It is a balmy night on the golden sand of Malohom Bay at YTL Hotels’ newly opened Gaya Island Resort. The Casuarina trees soar over us and the waves lap calmly lap at the bay as we are handed glasses of chilled sauvignon blanc.
In the two evenings that we will dine here, we will experience the cuisines of the region, the first being The Bajau Laut Beach Barbecue- homage to the cuisine of the sea-faring tribes of Borneo, and the second being the Sinigang Steamboat, a hotpot meal inspired by the large population from the Philippines living in Sabah.
Set on a prisine patch of sand overlooking the beautiful, serene bay, The Bajau Laut Beach Barbecue begins with a Mango Refresher- a crisp leafy salad tossed with sweet mango, dried shrimp, fresh crabmeat and tangy segments of grapefruit, sprinkled with crushed peanuts. It is an awakening in the mouth, sweet, sour, refreshing. Alongside the salad, we are served a shot of lihing, the famous Kadazan rice wine.
Our palate suitably stimulated, we move on to the barbecue selections which feature a bounty of land and sea, marinated with lemongrass, ginger and salt to enhance the natural sweetness of each meat as they are grilled over hot coals. Succulent chicken skewers with Sarawak pineapple, moist chunks of beef interspersed with charred leeks, plump prawns, fillets of grouper fish and squid are served, complemented with sides of local sweet corn, pumpkin, sweet potatoes and eggplant. Steamed mountain red rice, fruit pickles and the traditional Kadazan shredded relish, Hinava are offered alongside as well.
We eat our fill and more, entranced in the sublime combination of sea breeze, good company and delicious food. When the waitresses move to bring dessert, we groan “no more”, but our taste buds are piqued by the Coconut Jelly with Caramelised Sarawak pineapple, it is neither rich, nor sweetly cloying, it is light, refreshing zesty. The perfect uplifting end to a delectable feast.
The Bajau Laut Beach Barbecue is priced at MYR350++ per person is bookable by guests of Gaya Island Resort through www.gayaislandresort.com.