Sambal Stingray in Sabah - don't miss it! Such a good dish.

One of the joys of going to Sabah is exploring the food markets. Malaysian food culture is rich and diverse, and Sabah, tucked away on the island of Borneo, has a food heritage all of its own combined with Malaysian standards. Lots of native fish and meats are used, crocodile and stingray are probably some of the most unusual, but there is lots of beef and chicken, and more familiar fish like snapper and prawns.

A visit to a food market is a must, if you are nervous about hygiene, just follow the locals and eat where they eat and look for busy stands with a high turnover. I had no trouble, and I tried a lot. I recommend immersing yourself and enjoying it.

The Filipino Market in Kota Kinabulu is both a produce market and a market where you can eat on the spot. Meander through the aisles observing the pink red and blue fish, the gorgeous pink torch ginger flowers and all of the luscious herbs, greens & chillies. Then head to the back and indulge in some chicken wings and some barbecued very fresh fish at Gerai Sri Samudra. The sambal squid is excellent (I do love sambal, a spicy rich paste used to marinade fish and meats in Malaysia) and the chicken wings are divine.

Lido Square Food Centre is one of the most popular, lively and largest hawker centres in Kota Kinabulu. A lot of the stalls are Chinese Malay so you will see pork here much more than any other market, including the local wild boar. Try the sambal stingray, the oyster omelette and the bak kuh teh, a pork, pepper and herb soup, a bit offaly but don’t let that put you off, it is also a medicina soup and said to be very good for you. Pork and bacon fans shouldn’t miss the bakwa, a candied pork cooked over fire, they do a crocodile version too.

Ikan Bakar Mama Resepi at Pasar Sim Sim in Sandakan is a brilliant local experience. Fresh local fish is marinaded in spices and barbecued before being served with a variety of small dishes. The prices are very good, and the cooking is straight from the heart. Mama herself was there the night we visited, I recognised her from her photo on the banner displayed by the restaurant. It is a tough call to claim that these were some of the friendliest people in Sabah, given how friendly everyone is there, but they were. Wonderful!

Reader offer: Fancy going to Sabah? I bet you do. Premier Holidays in partnership with Royal Brunei Airlines are offering readers of Eat Like a Girl incredible offers on holidays in Sabah (your honeymoon?!). Stay at the 5* Shangri-La Rasa Ria Resort for 12 nights for £1199 per person, the 5* Gaya Island Resort for £1199 per person. Flights from London included. Book before March 31st, 2015 on the Premier Holidays site – all details and conditions there.

I visited Sabah & Brunei with the #LoveSabah and #TasteofBrunei campaigns, brought to you by iambassador in partnership with Sabah Tourism and Royal Brunei Airlines. As always, I maintain full editorial control. 

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Niamh

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