Did you know that Sandakan is a great place for foodies? Haha, I didn’t know that until I had a chance to visit this quaint town recently. It’s actually the 2nd biggest town in Sabah and located at the north-eastern tip of the state. Sandakan is actually very rich historically, with many places of interest worth visiting but being the glutton and foodie that I am, I shall share its bountiful food offerings first.
As Sandakan is also a port, its location next to the sea means the seafood in this town can’t get any fresher than what they have presently. The fishing boats dock right at the fringes of the town and unload Neptune’s bounty right there for the Sandakan residents daily. For this 1st part of the Food Trail, I’ll share about the “small stuff” – small eats like noodles, pastries and snacks. I’ll do the “bigger stuff” – the heavier seafood later in Part 2.
Original Homemade Kueh Teow with Deep-fried Pork
Level 3, Central Market
The very first meal we had in Sandakan was the famous “Original Homemade Kueh Teow with Deep-fried Pork” in the Central Market of Sandakan. Located on the 3rd floor of the market, you can’t miss this stall as most of their tables would be occupied. Established since 1940, this is pretty much a household name in Sandakan. Here, they only serve that one item… you get to choose to have it “dry style” or “with soup”.
and the Soupy version!
For the dry style, the kueh teow is tossed in soya sauce, enhanced with lard and fried shallots and topped with their famous deep-fried pork, of course. The pieces of aromatic pork may look a bit like cha-siew but the taste is definitely different. Slightly chewy, they release a deeper lardy flavor as you chew on them. Although I feel the Ipoh hor-fun (kueh teow) has smoother and silkier textures, this particular kueh teow here is definitely something to try out for its unique porky twist.
Kedai Makan Kong Teck
Jalan Pak Tak, Mile 7
90000 Sandakan, Sabah
We had breakfast at this very popular kopitiam. The main offerings here are all sorts of fishpaste-based items and noodles. We had a wide selection of their fishballs, prawn balls, wantans, fuchook (beancurd skin), fishcakes, stuffed bittergourd, stuffed tofu, tofu puffs submerged in clear soup, curry laksa and prawn soup – yes, our table was groaning with the weight of all these endless plates of goodies!
Dry style Loe Shue Fun
The famous Fish Noodles
Their most famous item here is the Fish Noodles which are actually pure fishpaste rolled out into broad flat noodles. Because the fishpaste is so fresh, ridiculously bouncy and sweet, there’s no way anyone would not like this! To complement the fishpaste delights, we had bowls of Hakka Mee and Konloe Loe Shue Fun (“rats’ tails” short rice noodles). I’m a great fan of yong taufu so you can imagine how voraciously I enjoyed this meal here at Kong Teck! This place is always packed like crazy and I can certainly understand why.
Bridge No.7, Sim Sim Water Village
You cannot visit Sandakan and not go to Sim Sim Water Village – it’s the must-go place there. There’s a bustling community thriving here… local folks living in the stilted houses on water (and some of those houses are pretty comfortable-looking), cottage industries producing salted/dried seafood and of course, kopitiams and restaurants serving the freshest seafood. Entry into the village is via wooden-planked bridges, numbering 1, 2, 3 onwards.
We had a glorious seafood dinner in one of the well-known restaurants (more of that in Part 2) and a breakfast at a kopitiam known simply as “Bridge No.7”. The specialities here are their succulent prawn balls, century egg sui kow (dumplings stuffed with fishpaste, pork and century eggs!), and delicious noodles like their prawn noodles, fish head noodle, beef brisket noodles and curry mee. I love their spongy pigskins coated with a layer of fishpaste. My favourite is their popular “rubber” wantan noodles, so called because the noodles are very al dente and springy… certainly something not to be missed.
Pigskins and fish balls
Century eggs Sui Kow
Beef brisket noodles
Delectable “rubber” springy noodles
Fish head noodles
Chee cheong fun
Care for some dimsum?
Homemade dimsum is also available here, as well as plain chee cheong fun doused with just dark soya sauce and topped with fried shallots. Talk about variety – everything is served by the same one family operating this outlet.
Nam Chai Restaurant Bah Kut Teh
No.1 Block D, Jalan Leila
Bandar Nam Tong
Tel: 089 – 612 603
Bak Kut Teh takes on a whole different level here as seafood items are the highlights of the menu. They do serve the regular pork (various cuts and innards) but the popular orders are for fresh prawns and fish (whole & fillet). We had some big juicy prawns, thick cuts of siakap fillets and whole “lai mung” fishes that just arrived that very morning – all these submerged in steaming thick dark bak kut teh soup brimming over with Chinese herbal goodness.
I think I polished off 2 of these super-fresh “lai mung” fishes all by myself!
Besides the usual white rice, beehoon soaked in BKT soup is another option to go with all the dishes and to complete a true Sandakan BKT meal, order a plate of crunchy fried crullers (yau cha kwai) and for good measure, a bowl of spinach as well.
Pasar Kim Fung
Bandar Kim Fung, Mile 4
We hopped over to the town centre of Mile 4 to Pasar Kim Fung as this place offers a wide variety of food at any time of the day. They do have different vendors for morning, afternoon and night. We were there in the late afternoon for a yumcha session and checked out a variety of snacks. As we were still full from a heavy breakfast AND lunch, we only had stomach space for a few things here.
The dumplings stall was a hive of activity as the helpers were making the dumplings on-site and the owner was busy pan-frying them as fast as they were made. The dumplings, with their thin doughy skins, were plump and bursting with shredded vegetables and minced pork inside. Served hot from the griddle, they’re very tasty, especially when dipped in the accompany piquant chilli sauce.
We had some meat freshly made paus and buns, deep-fried yam puffs (divine!), barbequed chicken wings and peanut apam… all of which we wolfed down in good time, despite being stuffed to the neck! We had their famous smooth slippery Tau Fufah (soyabean curd) as well… a most welcome dessert on a humid evening.
The food court in Pasar Kim Fung is the place to head to for quick delicious bites. Like I’ve said before, the variety of food here is huge… I was told that there’s a superb Chicken Rice here but it’s only available from midnight onwards. Oh we also didn’t get to try the famous Yau Char Kuey (Chinese crullers) here (served with butter & kaya!) as the stall was not open … bummer.
Bun Hock Bakery & Confectionery Sdn Bhd
Ground Floor, Lot 106, Taman Sibuga,
90000 Sandakan, Sabah
Tel: 089 – 631 176
We came here for one and only one reason: the UFO Tarts. Unique to Sandakan, their Cantonese name “ngau si dui” actually sounds less flattering as its direct translation means “cow dung pile”! These tarts are not actually tarts per se as the base is actually a thin butter sponge cake. On top of this is meringue enclosing a yellow centre of eggy custard. Quite a number of Chinese bakeries in Sandakan town offer these cute tarts and their presentation actually differ from bakery to bakery. Some, instead of meringue, use whipped cream (like the ones in Bun Hock Bakery) and some pipe a cross on top of the custard while others don’t.
As you bite into this UFO tart, there’ll be a fusion of tastes and textures playing on the palate – spongy vanilla-tinged cake, creamy eggy smooth custard in the centre and light fluffy cream (or meringue) by the side… yummy with a cup of hot tea!
Our hosts also bought over some delicious Egg Tarts from the nearby Weng Hup Lee Bakery (just round the corner from Bun Hock Bakery). The pastry is thin and crispy and I like how the egg custard is smooth and not overly sweet – good stuff.
Ngee Lee Restaurant
Ground Floor, Blok A, Jalan Leila
Bandar Nam Tung
90000 Sandakan, Sabah
089 – 611 672
We stumbled upon this old-world kopitiam on our way back from the Bak Kut Teh lunch. We zoomed in to their Coconut Jelly, which is quite different from the ones we get here. The jelly is encased inside huge coconuts and it’s made with coconut milk and not coconut water! The resulting white jelly is firm and rich with coconutty flavours, thanks to the coconut milk used. It’s best to share out the huge coconut as it’s really too rich to finish one by yourself, trust me.
Photo courtesy of FoodPOI.com
So, stay tuned for Part 2 which will focus on the Seafood feasts we had!
*This awesome Foodie Trip to Sandakan was graciously organised and hosted by Four Points by Sheraton Sandakan. Thank you for a memorable experience!