« Arrival in Kota Kinabalu | Main | Driving in Sabah »

Filipino BBQ at Night Market in Kota Kinabalu

Filipino Night Market

Seller at the Filipino BBQ

This is the second in a series of more in-depth posts on our trip to Borneo.
February 12, 2009

We are always surprised at how draining the heat and humidity can be. We took advantage of our air conditioned room to rest and refresh ourselves during the afternoon. We had read a lot about the Filipino night market. It happens every night along the waterfront in Kota Kinabalu. It was not far from the hotel and decided to check it out.

We arrived at the market around 6pm and it was already in full swing. The vendors seemed to be organized by what they sold - chili, vegetables, fruit, produce and closer to the water - poultry. On the other side were the food vendors. The woks were hot serving up stir fries. Other booths had ice shavers and prepared Ais Kacang or ABC, a sweet mix of shaved ice, sweetened condensed milk, gelatin, cendol and other items.

Filipino Night Market

Limes and hot chilies

Filipino Night Market
Ginger and onion

Mangos at Filipino Night Market


The smoke and wonderful smell from the BBQ led us back to the corner and the Filipino BBQ. The grills were set up along the waterfront. You can stroll along the smoky aisle to see the wide variety of fish available - fillets, whole fish, prawn, king prawns, whole squids. Next to the grills are long cafeteria style tables set under a canopy. Go to the opposite head of the table to negotiate and select your meal. At the opposite end of the table, a seller is setup with recently grilled seafood and ready to provide you with whatever you want.

Filipino Night Market

Grills in action

We were hungry and decided to go for the King Prawns. The owner took our order and sent our selection back to be reheated and finished. He directed us over to the table and showed us how to do the dipping sauce. Take a handful of the small potent birds-eye chilies, crush them a bit with the spoon, salt, pour a little bit of the sweet soy sauce and water. He gave us a bowl to pour water and wash our hands. They asked if wanted "nasi" which is rice. We said "Yes" and they brought us two bowls of rice. A package of paper napkins was dropped on the table. Napkins were very poor in Malaysia They were often very small and very thin or just a box of tissues (Kleenex). We used a lot of the Wet-Ones we brought along. We also took some hand sanitizer but never used it.

King Prawns

King Prawns

Our two prawns arrived - steaming hot just off the BBQ. We washed our hands in the bowl and dug in. You eat with your hands. Peel a segment of prawn; grab a hand of rice. It was somewhat primeval sitting under the smokey evening light eating with our hands. But it was great. The prawns were meaty and sweet. I should have devined them since they were a little gritty and sandy but otherwise very tasty. We also had a couple of Malaysian canned drinks. We asked for 'sodas' but they heard 'soya' and we gave us two canned Seasons brand soya drinks They were actually much better than having a Coke. The dipping sauce was spicy hot, the shrimp was sweet, the drinks were refreshing, the atmosphere was very exotic. It cost us about 80RM (~23USD) and was wonderful for such an experience.

Related Posts: Arrival in Kota Kinabalu - First in the series

Filipino Night Market

Our view across the tables

Ready for dinner
Ready for dinner

Enjoying dinner
Enjoying the prawns - note the dipping sauce, drinks and other dishes

Filipino Night Market
Another shot of the variety of fish

Filipino Night Market
Smoky Grills

Comments (9)


Oh Marta, I can nearly smell the aromas that surrounded you. Bet your clothes absorbed them all. Looking forward to the next installments.

Barb Cabot:

Marta, these are wonderful photographs (that should be no surprise to any of us). You have documented a slice of life that looks busy, exciting and colorful. I feel like I can almost smell the aromas. Wonderful, keep em coming, so exotic.

Terry (teaberry):

Great market shots, Marta. All the food looks soo good. BTW, what are durians? Did you try them?

Marta's reply - Durians are an extremely obnoxious smelling fruit. Some people love it - others hate it. It is sometimes described as gym socks, bathrooms, sewer, rotting onions, skunk. They are banned from hotels and public transportation.

We didn't see very many because they were not in season and didn't try them. The ones we saw didn't smell much either (or else I couldn't smell them). They are supposed to have a custardy taste. It is used in several sweet items like candy, ice cream, etc.

We did try jackfruit which is similar in looks but doesn't have a smell. It is good and more like a firm crisp mango.

Funny, when I saw the picture of the Durian, I thought..."Brave Marta, standing their taking a pic of that open stinky thing." I'm surprised that you couldn't smell it.

The picture of your King Prawn dinner makes me drool, and I love all the photos of the specialized booths in the market.

I wonder what onions and ginger are grouped together?


Great shots of the market. I noticed the hearts of palm too... How cool to have that.

Why is it called Filipino Night Market? Are the vendors all Filipinos? Filipino food featured? Interesting.

I'm not completely certain why it is called the Filipino Market. During the day, there is a crafts/souvenir market in a covered area next to where the open night market is held. A lot of the goods are from the Philippines (shell chandeliers, baskets, pearls, beads etc). I think originally the sellers were Filipino but I saw mostly locals. There is a large immigrant population of Filipinos both legal and illegal.

There were a lot of strong intense smells - good and bad. I'm not certain if I could have told what smell was from the Durian versus the other smells. I had the hardest time with smell from the poultry sellers. They were dead but the smell on the warm night - yech! I was glad they were down near the water where there could be a bit of a breeze. And far away from the BBQ.

I loved the virtual tour in the market!
Can't wait to do the real tour in Thailand:)
I've read about Durians, I actually think I will try them, if I can get past the smell that is.

I really enjoyed looking at all of your market photos. It looks like you had a delicious dinner. I think the Durian fruit stinks more when it is cut open, but I can't be sure. I remember the smell when I was in Hong Kong a long time ago.

Aja Ng:

Hi Marta,

Great shots and recommendations. I'm wondering if you will let me use 2 of your photos on a travel portal I am putting together on Kota Kinabalu? Also can't wait to try the barbecue at the Filipino Market.

Would be most appreciated! Please let me know.



Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on March 10, 2009 1:12 PM.

The previous post in this blog was Arrival in Kota Kinabalu.

The next post in this blog is Driving in Sabah.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.

Powered by
Movable Type 3.33
© 2004 - 2014 Slow Travel