Local Sabah Food is Delicious Bah!

21 May 2014

Every Sabahan can probably rattle off a list of local food for any foreigner who happened to ask them: nasi lemak, satay, beef rendang, laksa, rojak... The list goes on.  But what about actual local local food? Can you name any Sabahan dishes?

"Err.. Hinava!"
"Err............ Tapai..?"

Didnt think so hahaha! But why? When we go house-visiting in the kampungs during Kaamatan, there's always loads of yummy dishes that I wouldnt be able to name; and wouldnt be able to find anywhere else if I wanted other friends to try it.

Le Meridien is hoping to change all that. Launching the latest edition of it's ala carte menu, A Taste Of Discovery at Circle Restaurant, Tampatan Flavours is curated by local culinary talents and inspired by its destination - Sabah, Borneo.

Traditional Kadazandusun cooking takes a variety of wild jungle ingredients, such as bamboo shoots and palm sago, and spins out unique creations that stimulate your taste buds, accentuating each individual taste, whether it be fresh, pickled, fermented or otherwise.
Hinava  RM26
The most famous Sabahan cuisine is commonly served as an appetizer. Hinava is essentially fresh mackerel marinated with lime, ginger and chili, and garnished with salad. Possessing a distinct vinegary taste, you can eat hinava with rice or bread, and it is deeeeeelicious! I dont know why even I only knew about this amazing plate of yumminess just last year! =O
Pinasakan Sada in Wild Borneo Herbs  RM38
Another fish dish (hey, Sabah is part of the world's 3rd largest island right?), Pinasakan Sada in Wild Borneo Herbs is my favourite dish on the Circle Restaurant menu. Slow braised mackerel cooked in taco baco sour gravy, the sauce was to die for, and the fish was so flavourful! Pinasakan Sada also comes with bambangan (aka wild mango), lime chili, and hill rice (which is so much better than your normal white rice!)
Grilled Tiger Prawn in Banana Leaf  RM46
A more normal-sounding dish, the Tiger Prawn in Banana Leaf is made special by being locally spiced and grilled while being wrapped in banana leaves. The prawns were a very satisfying size, and were so fresh! They comes with steamed hill rice, wild onion salad, and prawn paste.
Ayam Bambangan  RM38
Ayam Bambangan looks a bit like Ayam Penyet. Served with steamed hill rice and stir fried wild fern shoots, this spring chicken is marinated in bambangan lemongrass gravy before being baked to perfection.
Selfie using the Samsung NX Mini. Lighting wasnt too good where I was seated though =(
Look at the size of that prawn! =D
If you're the adventurous kind and usually feel helpless when asked to choose which new dishes to try, you could order the Tampatan Trio (RM70). An exciting combination of the Traditional Hinava, Tiger Prawn in Banana Leaf AND Ayam Bambangan, you're already on your way to being a seasoned Sabahan food explorer! Served with steamed hill rice and discovery condiments, it's also the perfect way to share with a friend who's ordered the Pinasakan......
Sago Discovery  RM26
No meal is complete without dessert, and Sabahans like their sugar as much as the next Malaysian! The Sago Discovery was good enough for me to be able to finish it, even though I was so full from stuffing my face at lunch (dont take my stomach capacity as a guide though)! The chilled sago with palm sugar, coconut milk and Haagen Dazs vanilla ice cream to top it all off was the perfect ending to my Sabahan food journey. By the end of it I was wondering where the hell I'd been all these years - how could I have never tried all this before?!  

Next time I have friends come to visit, at least I know where I can take them for a taste of Sabah. It's kinda sad that no one has thought of serving easily accessible local food like this before. As we were saying over lunch, unless it's Kaamatan season, it's virtually impossible to get Kadazan food, and even when it is, asking your friends if you can take tourists to their open houses is not exactly the most comfortable of options haha. 
Interior of Circle Restaurant, Le Meridien Kota Kinabalu.
Photo credit as per watermark.
Circle Restaurant is open from 6.30am - 11.00pm at Le Meridien Hotel, which is situated in the heart of KK city. The Tampatan Flavours menu is already available, in conjunction with this month's Kaamatan festivities.

Kotobian Tadau Tagazo do Kaamatan to my fellow Sabahans, and to my west Malaysian friends, the end of this month is the perfect time to come to Sabah if you want to witness the Harvest Festival! =D

Til next time,
Calista xx

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