An amazing food experience is central in every unforgettable holiday, and few places boast a combination of genuine flavours and novelty dining like Kota Kinabalu. From seafood renowned for its freshness to authentic Kadazan-Dusun cuisine and refreshing coconut jellies, this iconic East Malaysian town is truly a kingdom of food adventure. Check out our top picks of food and restaurants to dine in for a truly unforgettable getaway.
Breakfast in Kota Kinabalu
Local favourites at Yee Fung (Halal)
A daily haunt for both locals and tourists alike, Yee Fung makes one of the best Ngau Chap or Beef Noodles in town. A steaming bowl of hearty breakfast, the Ngau Chap comes with silky flat noodles in a strong and meaty broth alongside a generous helping of beef slices, beef tripe, and beef tendon. The Sarawak Laksa served here is also a popular recommendation by the locals. Yellow noodles, poached chicken slices, bean curd strips, and prawns are bathed in a tangy and creamy broth that is enriched with grounded herbs and spices. A dash of lime adds a whole new depth of flavour to this tasty ensemble.
Affordable and mouth-watering main courses aside, Yee Fung also offers a delectable selection of signature drinks like Iced Umbra Juice and Teh Maderas – a frothy and decadent medley of two layers – an aromatic milk tea and evaporated milk.
Sang Nyuk Min at Kedai Kopi Jia Siang
There is no better place to try Sang Nyuk Min or raw pork noodles than in its birthplace of Sabah. The Sang Nyuk Min served here features homemade ramen-like noodles in a flavourful pork broth. The star of the dish is the thinly sliced pork and offal, both of which are supremely fresh and tender. The addition of pork balls and vegetables makes it a wholesome meal to start the day with. You can also enjoy your Sang Nyuk Min “dry”, where the noodles are tossed in a fragrant brown sauce and the pork slices are served in a separate bowl of broth.
D’Place Kinabalu for Kadazan-Dusun delicacies (Halal)
If you are craving for a food adventure, D’Place Kinabalu is the place for some serious taste thrill. Featuring bamboo walls and waiters in full Kadazan-Dusun gear, the restaurant serves authentic Kadazan-Dusun delicacies on huge woven platters lined with banana leaves. Start your banquet with an Ambuyat set, which is essentially a bowl of starchy jam made from mixing water with Sago powder. Although slightly bland on its own, the texturally rich Ambuyat is surprisingly delicious when paired with the right condiments and side dishes. At D’Place, you can enjoy Ambuyat with a regal spread of traditional condiments, curry chicken, bamboo shoots, and deep-fried fish, among other side dishes.
Sample an order of Hinava next – a salad of raw fish pickled in lime, shallots, chilli, and ginger. The tartness of the dressing blends beautifully with the subtle taste of freshly sliced fish, making this a very exciting appetizer.
Now that your palate is warmed up for a good meal, it’s time to sample Butod or sago worms. Simply pick up a squirming Butod with your fingers and put it whole in your mouth. Bite into it for a burst of fatty and creamy custard goodness. Less risk-taking diners can opt for deep fried Butod or the Butod pizza instead, both of which are still quite a thrilling experience to eat.
Your feast is complete with a classic Kadazan set, a resplendent spread of traditional Sabahan food presented on a woven platter. Linopot, a fragrant blend of red rice and yam steamed in Doringin leaves, is surrounded by Kadazan-Dusun staples like deep fried Basung fish and Tuhau.
Whether or not you plan to brave up for a live Butod, we promise that you will be full in both your stomach and wonder by the end of this explosively novel dining experience.
Tuaran Mee at Seng Hing Coffee Shop
Named after the small Tuaran town just outside Kota Kinabalu, Tuaran Mee is a deceptively simple noodle dish known for its remarkably springy egg noodles and fragrant sauce. Enjoy this noodle delight among locals at the Seng Hing Coffee Shop, which cooks up one of the best Tuaran Mee in town.
The dish is a stir-fry of springy egg noodles tossed with hearty chunks of barbequed pork and egg roll slices. You can also enjoy it with fresh cuts of seafood and vegetables. Complete your meal with a glass of warm homebrewed Lo Han Guo, a naturally sweet tea which has a cooling effect on the body.
Wor Tip or Gyoza at Restoran New Mui Vui
Cantonese for dumplings, the Wor Tip at New Mui Vui features a savoury minced meat filling hand wrapped in dumpling skins so thin that you can almost see through. Diners can enjoy their Wor Tip steamed or fried. It is not uncommon to see patrons ordering packs of frozen Wor Tip to go after sampling the divine dumplings.
The grilled stingray served here is also fresh and beautifully cooked in a subtly fragrant blend of lime and chilli. For a more filling dinner, order a hearty dish of Tuaran Mee or Seafood Fried Rice to go with your meal.
Seafood feast at Welcome Seafood Restaurant (Halal)
Famous for its impeccable freshness, Sabah seafood is hugely acknowledged as superior throughout the country. Welcome Seafood Restaurant serves a bountiful selection of fresh ocean catch for a fraction of the price.
Like most seafood restaurants, customers can handpick their own seafood, the desired quantity, as well as the preferred method of cooking. Start your dinner with a platter of Buttermilk Prawns. Although bathed in a rich and buttery gravy, the freshness of the prawns shines through quite distinctly.
Add crisp to your feast with a serving of Crispy Salt and Pepper Squid. With just enough crunch to evoke a delightful mouthful, the thin and flavourful coating complements the natural sweetness of the squid. The Ginger Steamed Fish and Kam Heong Crab are also must-try dishes, where both boast a tenderness and freshness only attainable through honest cooking. End your meal with a side of refreshing coconut jelly to wash down the richness of the seafood.
Eastern-European cuisine at Chilli Vanilla
Seated on the bustling Jalan Haji Saman, Chilli Vanilla offers visitors an authentic Western dining experience in a quaint little restaurant. Meat lovers will appreciate the Hungarian Goulash, which features chunky meat pieces in a rich and smoky stew alongside slices of gourmet bread for dipping. The Morroccan-style Lamb Stew is also worth a try for its hearty portion and its rich meaty flavours.
Veggie-lovers can savour the vegetarian tortilla, a generous melt of cheese and tomatoes served with a side of salsa and house salad. As with any European dinner, end it with some delectable homemade brownies.
Tune out at Tune Hotel 1Borneo
When you have enriched both your stomach and spirit with all the flavours that Kota Kinabalu has to offer, why not unwind at Tune Hotel? Seated within 1Borneo, East Malaysia’s largest shopping mall, Tune Hotel offers a cosy stay right in the heart of Kota Kinabalu. With a tasteful and relatively interior, we offer a stay marked with impeccable convenience and comfortable simplicity.
Whether you are travelling as a couple or a family of four, we have a room just for you. And when you are exhausted from travelling far and wide for food, dine in at Makan, our resident restaurant which serves up an exquisite menu of both international and local favourites.
Get in touch with us today for more information or to book your stay with us!