We know Malaysians love food hunting. Why else would we drive hours for a good bowl of our favourite Asam Laksa?
Now, if you’re planning to go to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, and you wish to go on a food hunt but there’s only a slight problem here; you don’t know the local spots! You only know the usual tourist spots, and those prices are usually marked up. No one likes that! Don’t worry, we’re going to help you with that — here are 10 of our favourite local makan spots in KK:
1. Kantin Bakut
Location: KM28.7, Jalan Tuaran, Kampung Bakut, 89208 Tuaran, Sabah.
First off from our list would be this secluded spot in Tuaran. It is located right beside a shabby car workshop and might be slightly hard to spot from the highway. But, don’t be fooled! The amount of people coming here everyday is massive! Locals absolutely love their seafood Tom Yam, and if you don’t feel like peeling the shrimps, you can also get their fish Tom Yam. You could even choose between fried fish fillet, or stewed fillets. But one of their best selling would be their Tom Yam Fried Noodles because it’s so unique and you can’t find anything like that in town!
2. Fatt Kee Seafood Restaurant
Location: Lot 8, Ground Floor (Hilltop), 1-0-1, Kolam Centre Phase 3, Kota Kinabalu, 88300 88830 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia. (Hilltop)
Next, you can either find Fatt Kee at Hilltop, Luyang, or if you don’t feel like going all the way to Luyang, you could find one inside the shopping mall in Suria Sabah. They serve one of the best fish soup in town; have it either in tomato soup, or if you like it spicy, then opt for the Tom Yam soup! The best thing is, you can even choose what goes in your soup (fish maw, fish lip, fish ball, fish roe, and many more!) If you don’t like your noodles soaked in the soup, you can order their soy sauce wantan noodles to go with it.
3) Kedai Kopi Daily
Location: Lot 25, Mile 3 1/2, Jalan Penampang, Taman Victory, 88500 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Now, if you’re looking for some late night noms, you could head over to Kedai Kopi Daily at Taman Foh Sang in Luyang to satisfy your late night cravings with their prawn noodles, or their curry laksa. But if you want a taste of some of that wok char, get their Char Kuey Teow! If you think noodles aren’t enough to fill your tummy, they also sell chicken rice (both steamed and fried).
You might also want to take a stroll around the area; they have night markets and another Chinese coffee shop (How Lee Coffee Shop) that sells a wide variety of congee. Although, you might want to note that it’s non-Halal.
4) Café hopping at Australia Street
Location: Lorong Dewan, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
If you’re in the mood for café hopping, head over the Australia Street (or also known as Lorong Dewan, and sometimes Jalan Printing) just right opposite of Gaya Street, in the heart of Kota Kinabalu city. You can hop from one type of café to another; from Mamasita, the Mexican restaurant and Tapas bar, to Nook Cafe that serves good coffee to fuel up your day. There’s even Sharikat Biru Biru if you’re in the mood for waffles!
5) Yii Siang Ngiu Chap
Location: 21 Block C, Lorong Perindustrian, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
We actually have a whole list of favourite Ngiu Chap places in Kota Kinabalu to write about, but here’s one of the best! Ngiu Chap is basically beef soup. In Yii Siang, of course their beef soup is as great, but what’s also selling well is their Ngiu Chap Laksa. You can choose the beef parts that you want to go in your soup, from tripe, tendons, beef balls and many more! If you don’t like your noodles getting soaked in your soup, just like most of the shops in Sabah, you can get your soy sauce noodles separately.
6) Café Pak Elah
Location: Lorong Singgah Mata 2, Pusat Bandar Kota Kinabalu, 88000 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. (Right in front of D’Bundle Mania)
This shop might seem like any other normal shop, but trust us, when we say they have good food, they do. If you’re craving for a good warm Bakso (meatball soup) on a rainy day, say no more. Café Pak Elah is the spot for you! Their Bakso soup is full of flavour and unlike the ones you get in West Malaysia, you can add chicken feet and fried chicken skin! How unique is that?!
If you don’t like any of those, don’t worry, you could always ask for their normal bakso that tastes just as good. And, if you don’t feel like getting something heavy, then just order their fried chicken skin. It comes along with their to-die-for sambal Nasi Katok that is spicy yet sweet.
7) Gayang Seafood Restaurant
Location: Gayang Seafood Restaurant, Jalan Sulaman, 89200 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
We’d also like to recommend to you one of the best seafood restaurants in the heart of Kota Kinabalu that is also a popular spot. The location might be a little far from the city, but the food is fantastic! It is worth the price, and they offer a wide variety of seafood from the sweet tasting sea snails (known as Kalasiu) to the bizarre looking geoducks and even the controversial Siakap (don’t worry, won’t cost you thousands)! If you only want some small eats, they even offer various sets of meals.
8) Kedai Runcit Salmin
Location: Jalan Kuala Laut, 88450 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Another local favourite is “Nasi Emba”. This dish might be one of the simplest one in this list, but it sure is a nostalgic food for most people in Kota Kinabalu. It comes with a plate of plain rice, batter fried chicken, their in-house chili sauce, and plain soup. Their fried chicken might seem simple, but they actually steam their chicken wings first, then dip it in their flavourful batter before deep frying it. They also serve other Indonesian cuisines like “Soto” and “Rojak”. They have closed down the famous outlet in Wisma Kosan, but you can still find them in Kampung Likas right on the left turn after the Kampung Likas Cemetery. There’s also a great Bakso stall that opens only at night, opposite of Kedai Runcit Salmin.
Also, don’t be fooled by the other “Nasi Emba” you might find around Kota Kinabalu, because it comes nothing close to this original one!
9) Nur Dapur Tomyam & Nasi Katok
Location: Nur Dapur Tomyam & Nasi Katok, Ground Floor, Lot 114, Jalan Gaya, 88300 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
We know, you’re in Sabah, and you’re looking for Sabahan food. But the Kuching Laksa is also to die for! The Laksa comes with three different types; fish fillet, prawns, and mixed. You can even choose the type of noodles you want to go with it; Lo Mein noodles, Kuey Teow, or vermicelli. Their Kuching Laksa might be their best selling, but other options are equally as good too! Maybe try their Ngiu Chap Laksa, or even the local Bruneians favourite, Nasi Katok!
10) Brown Fox Cafe
Location: Lot B-G-06, Level G, Lorong Sutera, Sutera Avenue, 88100 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
Another recommended café in Kota Kinabalu is in Sutera Avenue. From their Matcha and strawberry croissants, to their Mille Feuille; even their Ebi Tempura Udon Soup and Chicken Katsu Curry Rice keep us coming back for more. Not to forget, just like any other café in Kota Kinabalu, Brown Fox is both Instagram-worthy (outside and inside!) Although we do want to remind you that their croissants get sold out real fast, so you might want to pay them a visit slightly earlier.
Considering that most of these places are non-tourist and mostly only popular locally, don’t be shy to ask the locals for directions.