Foods and Drinks

As the name suggest, when travelling this could be top agenda in any new place be it locally or foreign country. Kota Kinabalu (short form KK) does offer many cuisines. And Yes, of course, what are the local specialty? Firstly, KK is made up of many ethnic communities hence plenty to choose from. Certain foods or drinks are not that easily available unless you specifically hunt for it. International cuisines/foods can be found at any place in the city particularly the fast food franchises. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. You will find many interesting seafood in Sabah so KK is no exception. Anything crawl or swim in sea, they will have most of it. Apart from seafood, one must not miss the local delicacies.


One of the major tribes in Sabah offers very unique food. Most interesting are the pickled food. 5 well-known foods are

  • Tuhau (pickled tuhau plant with chili)
  • Bosou (pickled pork, fish or fresh water shrimp)
  • Bambangan (pickled Bambangan fruit - looks a bit like mango)
  • Butod (fat worm found in banana or sago tree stem which is eaten fresh/raw or deep fried)
  • Hinava (marinated raw fish in lime juice similar to ceviche or umai in Sarawak but different ingredient)
  • Lihing (rice wine)
  • Tapai (rice wine with fermented rice still inside and usually put inside a tajau - a clay pot container)
  • Montaku (distilled rice wine)
  • There is a variety of stews or soups with pork, chicken & beef, as the main ingredient.
  • Roast belly of pork is a particular favourite, both for the KadazanDusun & Chinese.


Sabahan Chinese is predominantly Hakka with some Chinese belong to Cantonese, Hokkien, Foochow or Shantung dialect. Therefore, most Chinese foods here have Hakka cuisine influence.

  • Beef noodle (meat or offal) - 牛肉面
  • Dumpling (pan fried or steam)  - 水饺 / 锅贴
  • Seafood noodle (meat or lips/skin or fish head)
  • Pork noodle (meat or offal) - 生肉面
  • Hakka braised pork with yam - 客家扣肉
  • Chicken or prawn in rice wine - 黄酒鸡 / 黄酒虾
  • Pork throttle braised in vinegar - 猪脚酸
  • Steam/roast chicken rice
  • Stir fried sweet leaf (sauropus androgynus or sayur manis in Malay) - 炒树仔菜
  • BBQed pork & roast belly of pork


Sabah is part of Malaysia after all. However, the Muslim food here is different from the rest of Malaysia, being influenced by the Philippines & Kalimantan styles. Peninsula culinary influence, however, is increasing.

  • Satay
  • Nasi Lemak
  • Nasi goreng kampung (a good one will have some shrimp paste smell and anchovies are crunchy)
  • Nasi lalap
  • Soto Java
  • Soto Makasar
  • Air Kelapa Bakar (hot coconut drink - basically whole coconut is dump into hot fire pit and burn until the juice is close to boiling)
  • various dishes using Sabah indigenous products, like pakis, sayur manis, seaweed, basung and eggplant.


There is a small population of Indians in KK. Therefore, not suprisingly Indian cuisine is commonly found around the city.

  • Roti canai
  • Roti Cobra (similar to roti canai but come with a fried egg and meat curry)
  • Roti Murtabak (roti filled with minced goat or chicken meat)
  • Nasi Briyani
  • Chapatti
  • Tosai
  • Teh Madras (milk tea Madras style, usually cardamom is used)