for it is convenience being just across the street from our hotel we also tend to be like that annoying girlfriend who sticks around when she finds the perfect one that is just standing in front of her. We have found a match with Fook Yuen for our quickly-depleting wallets, our never-ending appetite and our ticking-clocks: cheap price, good food and efficient and quick service.
One of their best-sellers is the Teh Tarik…
Teh Tarik is a kind of milk tea popular in Malaysia. It is made of black tea and condensed milk. You probably get the Teh means tea, but tarik is not milk in Malay. Hmm… Tarik means “high” in Filipino. High Tea, then? Well Blimey! We are not in England or having tea at The Ritz for that matter nor is this tea limited to dinner alone. Tarik actually means “pulled” in Malay and is descriptive of how the Teh Tarik is prepared…
Cindy, our very bubbly and cute tour coordinator over at Aspen Tours recommend we have the Teh Tarik with Kaya Toast. She says its the best partner for the Teh so we went and had it as well…
Kaya is a jam or spread that is like the Coconut Jam of Malaysia. It is made of Pandan and is very good with toast. Our Kaya Toast also has butter in that made it rich and really good. Hands up for butter being the stuff of life (and of fats)! Teh Tarik + Kaya toast is definitely a perfect combination. Have it for breakfast or for snack or for dinner I don’t care but you must try it.
Also a best-seller at Fook Yuen based on our observations (because if you still didn’t know, we are trained in snooping and meddling with other people’s business) is their economy noodles (Mee) and their dim sum. So you know, we had to try it…
The dim sum is very tasty (notice how I always use the words good, delicious and tasty in rotation. I’m probably never gonna be a food blogger. LOL.) always served hot in those wooden dim sum containers. For RM 3.80 it really is a bargain. Even more mind-blowing is the price of their Mee (Noodles), RM 1.80! The Mee does a bit look like crap with how I photographed it (another reason why I will never be a food blogger) but good news is that it fared better with how it tasted than how it looked. It is like Pancit Canton but with a more sweet sauce that is only lightly spicy/peppery.
Fook Yuen also has a bakery that sells bread baked fresh daily. We tried out some of the cakes which is nothing extraordinary but it did tasted just as it should (i.e. the blueberry cheesecake tasted like blueberries and cream cheese and the chocolate cake tasted like chocolate).
Before you leave KK, you must also try Malaysian chocolates. Probably not as best as Swiss Chocolates but they are actually quite good. One good place to buy and taste-test these chocolates is at Cocoa Boutique, a well-known chocolate store in Malaysia. In Kota Kinabalu, it is located in Tanjung Aru which is a bit farther from where we are in downtown KK. We made a pit stop here on our way to the airport to depart for Manila to buy pasalubong. The Cocoa Boutique also accepts Peso and Dollar payments so getting all the chocolates you want is not a problem if you no longer have any Ringgit with you.
It seems to me that there is a burgeoning of the fine chocolate industry in Malaysia what with all the brands and varieties of chocolates available in the store.And it even gets interesting with curry-flavored chocolates and even Chili Dark Chocolates!
|Image via Cocoa Boutique website.|
The salesperson at the store says it is one of their best-sellers. I love chocolates and I also happen to like spicy food, so I gave this one a try. It starts out like your regular Dark Chocolate but as soon as the chocolate starts melting down your throat it becomes very spicy! Definitely not for the one who has low tolerance for spicy foods.
You might wonder how we got to know these places and not have fallen trap on blah fast food chains (no matter how accessible they are). Well, we have our tour coordinator Cindy. She literally mapped out for us the best places to eat around KK without us even asking. It is like she has ESP! That, or we must have looked P.G. (Patay-Gutom) when she saw us. Either way, we have to thank her for our wonderful eating memories in KK. So aside from the ones that we did get to try, here are the ones on “Cindy’s KK Food Trip” list that didn’t make it on our stomachs (at least, for now):
1. Kedai Kopi Yee Fung– Serves the best Laksa in town. Also famous for its claypot chicken rice. Located along Gaya Street. (which is just a few blocks from our hotel. Why didn’t we go there!? crazy.)
2. Hua Hing Seafood Restaurant- For sea foods especially salted-egg crabs. (Sounds yummy, right?). Located at Sedco Square, KK.
Aside from what we have featured here, there are endless array of eateries, restaurants and markets in Kota Kinabalu where you can satiate and satisfy your hunger and bask in the delight of your gustatory adventure. Maybe next time those will be our fist stops when we go back to Kota Kinabalu to er, climb Mt Kinabalu? Or since climbing Mt. Kinabalu is near-impossible (in our case, anyway), we will definitely be back just for the food alone.
The Chicken Rice Shop
Ground Floor, Suria Sabah Mall
Jalan Tud Fuan Stephen, KK
Ground Floor, Menara Jubili Building
Jalan Gaya, KK
Ground Floor, Hotel Capital
Jalan Haji Saman, KK
Cocoa Boutique– Kota Kinabalu
No. 1 Lorong Bunga Telur A
Tanjung Aru, KK
P.S. From us here at Quarter-life Vices, we wish you a Happy, Healthy and Prosperous New Year! Cheers to more travels and yummy feasts for 2012!
All texts and photos, otherwise acknowledged, are property of Quarter-life Vices. If you want to use with permission, email: firstname.lastname@example.org