First things first, what is Pisang Cheese? While most local Malaysians may have heard of this or tried this before, the foreigner is probably clueless to this term. Well, Malaysia is pretty well known for their Goreng Pisang or Banana Fritters throughout the country, but here in Sabah, a different type of Goreng Pisang is served as a common snack. Pisang Cheese is actually Fried Banana Fritters that are sprinkled with shredded cheese and brown sugar on the top and then served fresh.
My first try was a few years ago in Semporna town on the east coast of Sabah where a good friend there recommended this snack to me. Hearing the description put me off but when the Pisang Cheese came, it was and amazing out-of-this-world experience in my mouth. I kid you not, the combination of sweet and cheesy worked out well for this dish. Never had I tried Goreng Pisang in this form and soon, another plate was ordered.
Since then, it has been my mission to locate the so-called best Goreng Pisang Cheese or Fried Banana Fritters with Cheese in Sabah, and according to many locals, the best was found in Tawau city which is on the east cost of Sabah. And so my mission began.
|Pisang Cheese at Tawau Kopitiam|
In April 2014, I made my way to Tawau on route to Mabul Island for some scuba diving. And without any hesitation, I asked Pat, my dive companion and local Sabahan to take me to the place that served this interesting dish. He on the other hand, recommended me to a place called Tawau Kopitiam. So, we went there and placed the crucial order.
As the waiter brought out the dish and served it to our table, my eyes grew big in excitement. No hesitation - it went into my mouth without even offering the rest of the friends. Wow, such an amazing taste I mumbled while eating the Pisang Cheese. Then after the first one, I could have sworn that the one I had in Semporna was a little better than this. So I asked Pat, "Are you sure this is the best in Tawau?" He calmly replied that he did not know if it was, but this was his regular joint he had it every time he visited Tawau.
|How it's done - cheese is grated over the fried banana fritters|
|The cheese is added after sprinkling the pounded Gula Melaka|
The following morning when I was walking around town on my own, I decided to ask some really local Tawau people about where is the best place to have the snack and to cut a long story short - out of 5 people I asked, 4 told me about a place called Indo Cafe.
And then, my mission was re-activated again. Just before we left Tawau, we searched high and low for this place and mind you, it was not easy finding it as many locals just gave simple landmarks like "it's over the, behind that hotel" or "go straight, turn left, then right, then straight and you will see it". For some reason, all the directions given were wrong which left us on a wild goose chase.
|Indo Cafe in Tawau, Sabah|
After asking about 10 people and a good 30 minutes of looking for Indo Cafe in Tawau, we found it. Eureka! It was a small little cafe in a dead end area. Blink your eyes and you would miss it. There were about 6 small tables cramped into the shop lot. Looking at the menu, I knew I hit the jackpot as there were multiple types of Pisang Goreng available here. So this was the claimed mother of all Pisang Cheese in Sabah. This was going to be real good....
|The special menu on the wall of Indo Cafe|
Now, one of the things I have heard about was other variations of Pisang Goreng and that one of them was a very special dish called Pisang Peppek, which is actually a flattened Goreng Pisang served with a spicy sambal sauce. Ok, the sound of it just got weirder and weirder but to my surprise, Indo Cafe was serving it!
Pisang Peppek or known locally as 'Sanggar Peppek' or 'Pisang Penyet' is actually a Bugis dish and it means 'snacks that are fried'. So it's all good in the translation department here and for Malaysians, don't let your mind run like mine did. Not only did it run far, we all had a good laugh about it.
Back to the story - So, anything with the word 'Pisang' was ordered. The dishes came one by one - Pisang Cheese, Pisang Peppek and Pisang Coklet Kacang (Chocholate Sauce, Nuts and Banana). This was it, a feast ready to be savored and decided.
Pisang Cheese - After all that hype, searching and testing, I would say that Indo Cafe does have the best Pisang Goreng Cheese in Tawau. You can even have them add extra cheese on your dish for a fee too. However, in my own personal opinion, I think the one at Semporna taste much better than here in Indo Cafe. Why? Because of the flour batter that they use to fry the bananas. The one is Semporna seem to be fluffier and crispy. And the bananas that they use are the half ripe ones compared to Indo Cafe who used a different type.
Pisang Coklet Kacang - This was quite nice, the best among all three dishes we tried. The sweetness of the chocolate combined with the nuts were excellent. Following through with the sweetness of the banana, it complimented the whole dish. In fact, everyone loved this.
Pisang Peppek - I've really never tried this anywhere before but this one really got to me. The pisang is hammered and fried and not much taste in it but the special sauce makes up for everything else. It's a kind of Belachan and Sambal mixture, or a shrimp paste and spicy sambal combination. To me, the sauce was absolutely outstanding! I ended up buying 2 bottles of the sauce from them.
|Pisang Coklet Kacang - Chocolate and grounded peanuts over the Goreng Pisang|
|Pisang Peppek - Hammered banana fritters served with a nice savory and spicy sambal sauce|
|Indo Cafe Menu|
For those heading to Tawau in Sabah, you can find Indo Cafe in the town area. However if you are planning to walk there, it may be a little tricky. Best to ask locals and ask a few to be sure. There are two branches where this one reviewed is the original one and the other is located in another area of Tawau.
Indo Cafe (Original)
TB 4604, Ground Floor,
Banungan Win Onn,
Jalan Bantu, Tawau
Hours: 8am - 7pm
Tel: 014 671 3994
Indo Cafe II
TB16024, Unijaya Commercial Center,
Jalan Sungai Tanjong, KM 5
91000 Tawau, Sabah
This is 100% local and not on any tourist guide book or map. I rarely do food reviews but when I travel, I make it a point to go all out for the most local foods around. Then only I can get some satisfaction for my reviews. for those who are really hungry, the cafe also serves many other local dishes including rice, noodles and even juices. There is no pork served here so Muslims are welcome. The cafe is also operated by Indonesian Chinese who have been living here for a long time so when you are in Tawau, head over here to try the famous Pisang Cheese in Tawau at Indo Cafe.