No visit to Kota Kinabalu is complete without visiting it’s famous seafood foodcourt Seri Selera Kampung Air.
The touts working outside are fierce and getting your business is their number one priority. Maybe you want to have a look around first. Maybe you are happy with eating at whoever grabs you first.
Here in the north of Borneo, sea creatures of many shapes and sizes wait in glass tanks. Maybe they cross their fins and claws as you walk past, hoping to get picked last.
Most creatures have a price on their tank. The ones you should be wary of are the creatures without price tags.
Most places advertise by the 100gm. 20RM might sound cheap, but a small 500gm lobster is going to set you back 100RM / $45NZ / $33US.
Our mantis prawns. One orange/black and the other white/black. Tiger and zebra! The mantis prawn are kept separate in plastic bottles so they cannot fight each other.
The tiger and the zebra came to about 1 kg.
Slipper lobster or Moreton Bay Bug.
The Koala pulling up a lobster.
Shrimpy prawn things.
Side view of the mantis prawn.
See the large forelegs! Cool and creepy at the same time right?
Labeled as a scallop, but looked more like the offspring of a snail and a zebra. Giant zebra snail perhaps?
Old Village Seafood Restaurant
Old Village Seafood Restaurant grabbed us first so we went with it. The occasion was A’s birthday and a seafood feast was on the cards. Our waitress was also our menu. She recited all the specials to us, let us choose a few dishes and also made suggestions. It’s quite a cool way to do things, but no menu means no prices. No surprise that the fish that she recommended to us was expensive.
We ordered sea bass cooked Malay style, crab, mantis prawn, a Malaysian vegetable, rice and beers. Peanuts and pickled papaya magically appeared on the table (and later on the bill).
Favourite dish hands down was the mantis prawn. Prawn has always been a favourite of mine and these godzilla sized versions tasted amazing. The meat was fleshy and there was plenty of it.
The birthday girl enjoying a seafood feast.
I am all for eating seafood this fresh. I don’t feel any guilt for picking a creature to be eaten. For meat eaters, animals are will die for dinner. Better that it is fresh bounty than an old carcass.
Total bill for 3 adults was 200RM / $89NZ / $66US. Not bad for that much seafood.
Hua Hing Seafood Restaurant
A few weeks later, The Koala and I returned to Seri Selera Kampung Air and this time we managed to walk right around the foodcourt to have a browse before picking a restauarnt. We settled on Hua Hing Seafood Restaurant which is right opposite Old Village.
I have never had anyone correctly guess that I am from Hong Kong. I moved to New Zealand when I was 9 months old so I don’t figure it’s all that obvious. Surprisingly our waitress picked it right away so I got to practice my Cantonese with her.
Being just the two of us this time and with a little knowledge of how it all works, we revisited our beloved mantis prawn. We also tried some giant oysters (served 2 ways), 2 lobster (cooked 2 ways), a local green vegetable, rice and plenty of beers. It was really cool how they let us cook each creature in a different way.
Giant oyster #1. Served raw: sashimi style with lemon, soy sauce and wasabi. This oyster was big enough to cut in half and still have a big mouthful each.
Giant oyster #2. Steamed with coriander and garlic.
Mantis Prawn. Butter garlic with dressing/dipping sauce.
Lobster #1. Steamed.
Lobster #2. BBQ with Butter and garlic.
Sabah vegetable cooked with chili. This tasted like chinese mustard greens.
Lobster is held in such high regard and we were pretty spoilt to be able to sample 2 lobsters and a mantis prawn side by side. We both agreed that mantis prawn is superior to the lobster.
Yep. I said it. Mantis prawn is superior to lobster. It’s not that lobster is overrated but more like Mantis prawn is crazy underrated.
Total bill for 2 people 370RM / $165NZ / $122US. Very expensive, but a lot of fun.
Through no fault of the restaurant, The Koala managed to eat himself sick that night. It was probably a combination of the huge feast of rich food and the beers – no lingering sickness though and he was ok in the morning.