Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, from the Divine Comedy, is not the first thing you would associate with buying grilled chicken wings, but in Kota Kinabalu it is exactly what you will do.
Just next to the Filipino market there is a night market with lots of vendors selling fruit and produce, there is also a couple of seafood stalls, and most of all vendors selling charcoal grilled chicken wings. Most of the chicken wings are of the honey glazed type and not so heavily spiced, which one would think since they are pretty red in color. For me grilling chicken is a bit of a challenge since it is easy to under or over cook. Under cooked is just wrong and over cooked is so dry and fibrous. The ones I got were perfect. Tender and very juicy. I was a bit dissapointed due to that I thought they would be more spicy, but with the revelation that they were of the honey glazed type, the dissapointment subsided.
The honey and fat that drips down onto the charcoal grills makes for an insane amount of smoke! The smoke sticks to your clothes and if you plan to wear the same outfit the next day, you will be going around smelling like an old smokery. The most insane part was that we from the distance of around one kilometer, in our hotel, could see the smoke billowing from the market area.
We had heard about the Seri Selera Kampung Air seafood court and decided that we should try it out, but when we got there we felt that it was too crowded for our liking. The vendors were also rather pushy and I got the feeling that they were more concerned about quantity than quality. The setting felt more like a classic tourist trap, with loud vendors yelling out their sale pitch to lesser informed tourists. Noisy, crowded and not that great prices made us change our minds. I have no doubt that the quality of the food was ok, but it was not the setting prefered by us.
Not feeling up to the task of seeking out another seafood restaurant we decided to go with anything nearby that looked good. Just across the street we saw this guy hand pulling some noodles, and if you are like me and like noodles, there is nothing that can stop you from ordering a bowl or plate of freshly made noodles.
Kongfu Ramen serves noodles in soup form or dry, topped with some kind of woked meat or vegetable. I chose the dry version, topped with woked beef and red onion. The sauce in the wok was not that spicy, but it had a hint of mustardy flavours that I could not really identify the base of. Anyhow, the noodles were great with an al dente texture and the beef was really tender and juicy. All in all, it was an excellent meal and we were glad that we found this restaurant. We actually ended up going back a few days later
For a week we made Kota Kinabalu our base from which we made daytrips to marine and wild life parks. We really enjoyed the slow and laid back pace of the city. It felt more like a smalltown than a state capital.
Kota Kinabalu offers a large variety of markets, from the Gaya Street Sunday Market to the Filipino Market, whether it is street food, salted fish or handicraft, I am sure that you will find a market that suits your needs.
Also being a port city there is no shortage of fresh seafood. But be aware that not all restaurants have the intention to serve you a decent meal. Some are just your regular tourist trap.