|Hong Kong of the East...Sandakan beckons adventure seekers and seafood lovers|
|The Central Market is a hive of activity daily and diagonally across from the Four Points by Sheraton|
|Riot of colours...everything a passionate cook ever needs can be found here|
|Astoundingly fresh local ingredients are sold at the Central Market|
|Super spicy bird's eye chilli in vibrant hues|
|These strands of bubbly seaweed is known as Latok or Damai|
Honestly, it was an eye-opening experience to see so many different and unfamiliar species of fish, shellfish and seaweed sold there. We spotted heaps of parrot fish, saury, clams, stingrays, giant groupers and mackerels, local mud and flower crabs, banana prawns, snappers and even puffer fish with doe-like eyes and spotted thorny hides. Locals told us that they would eat this deep-fried...talk about playing Russian roulette.
|This unusual ray has a cute dolphin-like snout|
|Puffer fish all in a row|
|Dried salted fish that will leave you spoilt for choice|
You can choose to enjoy the noodles 'kon lou' (dry-tossed with a drizzle of soya sauce) or laden with a hearty pork-based broth. The latter is undoubtedly the runaway favourite; the simple broth so hearty and flavourful that it's good to the last drop.
Nearby are several stalls offering 'chap farn' (economical mixed rice) with a tempting selection of home-style dishes such as braised pork, deep-fried chicken, stir-fried 'hum choy' (salted mustard leaves), 'yong tau foo' (stuffed beancurd with fish paste), etc.
No visit to Sandakan is complete without a meal at Sim Sim Water Village. Friendly rivalry sees two similarly named seafood restaurants sited cheek by jowl but it's business as usual as both draw their own share of customers.
Built on stilts, the restaurant seating extends all the way out to sea on sturdy wooden platforms. Insulated boxes filled with oxygenated sea water flaunt live swimming fishes and other seafood: lobsters, prawns, sea cucumber, clams and oysters among others.
On the night of our visit, we saw a worker brought in a huge lobster and oysters whose shells are as big as a dinner plate. Supply apparently came from local fisherfolks who sell their catch to the restaurateur here.
Our sumptuous feast included a slab of Sandakan's signature salted talang deep-fried and served with fresh kalamansi juice, steamed hard shell clams and oysters in lime juice, garlic and bird's eye chilli, stir-fried crabs and squid in caramelised dark soya sauce, Teochew-style steamed red snapper with tangy lime juice, minced garlic and chilli, and diced beancurd, stir-fried Sabah vegetables (a type of local fern known locally as cekur or sayur manis), honeyed lamb ribs and butter prawns.
|Sandakan's answer to cheese? Salted talang deep-fried and served with fresh calamansi juice|
|Sweet and dark...chewy caramelised squid to exercise your jaws with|
|Crustaceans' inherent sweetness and buttery richness make for an irresistible combination|
Taste-wise the dishes are unpretentious; the simple preparations merely a mean to enhance the seafood's freshness. The butter prawns, salted fish and steamed red snapper really had us hooked. I also like Sandakan's ham yue (salted talang) that's deep-fried until it's slightly crisp. Served with lime juice, its mellow brininess tastes surprisingly similar to blue cheese.
|Honeyed lamb ribs that are finger-licking good|
Restaurant Seafood Sim Sim 88
Bridge No 8, Sim Sim Water Village
Tel: 012 816 3633
Fancy some sweet dreams in Sandakan? The Four Points by Sheraton is ever-ready to roll out the red carpet for slumber parties of travellers with its signature Four Comfort features. Read all about it here:
Serving soon! More Sandakan's homegrown fare to tickle your tastebuds.