Kota Kinabalu offers so many things to many people. There are alluring beaches and reefs to swim in, interesting cultural sites and traditional villages to visit, and the majestic Mount Kinabalu to scale. But everyone gets tired after a few hours of fun and adventure. And when people get tired and hungry, it’s the restaurants and food joints that get jam packed. Eating and drinking in Kota Kinabalu is served by high-end restaurants, cafés and bars scattered all over this bustling city, but for some reason, locals and the adventurous tourist almost always prefer street foods, or at least, are ready to try a serving or two.
The most delicious and yet inexpensive local dishes are found in Tanjung Aru’s open-air food court. This large food joint along the popular Tanjung Aru Beach offers the most delicious Malaysian noodles and freshest seafood dishes. Eating here is quite a cultural experience as well since there are nightly cultural shows, and the place is always busy with locals and foreigners getting to know each other. The most popular sea food is lobster, typically. Other local dishes involving stingrays, shellfish and an array of other fishes are also quite popular. Diners are guaranteed that the fish are always fresh and cooked using savory Malaysian spices and garnishes. Westerners should be warned, however, that authentic local dishes could be very hot and spicy, too hot for the Western palate. Tourists should specifically avoid the chili vinegar normally found on food court tables along with the bottles of soy sauce and white vinegar.
Also widely popular, very delicious and surprisingly cheap are the Malaysian noodle dishes. A variety of these noodle preparations are also sold in leading restaurants, but those offered in the open food court are getting much attention. Some of these noodles are the very spicy Laksa dish, which is prepared with coconut milk; the very fatty Char Kway Teow, which is served with pork fat, eggs, and prawns; the slimy Loh Mee noodles, which comes with thick gravy; the tasty Curry Mee; and the nutritious Mee Hoon noodle dish that is cooked with vegetables. Even by just describing these noodles can be mouth-watering. But other than their tempting aroma and taste, what makes these noodle dishes really inviting is their price – each dish is no more than US$2.
When eating at local street food stalls including the open-air food court in Tanjung Aru, foreign tourists should understand that hygiene is not really the top concern of chefs and stall owners. This is why diners must never forget to wipe each piece of utensil before putting anything in their mouth. Also, tourists should avoid drinking from tap water. It is always best to carry a bottle of mineral water.
Meanwhile, tourists who do not wish to experiment on food will be delighted to know that there are a number of first-class restaurants with guaranteed high standards of cleanliness and serving international dishes. The leading restaurants are found along the Kota Kinabalu Waterfront, Tanjung Aru, in upscale hotels, and within modern shopping malls such as the world-class 1Borneo Hypermall. This huge modern shopping complex is home to expensive restaurants, American food joints, and four major hotels, a perfect venue when eating and drinking in Kota Kinabalu.