10 “Must Try” Local Food in Sabah

Food In Sabah

Before I get into the popular food in Sabah, it’s better if I cover a little background about Sabah, East Malaysia. With two-thirds of Christians and 30 indigenous and ethnic groups living in Sabah, their food choices and selections are very different from its west counterpart.

If you’re a person from West Malaysia, you will find most food in Sabah, especially in Kota Kinabalu, sold at a costly price. When my Sabah friends went to West Malaysia, they will always tell us how expensive their food is back home. For that reason, if you’re heading to Sabah on a food trip, make sure your wallet is thick!

Unlike famous restaurants in Penang, Ipoh and Melaka, you don’t find yourself queing as much when you’re looking for a place to dine-in. Just head in and take a seat! Here are the 10 local food in Sabah that I think anyone should try when they visit Sabah! If you can’t find all of them, at least try their noodles—their pride! Time to put on your loosest clothes and go food hunting!

10 "Must Try" Local Food In Sabah

1. Sang Nyuk Mee

You have not been to Sabah if you’ve not tried Sabah’s famous Sang Nyuk Mee (Sabah Pork Noodles). Choose whether you want your noodles to be bathed in soup or dry, in which they will serve you the soup separately. The springy noodles are served with a generous amount of pork meat and intestines. Undeniably, Sabah food can be expensive. Even so, they don’t stinge on their meat and you will just keep questioning on when you can ever finish all the meat in your bowl!

PRICE: RM8 per bowl

2. Roadside Grilled Clam and Coconut Pudding

Concentrated in Tuaran, there were heaps of stalls along the road with towering coconuts. That is when you will know that they are selling coconut pudding. When the coconut was served, I was expecting to eat coconut flesh, instead, my tongue tasted the creamy texture of the coconut pudding. The pudding actually has a color similar to that of a coconut flesh. I was nearly fooled. The taste came as a surprise as it tasted just like a coconut would. It wasn’t too sweet that it was hard to swallow.

The juicy grilled clams served as a great complement to the coconut pudding. However, as fresh and flavorful as they are, they definitely don’t come cheap! Moreover, you’ll find yourself hungry and craving more plates after!

You can also order coconut water to wash them all down.

Coconut pudding costs about RM4-5 each

Grilled clam cost: Small RM7; Medium RM10; Large RM12

3. Avocado Juice

Avocado juice definitely has a stellar reputation as one of the must-try food in Sabah. Once you have seen the sunset on Tanjung Aru Beach, head over to the hawker stalls beside the beach. Plenty of vendors will be standing around “inviting” the customers to sit in front of their stalls. It’s a fierce business competition. A lot of stalls there were selling avocado juice of all kinds. There were the ones mixed with chocolate syrup, plain, and other kinds with different fruit combinations.

The avocado juice that I drank was rich in flavour and smooth in texture. It did not taste like it had been mixed with plenty of mineral water, which can dilute the taste of the juice. Most importantly, they filled the cup to the brim in which you will find it easier to finish the drink when you share it with a friend.

A true value for money.

Avocado juice costs around RM8 per cup. The fancier ones that you get, the higher the price.

4. Durian Sukang & Durian Dalit (Red & Orange Durians)

Only local Sabahans know that there are two special breeds of durian in Sabah that you will not find anywhere else in the world. I had the privilege to try the orange durian but not the red one. The flesh of the orange durian is thinner, and its taste is rather bland. However, it is so much creamier than ordinary durians! It was said that if you eat too much orange and red durian, you might even get drunk. I’d love to get drunk eating durians!

Depending on where you get them, it can cost as much as RM60/KG or a bundle for RM17. Usually, they are only sold in rural areas as well as local markets. I’m sure you know Malaysians’ love for durians. So, grab it quickly when you see one because they run out fast!

5. Fermented Rice Wine

Fermented Rice Wine is also known as Tapai. Usually, this wine is served in Kadazan-Dusun festivals and celebrations. This rice wine is made with brown rice and contains at least seven per cent alcohol. Some can even contain up to 10 per cent! The rice is soaked, kept overnight, and fermented. Eventually, it is turned into alcohol from the fermentation process. Some people get intoxicated just after 2 glasses of Tapai due to the high alcohol content.

To drink it:

  • Add water
  • Wait
  • Stab the straw in
  • Drink and don’t move the straw nor pull it out

Tapai costs RM5 a bottle

6. Wild Boar "Sinalau Bakas"

Sinalau Bakas is a very popular food in Sabah, especially among the locals. You can usually find it on your way up to Kundasang. The meat is grilled and it gives a rather dry texture but fragrant taste. Expect to leave with a mix of charcoal and grilled meat smell on you!

Price: Varies (Roughly RM22/kg)

7. Seafood

Sabah is surrounded by the ocean. It has arguably the freshest and cheapest seafood in town. In certain parts of the state, you can buy the seafood from the local wet market and request the local seafood restaurant to cook them for you. Now you can ensure that you will eat the freshest seafood that you have hand-picked yourself! Seafood should definitely qualify for top of your list for food in Sabah!

8. Tuaran Noodles

Also known as the golden noodle of Sabah. The noodles are usually fried before topping up with BBQ pork, egg roll slices, and a handful of vegetables, that’s how it gets its unparalleled texture! When you pop the noodles in your mouth, it will crunch on the first bite followed by a chewy texture every bite after that before you finally swallow it whole. Goodness!

Tuaran noodles typically cost around RM5 to RM7

9. Beaufort Noodles

Like Tuaran noodles, Beaufort noodles are also stir-fried before they are topped up with a generous amount of fresh vegetables and meat slices. Finally, the noodles will be bathed in a thick and sticky gravy—the secret weapon that makes this noodle so special. From the picture I took below, you can clearly see that they are not stingy with their meat and vegetables! You can’t even see the noodles underneath!

Beaufort noodles can cost between RM7-9 per plate.

10. Ngiu Chap Beef Noodles

If you are the person who loves beef, then this is for you. Served in sapid beef broth, the Ngiu Chap Beef Noodles is boil along with beef slices, stew, tripe, meatballs, tendon, meatballs, all kinds of beef intestines and organs. If you’re not a person who fancies soup, they come dry too! 

Can you smell it already?

The price starts from RM8 and can go up to RM12

In A Nutshell

And there you have it! The 10 “Must Try” Local Food in Sabah! It is undeniable that Sabahans loves their noodles. The diverse culture and ethnicity give rise to the many sophisticated dishes that only makes you want more! As there are more Christians in Sabah, you will naturally find more pork and beef noodles and dishes here compared to West Malaysia!

These food listed above are in no particular order based on tastiness or rating. You can try them and let us know your rating by commenting down below!

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