Tag Archives: seafood

Giant Grouper, the ultimate seafood of Sabah

giant grouper

Local gluttonous eaters love giant grouper, not because of its quantity but the great taste. Giant grouper is known as Ikan Keratang locally and the largest bony fish lives in the tropical sea up to 100 Metres deep. Some thinks giant grouper is a normal grouper that grows oversized when it gets older. In fact, Giant Grouper is just a big fish (Species: Epinephelus lanceolatus) under grouper family.

photos of giant grouper
Giant Grouper can grow up to 2.7 Metres in length, weighs over 400 Kg and live more than 50 years old. The largest record of giant grouper in Sabah is the one captured in Lahad Datu in 2011, which is 2.286 Metres long (7.5 feet) and weighs 204 Kg. This fish is so huge that it freaks out our scuba divers sometimes, as its big mouth seems to be able to swallow a man in one gulp. Luckily, human isn’t on its food menu. Instead, it is a delicacy to seafood lovers.

giant grouper weighs over 150 Kg
Pic: this giant grouper is over 150 Kg in weight (might cost over USD3,000)!

Westerners who love tuna may not know giant grouper very well. However, giant grouper is a highly sought after seafood by local and overseas Chinese. Each Kg can cost over RM65 (≈USD20). Chinese calls Giant Grouper as 鲈趸 (Lú dǔn).

huge giant grouper
Giant Grouper is abundant in the sea of Lahad Datu and Semporna at east caost of Sabah. Due to overfishing, huge giant grouper is getting rare now, as most of them are caught before they can grow big. That’s why it is listed as a vulnerable species by IUCN.

Kedai Makan Gembira (大家乐茶餐室)

The funny thing is, I never tried giant grouper (since it is expensive and not always available in seafood restaurant). Thanks to Tisha and Simon from Bike and Tours, I got the first taste of giant grouper in Kedai Makan Gembira, a coffee shop in outskirt of Lahad Datu.

shop signage of Kedai Makan Gembira (大家乐茶餐室)
Two months ago, after cycling around Lahad Datu, Tisha suggested to have lunch at Kedai Makan Gembira.

happy dog
Kedai Makan Gembira means “Eat Happily Shop”, even their dog also looks so happy lol.

Kedai Makan Gembira
Then we found out the shop was close on Monday, but Tisha kept on persuading the owner to open the shop for us. I was wandering why we didn’t go somewhere else for lunch, as there were many other restaurants opened in town.

giant grouper taller than lady
Guess what was waiting for us? Jenny, the shop owner, looks so small next to the giant grouper!

The whole fish is edible and no part is wasted, from the meat, skin, scales, head, belly, gut, fin, maw, liver to its mouth. You may have the fish steamed, fried, stewed, etc. You choose it.

interior of Kedai Makan Gembira
Pic: the shop was empty as it was off day. I felt like a VIP booking the whole place.

fish scales of giant grouper
Check out the big fish scales of giant grouper. (Oh, I need to clean my fingernails) :-p

menu of Kedai Makan Gembira
The food menu of the coffee shop. Nevermind if you can’t read Chinese. They can explain it to you. Basically it’s giant grouper served in different way. For example, you can have the fish with soup or noodle.

fish lip soup
Pic: fish lip soup

We started with the fish lip soup. From its nice color, I already could tell it was yummy.

fish lip soup of giant grouper
Pic: close-up of the fish lip

The fish lip got some meat and not bony at all. The soup is thick with fleshy flavor. The meat tasted fresh, tender and “creamy”. A surprise, because the meat of big fishes are usually harder and coarse.

meat of giant grouper

sup ikan keratang
Jenny is such a good cook. The more I ate, the more I wanted, the quicker I ate, as if I was starving for days.

giant grouper fish head soup
Pic: fish head soup, the signature dish of this shop.

When I was still enjoying the fish lip soup, the fish head soup came. Real foodies always aim for the fish head and belly. They say these are the parts where the best taste of seafood concentrated. Personally I think fish head is too fishy, but this one is not. The ginger and green onion remove the excessive fishy smell, and the tomato and a bit of Chinese wine enhance the sweetness of fish, making it more appetizing.

fish skin of giant grouper

ikan keratang

fish lip full of collagen
Look at the translucent fish lips and skin, they are so rich in collagen. I bet I’ll look 10 years younger if I eat these every day, haha!

Kam Hiong Tiger Prawn

Curry Tiger Prawn
Besides giant grouper, I also tried their Kam Hiong Tiger Prawn (甘香老虎虾 in Chinese). This dish smelled really good because of the curry spices. The tiger prawns are mildly spicy, sweet and chewy, another must try.

fried fish eggs

fried fish eggs
Fried fish egg, my favorite always! Whenever I eat fish, I’m super happy to see even a small pieces of fish eggs comes with it. Seeing so many big chunks of fried fish eggs really made my mouth shivering due to excitement.

organic vegetable
Jenny also cooked some stir-fried organic vegetable for us. Crunchy.

Pic: The shop also serves freshwater eel (黄鳝 in Chinese) that looks like snake. Many don’t dare to eat it, but eel is one of the best food for regeneration of cells, great for healing wound.

Below is the contact of Kedai Makan Gembira if you want to try the “ultimate seafood”. Please note that giant grouper is not a common caught, so it is not always available in the shop. To avoid disappointment, call them to check before you visit.
Address (See location map): Batu 4, Sandakan Highways, Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia.
Facebook: KedaiMakanGembira
Tel: +60 16-8897761, +60 13-5439468 (Jenny Wong)
Opening Hours: Tue – Sun: 6:30am – 5pm
Kedai Makan Gembira Serves No Pork.

Photos taken in Lahad Datu, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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Sabah’s Best Dried Seafood in Tawau Tanjung Market

Salty fishes

When you check-in at Tawau airport, you may notice a lot of local passengers carry many boxes with them. Try to get really closer and you would smell something dead. Haha, if you don’t know what it is, you miss something very, very important from Tawau.

boxes of dried seafood
Pic: what’s in the boxes?

smelly salted fish
Let’s reveal what is inside the boxes. It is the best dried seafood of Sabah. The dried seafood of Tawau is so good and famous that even people from Peninsular Malaysia and Brunei consider it’s a must-buy.

Tanjung Market of Tawau
Pic: photo of Tawau Tanjung Market

Dried seafood is sold everywhere in Sabah, but the best one is found in Tawau Tanjung Market (Pasar Tanjung Tawau in local language). This three-storey market in Tawau is more than just a dried seafood market, it is also selling rich variety of produces from neighbouring countries such as Indonesia. It is open from 6am to 5pm (or later) every day.

dried seafood stalls in Tanjung Market
The love of stinky salted fishes is not only among Malaysians, other Asians share the same love too, the more smelly, the better. To westerners, dried seafood may smell like corpse. Hey, to us, your favorite blue cheese also smells like used socks unwashed for weeks. I like blue cheese anyway. Every culture appreciates different kind of stinky food.

people buying dried seafood in Pasar Tanjung Tawau
Most Hong Kong and China tourists don’t know this place. If they do, I’m sure they will drop by to shop, before they leave Tawau after their island trip in Semporna. Dozens of dried seafood stalls are located in 1st floor of Tawau Tanjung Market.

dried seafood in Tawau Tanjung Market
Sabah is well-known for its seafood, so we are never short of fresh seafood to make dried seafood. We dry almost everything from the sea, for example, fish, shrimp, squid, sea cucumber, seaweed. Many dried seafood are packed nicely in plastic bag. I was very surprised that I didn’t see swarm of flies around.

salted fishes
Pic: salted fishes (Ikan Masin in Malay language)

Dried seafood is so important in our diet that Sabahans who study overseas in western countries will bring a lot of them. I can finish a big bowl of white rice with only a few small chunks of salted fishes. It is more tasty if you eat with bare hand and cold rice. Try it.

hanging salty fishes (ikan masin)
My favorite salted fish is the “moist” type (梅香咸鱼 in Chinese). Unlike salted fishes that are dried by sun, the fluid and freshness are locked in moist salted fish and give it a stronger smell and deeper flavor.

big salted fishes for sale
Pic: huge salted fishes. The taste of bigger salted fishes are usually better than the small ones. Big salted fish is a hot selling item and sometimes it is out of stock. Old customers will book it with hawker earlier.

The dried seafood here is not cheap though, but you can always bargain. Many are willing to spend hundreds because they can’t find such high-quality products elsewhere.

dried anchovy fishes (ikan bilis)
Pic: dried anchovy fishes (Ikan Bilis in Malay language)

Dried anchovy fishes are commonly used in Malaysian food (e.g. Nasi Lemak), even tourists like it. You can fry it with sugar and eat it like snack, best if comes with beer.

dried shrimp
Pic: dried shrimp

dried seaweed
Pc: dried seaweed with different types and grades (purple being the best grade). Seaweed is rich in collagen and natural nutrients. Some call it “Sea Bird Nest ” or “Poor Man’s Bird Nest”.

dried sea cucumbers in Tanjung Market
Pic: dried sea cucumber is considered a delicacy in Chinese food. It is very expensive.

dried fish maw in Pasar Tanjung Tawau
Pic: dried fish maw and squid

variety of dried seafood in Pasar Tanjung Tawau
Pic: all sort of salty stuffs for sale

free packing service

packing dried seafood in box
Pic: the hawker can pack the dried seafood for you into a box, so you can check-in them into cargo. Never hand-carry them onboard.

vegetable stalls in ground floor of Pasar Tanjung Tawau
In ground floor of Tanjung Market are fruit, vegetables, meat and grocery stalls, where you can find local and imported items from Indonesia. Dried seafood is on 1st floor. 2nd floor is selling apparels.

local snacks for sale in Tawau Tanjung Market

Sabah snacks
The ground floor has so many Tawau and Indonesian snacks that you may like to check out. Some items such as cashew nut is sold cheaper than Peninsular Malaysia. Other popular buy are kacipok, atong nut and tapok nut.

keropok amplang (amplang cracker)
Pic: Amplang crackers

A snack I strongly recommend you to try is the ball-shaped and crunchy amplang cracker made from Spanish mackerel mixed with tapioca flour and special spices. Trust me, this cracker has no funny or unpleasant smell. Everyone loves it. Tawau makes the best Amplang cracker in Sabah.

front of Pasar Tanjung Tawau
Pic: To Malaysians, this is the gate to Heaven of seafood to buy something that makes our mom and wife happy.

Want to see more photos? Please check out my photo album below.

Created with flickr badge.

How to get there

Tanjung Market is in Tawau city centre, located along Jalan Dunlop (Dunlop Road) and next to the Tawau Customs, Immigration and Quarantine Complex. You may see the location map (Google Map).

Photos taken in Tawau, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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