Kota Kinabalu Part I

On a recent trip to Malaysia, I unexpectedly re-discovered how eclectic my taste buds are, and it reminded me of why I love going to Singapore and Malaysia and knocking myself out with the amazing food there.

My love for Singaporean/Malaysian (SG/M) food is a product of several trips to both countries in the last couple of years that were filled with fond memories. I had then just become a foodie and I was blindingly conscious of each meal I had. Very quickly, the food of SG/M became a fast favourite. It also has something to do with the dynamics of the cuisine. I adore the melting pot concept. To this day, I still feel that SG/M cuisine embodies “sugar, spice, and everything nice”. –even going as far as to apply it literally to some dishes that dance on the palate with salty-sweet goodness.

With regards to a recent trip to Malaysia, I visited sunny Kota Kinabalu (KK) in Sabah, known as a coastal area that specializes in seafood and beach activities. This was my second trip to KK, and I enjoyed myself as much on this trip as the one before it (if not more).

My adventure started on our 1st

Centrepoint Sabah, image taken from the Centrepoint website

day in KK with a walk inside Centre Point Sabah’s food court while on the prowl for lunch. We saw that a lot of people crowded the turo-turo (karinderya, cafeteria-style) eateries where you can get the very basic nasi lemak for RM 1.80 (Php 26.00). But more than that, they had seafood, different types of curry, roti breads, vegetables, noodles, and the like. Coconut milk being a common find in a lot of the dishes there. Prices range from RM 1-5, but you can already get a good meal at RM 1-3.   The prices are very affordable, and the food is as authentic as they come.

However, we were somewhat perplexed with the way the other customers got their food, which were in chafing dishes (buffet-style). We saw that each diner would grab a tray and scoop the viands into their plates themselves, so the quantities of each dish varied. Then, a person manning the buffet at the end of the line would calculate the bill. Though there was a white board of prices, the descriptions were all in Bahasa. And so we basically chickened out and went to a KFC, promising to come back later.

What a shame! I had my eye on the Roti Prata-esque thing that seemed to be what many of the patrons were eating at this small, busy restaurant nearby. And so excited was I to let them taste the Roti Prata, I decided to leave the KFC and brave the somewhat confusing cafeteria set-up. I figure it can’t be too expensive, if it’s basically bread and dip.

So I stopped by a crowded Islam eatery where I saw so many people with Roti on their plates. I spoke to the man in charge and asked the name of the dish by indicating leftovers from a deserted table. He replied something that sounded a lot like jumble to me, so I just nodded my head and asked how much. It was worth RM1.80 (give or take a couple of centavos) for the roti with fried egg in the dough. I asked if he I could get it for takeout. He nodded impatiently and gestured for me to sit and wait.

About 5 minutes later, the man returns with a plate of the roti (with egg), dining utensils, and 2 kinds of dip for the bread. I reminded him that I wanted it for take-out. He shook his head. I repeated myself, saying, “I want this for takeout… Take-away.” Again, he shook his head.

So here I was with a plate of roti, while I had a cheesy zinger waiting for me inside KFC. And I didn’t know how else to communicate with the stern-looking proprietor, so I decided to wolf down the whole thing. I’d just take them back to eat here some other time.

The roti was warm and went deliciously with the dips (the first one was a spicy, orange curry; the second was a yellow chickpea or lentil dip that was a bit cool to the mouth). The addition of the egg reminded me of pancakes. It gave a certain thickness and chewiness to the bread, not to mention the lessening of the heat from the curry.

And so I went back to KFC, armed with RM 0.20 worth of change and an interesting story to tell.

To be continued…

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