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posted Mar 7, 2012, 7:59 PM by Haris Hashim   [ updated Mar 16, 2012, 10:02 AM ]


Tawau, where I am at. Is a secrete enclave for seafood lover. It is very much a secrete since I think I am the only one who knew about it ;). Anyway, we are going to have a sneak peak into Mr. Lobster today. Hopefully will have enough time to attend #iDempiere meeting tonight.

(Update: Attended in silent over lobster meat, watching all those superdeveloped people talking about stuff that I don't really understand ... yet!)


About few years back, wifey and me decide to open up a chocolate shop in her home town in Tawau. With help from lots of people we manage to setup a shop in Eastern Plaza. 

At that moment, Eastern Plaza is the only multi storey shopping complex with air condition. IMHO is still the only nice place to shop without much hassle. Eastern Plaza is attached to Promenade Hotel. Covered parking is free and in abundance. It is about 2 KM out of Tawau town and 3 KM from Pasar Tanjung Tawau. This means, it is out of town wide jam (yes we have traffic jam in Tawau), yet still within walking distant for backpackers or those who like to experience Tawau on foot.

To ramble about Tawau a bit more. I would like to opine here something that might not be obvious to visitors in a glance. The heart of Tawau is not the shopping complexes, not the town that is filled with walk in shops along the roads and not even the superstores or supermarkets that is a lot in such a small town. The heart of Tawau is Pasar Tanjung Tawau mentioned above. 

The pasar is not even at the centre of town. Since part of Pasar Tanjung Tawau, and the most important part I would say, is the fish market. By function, the fish market must be adjacent to the sea for fish unloading function. Just use Google Map and you would see that the town it self is attached to the market. These collection of shops along the town road is what make the Tawau town ship.

At least people nowadays call that part of town as old town. There are efforts to move the town and hence the people further away inland. Eastern Plaza is part of the effort. There is also Giant about 5 KM inland. Bandar Sri Indah (with it's own attempt of fresh/fish market) 20 KM further and on the way to Tawau Airport, which is located 30 KM away.

Effort to move the town away from the pasar is to avoid human crowding that small area as well traffic jam at the centre of the Town. From my observation this effort is not succeeding much. It is like a guy patronizing Strip Club in Baton Rouge while his sweat heart is in New Orleans. In the same spirit, Pasar Tanjung Tawau is the heart of Tawau. People keep coming back, keep crowding the town and every now and then (mostly around the Raya celebration time) there will be massive jam in the town.

Update: Read about avoiding traffic jam here Monday - Nasi Goreng Teratai

The Shop and The Restaurant

So the chocolate shop have a great and hassle free location. Initially we start on a less crowded floor though. The rationale at that time was that it is just across women clothing shop that is shared and managed by my wife and her sister (and later add another sister!). In fact it is a good place to start since there is a big stationary shop nearby. So the customer was mostly families, patron of the stationary shop,  as well as chicks and trendy ladies who visit the clothing shop.

In time the customers grow as people begin to realize that Eastern Plaza house the one and only home made chocolate shop in Tawau. Still the shop is a little bit out of the way. From time to time, we get new customer who was amazed when told that the shop has been in operation for quite sometime. Even a year and we escape their notice!

6 month down the road, another sister open up a restaurant. Also in Eastern Plaza but with better location nearby to the food court. In the lower ground floor, which I would say the most patronized floor. Not just because of the food court. Also due to Servay Jaya (Servey is the main supermarket in Tawau) fresh market, groceries as well as DIY department is located in that floor. The floor is also the part of Eastern Plaza that is gazetted for foods and drinks. 

It would take another 4 month to rent an adjacent shop, renovation to combine both shop area and make it cozy. As well as giving birth (my wife, not me !) to a cute and very healthy daughter. In time for Puasa & Raya of 2011.

Fast forward to now. The clothing shop, split to 2 shop. The chocolate shop is now  chocolate & cake shop under the same roof of the restaurant but in different partition  separated by glass wall. The restaurant patron area is slightly bigger. With the big bonus of having another kitchen. Patron can sit down in the chocolate shop for chocolate or cakes and have drinks. Or sit down in the main restaurant area and have everything provided by the two shop under the same roof!

The Western Commence

Having two kitchen give this exciting opportunity to go beyond the call of normal restaurant providing standard Malaysian food. So fourth quarter of 2011, we execute this idea of venturing into other type of food as demonstrated by bellow flyer (prepared by, you-know-who :D).

More food choices

The western menu get a good reception. So we expand it and have more promotion!

Western Sets

The offering is simple and affordable. Not 5 star class western food, but we do get westerner as regular customer. The cheese cake is a favourite while the lamb chop unique. Since we do the "brown sauce" and hence the black paper sauce in house! Dabble it with a little bit of mint sauce, and the taste is divine.

However, I would say the local pick-up is more or less is because in Tawau, western offering are usually from non Muslim restaurant. So having located somewhere very accessible. Being the only Muslim owned restaurant that carry western food there. Is definitely a plus point.

The Heart Ache

As someone coming from Semenanjung (Peninsular of Malaysia). I have this ache somewhere near my heart (more accurately, there in the stomach!). 

On the early days, seeing all those fresh sea food material in Pasar Tanjung Tawau. Very cheap compared to the price paid even in Kuala Lumpur.  (Hint, fish price in Kuala Lumpur is sometime cheaper than certain places in Perak. Where the fish is actually caught to be sent to Kuala Lumpur!)

But to several disadvantage. I have mentioned this many time to those who know me personally. Tawau people cook their seafood is in very economic manner. To the point that the taste is lesser. Let say, comparing the taste to my favourite seafood jaunt in Lumut. 

There is also the cost factor. Even though fresh seafood material is cheap. The end product is priced expensively in restaurants that specifically cater for seafood .

Take it from me. Even the eating experience is diluted. You can walk into a seafood restaurant, order a meal, have it along with good chat among family members and be out and away in 1 hour. Why do this when the heart of Tawau it self is waiting, fresh sea produce in abundance. Not to forget friendly hawkers eager to have friendly banter about how much you should pay for those fresh stuff.

The Lobster That Solve The Heart Ache

As the story begin. I was there at the fish market looking for totally different stuff. Then I saw a stall with few lobster left. 

For quite sometime, I have been meaning to have fresh lobster. However this is the first time I saw it being sold in the fish market. Perhaps lobster catch are seasonal? 

After friendly chat with the hawker, I decide to survey other stall first. 

There is one other stall with lots of lobster. The price is the same at RM75 per KG. I double back to the first stall since the lobster there is bigger. In addition, he must be doing something right because the lobsters are almost sold out :D.

Here is the picture of the lobster. Slightly above 600gm, bought at RM40 after a little bit haggling. Take note that this is Sabah lobster (which bear similarities to Australian lobster). It is without claw as in the case of the American lobster.

Lobster Full Picture

The lobster was alive in the market. It arrive to the restaurant still alive and amidst shouting among the squeamish serving girls. However, my little girl of 9 month have no qualm about the live lobster. And for one I felt very thankful that it is without claws! 

The Lobster That Is Cooked

As the lobster is unplanned that day. It stay alive for the next few hours while both sister discuss what style of cooking to apply to this cute monster. I have heard "3 rasa", Sweat and Sour and lobster soup being mentioned (I would love to have that lobster soup since crab soup from the same chef taste very good). But at the end of the day, my wife overrule for a western recipe. So the cooking commence in parallel with customer orders. As the day has been quite a busy day.

cooked lobster

What you you see above on the lobster are a lot of cheese sprinkled with parsley and little bit of mustard to add tangy taste to the recipe. Also using chicken stock for the base flavour. It surprise me how everyday stuff make the end result rich with flavour! The side dishes are the usual coleslaw, fries with cucumber and a piece of salad for decoration. But to be honest I love to eat the cucumber. It sooth the tongue with cool and fresh taste.

So that is my dinner on that day! Ok, let me make a small correction. It is our dinner that day. It is a tradition to share when we have something new. To get feedback as well as talk over dinner how to make improvement. At the end of the day, we are all one happy family. And sharing is caring!

What if?

What if you want to have the same experience as above? What it takes to experience Tawau to the fullest? Experience the heart of Tawau and at the same time enjoy tasty and affordable seafood!

I have been toying with this idea for sometime. Targeting visitor from Semenanjug or even tourist from abroad. Buy fresh stuff from the pasar and let us do the cooking. No need to worry about  the ingredients or how to cook. Just get the main material. In this blog it is a lobster. But it can be any type of fish (discounting ikan Buntal or any fish that is poisonous), tiger prawn or squids.

There must be communication in advance in which we can advice in term of what to buy or what needed to to be done. For instance the hawker can cut and clean big fishes according to cooking style. For seasonal item such as lobster, availability information can be given even before the trip is made.

Of course, at the moment it is still an idea. Hence the reason behind this article. To provide background information as well as solicit further feedback and ideas. But if any of my reader is planning to travel to Tawau or Sabah in general. Perhaps we can give this idea a test ride. 

*Update: I have post link to this article on Facebook. In fact, it is best to leave your comment or say hello to me on my Facebook page. Since Google Sites does not allow public comments. Just look for Haris Hashim or Homebrew Tech. Note to self: Get Facebook URL and make it easier for people to find you.