Kota Kinabalu: Food Court Frenzy! [BIMT30]

July 28, 2009 at 7:36 pm

We hadn’t eaten in quite a while by the time we checked into our hotel at Kota Kinabalu. We were stiff, sore and exhausted both physically and mentally from our white-knuckle, pitch-black drive through the wilderness, and were tempted to just call room service and stick a fork in any plans to explore KK that night. But I’d caught sight of an open-air food court just a couple of blocks from the hotel which looked fun and interesting, and managed to rally Ian and Sarah to go check it out. Given our appetites, actually filling up on room service probably would’ve proved expensive, anyway…

Before we could even walk into the plaza dotted with all manner of food stalls, half a dozen people came rushing towards us with menus. Each was trying to elbow in front of the other one, and as soon as we were walking through the tables in the plaza, they were pulling chairs out for us and insisted that we sit down. We picked a table more or less at random (not one which had been offered to us), and instantly half of the hawkers vanished, while another three appeared. Five or six different menus were tossed onto our table, and we were left alone, more than a bit confused. We’d been treated to the hard sell by hawkers before over the course of the last week or so, but nothing like this.

Sarah quickly pieced together what was going on when she looked around the plaza and noticed that there were four large seafood stalls (KK, and Sabah as a whole, is famous for its fresh fish) at each of the corners. The plaza was divided into quadrants, with each seafood place “owning” one. Depending on which quadrant a customer sat in, only the corresponding stall could serve that customer. Each seafood stall had four or five adjunct stalls, serving chicken, vegetables, noodles and the like, which operated under the same “turf” rules – you could only order food from the stalls that were partnered with the restaurant whose section you were seated in.

Thankfully, there was plenty of choice! Ian and Sarah opted for a whole tilapia fish cooked in tamarind sauce (asam ikan) while I had some braised tofu (which I augmented with way too much chili puti). “Singing chicken” (cooked in a white wine sauce), lots of veggies, and plenty of Heineken (did I mention how haggard and exhausted we were after getting lost?) filled out the meal.

This Heiney's for us.

This Heiney's for us.

There was a group of dancers entertaining the diners with some pole dancing. No, not that type of pole dancing…

Ian wasn’t about to try dancing across the pole himself (and certainly not after a few beers), but he did take advantage of a great photo op.

Ian and friends.

Ian and friends.

Dessert was up next, and as luck would have it, there was a stall in our section of the food court that sold deep fried ice cream.

No, really.

I’d heard of deep-fried ice cream being served at wacky themed restaurants and the like the world over, but I (foolishly) wasn’t prepared for the logical Malaysian variant on this particular delicacy.

Good ol' fashioned durian ice cream, deep fried to perfection.

Good ol' fashioned durian ice cream, deep fried to perfection.

Sarah’s love for all things durian related prompted her to go full-bore and order the durian flavoured ice cream pictured above, whereas Ian played it safer and opted for strawberry. The verdict?

Stuffed, sated and slightly stumbly, we made our way back to the hotel to rest up before our last full day in Malaysia.

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