Bite off more than you can chew. And why do I say that? Because some people in my team did just that in D’Place Kinabalu! Sabahans eat a protein-rich maggot called the Butod – the larvae of the Sago Palm Weevil. You basically get a hold of its head and bite into it while it’s still wriggling around in your hand! Not for queasy people like me who also suffer from a certain degree of OCD! My niece ate one and I nearly passed out. I tried filming it for posterity, but quite obviously since I was trying not to throw up, I didn’t really get a frame! She said it tasted like a tasteless grape bursting in her mouth. Oh to be brave and try these extreme things! I admire those on my team who did take up this challenge.
It was an evening of tasting the local cuisine. I had some yummy chicken and potato curry – made with coconut milk and some spices, this thick gravy is a delight with rice. Linopot (rice wrapped in leaves) which I didn’t get to taste as every time I went to the buffet, it was over! So methinks it’s a really good flavoured rice. There was stir-fried Kangkung (Water spinach much like the Indian Kheera) with garlic – reminded me of home.
I sampled the Tuhau – wild ginger very thinly sliced and mixed with chillies, salt, and vinegar. It has a peculiar aroma but is quite tasty. Tuaran Mee is a must eat dish -Noodles tasting of egg (well it has egg in it, so I guess that is in order!).
The people of Sabah like their seafood (I’d think it was strange if they didn’t, seeing they live by the South China Sea). So everywhere you go, there is fried fish, sautéed prawns, crab meat etc. Quite the See Food and eat Sea Food diet for most! Hinava is a raw fish which is marinated with lime, ginger, and chillies. A bit like eating Sushi, it’s different on the palate. Dare I say, fishy!!
At the Pacific Sutera, we ate the world’s best Tom Yum soup. It was perfect – just the right amount of spice! Fragrant and so inviting, we all walloped quite a bit of it! I actually went back and told the girl who was putting it together for us that it was awesome and she looked very pleased. Tuaran noodles on the menu tasted perfect as well. Topped with pork or beef, it is part of their staple diet. Roti Canai – made with egg, flour and butter – tastes so much like our Indian Malabar paratha. Crispy and layered, it goes well with either chicken curry or a lentil curry – similar to our fried Dal.
Laksa soup with noodles is my most favourite dish ever. It has bits of seaweed in it, noodles, boiled eggs, bits of chicken, prawn swimming around in a tangy chilli broth. Add sambal and lime and in my opinion, you have the best ever comfort food.
Nasi Goreng (fried rice) and Mee Goreng (fried noodles) are available all over Sabah – in little eateries and in bigger restaurants. You can’t go wrong with this order. Nyonya or Peranakan cuisine is famous in Sabah. A fusion of Malay, Chinese, Indonesian and Singaporean – we sampled some dishes at the Pacific Sutera. The soup came to us served in wide bowls with a roti sealing the top. We had to jab the roti and get to the mutton soup. Tasty and peppery, this was a good meal. We also ate Enche Kabin – deep fried chicken in a coconut paste, Chicken and potato curry, fried rice and stir-fried greens accompanied by a fragrant green tea.
Enroute to the Sabah Tea Resort, we stopped to have wild boar. The meat is marinated and smoked on firewood. We picked up a nice medium fat, boneless piece. It was then sliced thin and put into the fire on a skillet. Once done, they added some more barbeque sauce and we totally relished it!
My favourite bit- desserts! Coconut pudding is light and has a strong taste of coconut – but of course! If you like Durian and can stomach the strong smell, try pancakes or Dodol. At the Sabah Tea Garden, Martin our host gave us green tea waffles and pancakes stuffed with coconut and jaggery. Very unusual and so so yum. At the Borneo Bayou (where we went for a river cruise), we ate banana Fritters – almost like what you get in Kerala but slightly more crispy. They also made a deep fried rice sweet, which tastes so much like the Kajayam we make in South India. Cendol, of course, you must eat – dark green flat noodles in coconut milk with red beans, creamed corn, grass jelly with areca sugar syrup. I ate a lot of desserts in various restaurants and didn’t care one whit about my widening girth. I’m now starving to lose that accumulated fat!
As you can see from the above, food is a very important aspect of the Sabah life. There are small cafes all over, food sold from car boots, posh restaurants, and resorts. Take your pick, inhale the aromas and sample the local fare. It’s a crime not to!!!!