Written by @joehairie (Photos by curiostraveller.com)
Thought of the day– “You don’t have to cook fancy or complicated masterpieces-just good food from fresh ingredients.”-Julia Child
(This particular restaurant is one of our best recommendations of eateries in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah for your Ramadhan 2017 Sungkai/berbuka puasa)
In Thailand, Chim Chum (pronounced as t͡ɕîm t͡ɕùm) is regard as street food. To produce Chim Chum, a charcoal stove (clay pot) is filled with broth. The burning charcoal will get the broth boiling and that’s the right moment to put uncooked food inside it. People in Laos and Cambodia have long been using this cooking method. It’s about using that hot pot to dip something for a while (Chim) or quickly dip it (Chum). Today, Chim Chum is still being used but in a contemporary environment, such as in Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar Restaurant, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia.
In Kota Kinabalu City, there are quite a number of restaurants that focuses on Steamboat and each have their own unique style to attract customers. While others opt to use the modern Steamboat, Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar chose to stay with the tradition as in Chim Chum by the Thais. They literally have that particular Chim Chum, in many units and sizes. We are very much interested to learn how such old cooking method is still relevant to today’s business environment.
Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar Restaurant is located at Bandar Sepanggar Phase 1. The restaurant is just next to the Hotel Tang Dynasty Sepanggar Bay and it’s already in operation for some months. It offers one single product, steamboat and it uses the hot pot that is similar to the Thai’s Chim Chum, technically speaking. The design might be different but has the same direction, cooking good food!
Steamboat in Cooking Terms is the hot pot itself and today, there are many versions of that in Asia. Bakar is a Malay word that best translated as burning. The most popular steamboat is the one that people put a ‘pot’ on a portable gas stove, turn up the heat and pour the broth into the pot. For longer session (as in few hours of steamboat), the portable stove is connected to a gas cylinder. Recently, we had a steamboat dinner session that used the steam to cook the food.
That’s common. We want to see something different and it’s available at Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar. They have hot pots that resembles the Chim Chum. All the hot pots here are not connected to gas cylinder. Instead, there’s a kind of space or pocket inside that pot where staffs put inside some burning charcoal. It will release sufficient heat to help boiling that broth and at the same time getting the round shape on top, ready for the barbecuing process.
All You Can Eat
Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar redefined the use of Chim Chum as to cater for large number of customers. It’s not a fixed menu as in some restaurants where you get the predetermined sets of raw items, we hate that, honestly speaking. Today’s foodies are looking for something valuable in return for their spending. Yes, big return and that’s available here at Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar. They are offering not only ‘the return’ for your spending but giving that cultural lesson, in food terminology of course!
It’s something super exciting to know that they have to heavily rely on the charcoal efficiency to help heating the pot. Customers are going to need the pot heating for few hours as this is buffet, all you can eat concept. The heat from the charcoal must be consistent until customers decide to stop cooking and eating. Customers are to Chim and Chum. Chim is to dip raw food items into the broth for a while and Chum is to dip quickly.
The Art of Chim Chum
Before you even think of doing the Chim and Chum, you need to gather all your ingredients in advance. Mind you, the number of customers keeps increasing as it gets to 7 pm onward, especially during weekends and public holidays! You will need a meticulous plan. A smart one. Fret not, if a part of the spread is empty, it will be refilled by the hard working staffs. There are some buffet counters scattered across the dining hall.
The long black granite counter-top assembles the desserts, greens, Laksa Penang and cooked items. For your Chim Chum or Steamboat Bakar, your concentration is on that 2 long see thru refrigerator. Inside, plenty of proteins from seafood to chicken, fish balls, crab sticks, more greens and other fresh veges, the list goes on! Since it will be refilled if someone is to empty it, go slow but with a plan in your head about the next protein you will choose!
We did go slow as we wanted to enjoy the experience and see how our pot’s working. We’ve never have that experience before so we want to ’embrace’ the knowledge by going slow. We chose prawns, sliced squid, chicken and beef meat as well as selected greens for our ‘first experiment’ with that unique pot.
Let’s see how the pot looks like. There’s this round shape pot that has 2 compartments in it. In the middle is the half globe shape and it’s meant for grilling your desired food items. There are series of small openings on the said ‘globe’ and thru that holes the heat comes out, generated by the burning charcoal inside it.
At the edge is where the soup of your choice is to be poured. You will have the liberty to choose between Chicken or Tom Yum Soup. We chose the latter. One little piece of chicken fat is used to grease the surface so that food items do not hardly stick on it.
It’s logic. Marinated beef and chicken are to be grilled. The rest, you may choose to either dip em’ into the broth or simply grill it. You may want to put the proteins first as they need longer time to cook than the greens. For our ‘first try’ we grilled some prawns with marinated chicken and beef. The rest went into the broth.
Follow your instinct, that’s our advice. As you go along playing with the art of Chim Chum, you will know when it’s time to dip in the greens. It didn’t take that long for our greens to be cooked and they were absolutely YUM. The Tom Yum broth really gave that pungent but pleasant aroma, nice smell we say and the taste, it’s heaven!
We keep putting more greens and selected non greens such as sliced Carrot and Jicama (Sweet Turnip/Yam Bean/Sengkuang). The selections are up to you as there are plenty available in that long see thru refrigerators. Putting seafood into the Tom Yum broth/soup will enhance the overall flavor and if you prefer spicier broth then put some bird eye chili into it.
Our greens and non greens were cooked sooner than we’ve expected. The burning charcoal really did a good job after all in heating the surface of the pot thus enabling the broth to boil faster. The prawns turned to red color indicating that it’s perfectly cooked while the marinated beef were almost ready to be consumed, exactly 10 minutes after we started grilling.
For Asians, eating that delectable proteins and greens/non greens is not complete if there’s no dipping sauce. At Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar, they do prepare some amazing dipping sauces or Sambal (as Malaysians named it). The level of spiciness, moderate to extreme. We prefer the latter!
We did our first Chim and Chum, dipping many raw food items into that aromatic Tom Yum soup. It was time to taste em’ and we had our dipping sauces with us already. The Tom Yum soup gave that distinct tastes to all types of food cooked in the hot pot. The Squid tasted delicious, the greens were absolutely nice and the Jicama retained its crunchy taste but tasted heavenly! The grilled items? They were amazingly well grilled, with great flavors and retained their freshness though well cooked!
Those who need sides for the already awesome boiled and grilled food items need not worry as Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar offers endless servings of noodles and fried rice. All of em’ are cooked fresh from the restaurant’s kitchen (if someone emptying the buffet container, it will be refilled). We tried some and honestly not the greatest on earth but it’s alright, after all where can you get all these, endlessly for just RM28? This is a true bargain, we say.
Who doesn’t like Laksa Penang? Most Malaysians do and here at Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar, there’s spread of Laksa Penang ingredients and all that you need to do is to assemble it into one pretty and delicious serving, as we did. We are impressed with the high quality of that Laksa Penang broth. We dare to say that the real value of each serving of that Laksa Penang is worth at least RM10 per bowl. Remember, this is buffet, it’s about that ‘All you can eat’. Have 2 bowls and that’s already RM20. One adult pays RM28 for endless serving. You do the maths.
Thirsty? Need something cold to drink as the Tom Yum soup or the dipping sauce is spicy? Worry not as one of the counters has several cordial beverages for you to choose and remember, this is buffet. Have as much as you want but not too much as you need to save some space for more food items!
There’s more. There’s even the ABC (Ais Batu Campur) machine. At this station, you get to choose your own ingredients and syrup(s) to make your own ABC or Shaved Ice Dessert. There are plenty of ingredients to choose from and you get the freedom to decide on the level of sweetness of your Shaved Ice Dessert. You are to put things inside and on top, no one will stop you. Thinking of putting scoops of Ice Cream on top of the ABC? Why not. We did.
Good news for the kids and Ice Cream lovers (the adults), there’s one see thru fridge with 8 choices, your choice. It’s buffet, remember? Have more and more if 2-3 scoops ain’t enough.
Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar opens daily starting at 5pm. Most customers will come in after 7PM and at this hour the restaurant gets pretty busy. If you come without reservation, you might be disappointed. Big groups, large families, birthday events and many more will sure to secure more tables leaving you standing outside, waiting for empty table. We recommend you to reserve in advance and be warned, during breaking fast in the coming Ramadhan Month is quite ‘festive’ here, tables are booked in advance. Pick up the phone and call.
It’s nice to see how kids were extremely happy that night we visited the restaurant. They were extremely delighted to know that the Ice Cream’s fridge was there to please them. It will, every single evening except when the owners decide to have their off days. Your kids will be happy too and your pocket(s) will not be that emptier as the price of the buffet is reasonable. It’s the cheapest in the city, considering all that goodies awaiting on the buffet counters.
Planning to have your birthday party? Someone is getting a year older? This is the right place to be. Tables can be combined to ‘unite’ all of you in one big circle. While everyone gets to wish the ‘birthday person’, the buffet counters are there, waiting with its endless servings of good foods.
There’s nothing better than having a great place to eat good foods with family members. The joy of eating together is equally important to having good foods on the table. Have that two and add with joy of a birthday celebration, it gives that true meaning of family bonding. That’s how we see things while we were at Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar. They enjoyed their moments and we enjoyed embracing that Chim Chum culture into our thoughts. An evening with great buffet dinner to be remembered for a very long time.
We went home feeling extremely satisfied with the quality of the good foods cooked in our Chim Chum. It’s that All You Can Eat session and yes, we ate all that we could. It’s interesting to learned new ways of grilling and boiling. It’s something not that associated to the common and mainstream ‘modern steamboats’. The dining experience gave us some valuable knowledge, in regard to the Chim Chum. It’s about understanding others culture.
Chim Chum was a norm in the olden days and it has long become popular as Thailand Street Food. The cooking method seems to sporadically spread and being accepted in Malaysia. In Sabah, Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar brings it in and redefining the use of Chim Chum in a more practical business approach, to please the Kings and Queens of Buffets.
It’s one of our best dining experiences, we ate and we learned new things. It’s mainly about the art of Chim Chum. This a place that we truly recommend to all of you. It’s the overall quality of this restaurant that we’re amazed with. The price of the buffet is extremely cheap. Affordable. There are so many food items to choose from. The service? Fast and efficient. Staffs are friendly, polite and attentive.
Ramdahan Month 2017 is around the corner. For Muslims that are looking for a great place to break fast with friends or family, this is the place that we truly and honestly recommend. Off Ramadhan Month, this restaurant is still a good place to consider to have your Steamboat Bakar Buffet. Remember. the price is affordable.
Looking for a great restaurant that has amazing and affordable Steamboat Buffet? Head to:
STEAMBOAT BAKAR SEPANGGAR
B-0-1 & B-0-2 Ground Floor, Lot 9
Block B, Bandar Sepanggar Phase 1
Jalan Sepanggar Bay, Manggatal
88450 Kota Kinabalu
Tel: (+6) 011 1055 5235
Facebook: Steamboat Bakar Kota Kinabalu
Adult : RM28.00
Kids (7-12 years old): RM15.00
Kids (Under 7): F.O.C
Operation Hours: 5.00 PM to 11.00 PM (Daily)
Photo Gallery- As We See it @ Steamboat Bakar Sepanggar
“Great food needed more than Chefs; It needed Gourmet Diners”-Nicole Mones