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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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Nabalu, the mid-way stop to Kinabalu Park

Pekan Nabalu

Pekan Nabalu (“pekan” means town) is used to be a “toilet stop” for tourists heading to Kinabalu Park. Now this small town is flourishing and become a “must stop” for tourists.

junction to Pekan Nabalu

Pekan Nabalu is only 12 KM before Kinabalu Park, so a lot of tourists stop here for toilet break or breakfast. Tourist buses love to stop here due to the ample and spacious parking space in Nabalu.

Nabalu town
However, there are more reasons why tourists like to stop here but not other places.

Location of Nabalu:
location map of Pekan Nabalu


View My Sabah Map in a larger map

Reason 1: View of Mt. Kinabalu

The 15-Meter watch tower of Nabalu is so prominent at the roadside that every motorist passing by will notice it. Nabalu town is one of the best spots to see Mt. Kinabalu and its adjacent landscape. Tour Guides also like to bring climbers here for a “preview” of the mountain before the climb.

watch tower of Pekan Nabalu

Pekan Nabalu and Mt. Kinabalu
Above: the view of Mt. Kinabalu from watch tower

platform of Pekan Nabalu
At the edge of the town there is also a platform to see Mt. Kinabalu. It’s an ideal photography point to use Mt. Kinabalu as your backdrop, as there is nothing obstruct the view, no tall trees, no electricity wire, etc. The mountain also looks very close as if you can hug it.

Mt. Kinabalu
However, Mt. Kinabalu is covered in mist most of the time, so you need to be lucky to get a clear view of it. You will have better chance if you get there before 8am or 9am and the weather is good.

group selfie with Mt. Kinabalu
Above: group selfie with Mt. Kinabalu

information board at the platform
Above: The information board at the platform to show you what peaks you are looking at.

sunrise of Mt. Kinabalu
Above: a lovely morning view of Mt. Kinabalu from Nabalu

Reason 2: Local Handicraft & Food Markets

Another reason that draws the tourists is the handicraft and food markets in Nabalu. The price is cheaper than city, provided that you have good bargaining skill. Don’t be shy to ask for discount.

stalls in Nabalu town
Above: a corner of the food market

food market of Pekan Nabalu
You can find rich variety of local food and produces. Almost every type of fruits, vegetables and snacks are available in the food market of Nabalu.

honey for sale
Above: honey with bee nest for RM85 (≈USD26)!

hill paddy
Above: hill paddy in 5 colors, RM5 per pack (≈USD1.50). The seller says the 1st one (from left) has aroma of maize, and the 3rd one is Pandan favor.

peanut
Above: local peanut

wild durian
Above: they even have wild durian if you come at right season

handicraft corridor of Pekan Nabalu

Sabah handicraft

There is a building with tons of handicraft and souvenirs line up in its 50-Meter long verandah. Being bombarded by so many colorful and beautiful items, very few tourists can resist not buying anything.

handicraft walkway in Nabalu town

handicraft and souvenir

The shops sell almost any item that you can name, e.g. T-shirt, bags, stationary, key-chain, refrig magnet, puff toy, batik cloth, hats, baskets, purses, handicraft, photo frames, bead work, postcards. The things pile up like factory outlet and you will be spoiled with choices. Remember, ask for discount.

Reason 3: The Toilet

The last reason, but not the least, is the toilet. Though it’s not a 5-star toilet, it’s reasonably clean. The air in Nabalu is cool and refreshing, so it’s nice to take a short walk and stretch your muscle, after sitting so long in the car.

toilet of Pekan Nabalu
Above: public toilet, RM0.30 per entry (≈USD0.10)

Photos taken in Kota Belud, Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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