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Best Food to Eat in Tawau

Tawau Good Food to Eat

Ever wondered what is the best food to eat in Tawau, Sabah? Or what is the famous food here? This article will help you narrow down the places that you can find them.

Not only that, all of the food listed here has been personally tried by me during my many trips to Tawau on the east coast of Sabah Borneo.

This Tawau food list also indicates if the food is Halal or no pork served, hence many of these places are Muslim-friendly too. 

Best Food to Eat in Tawau

Seafood Restaurants in Tawau
Seafood is one of the must-try local food when you are in Tawau

Before I start, Tawau is one of the coastal cities that is located on the east coast of Sabah and is well known as the main gateway to popular islands like Sipadan and Mabul Island

The destination is often overlooked as many visitors will fly in and head straight to their next destination which is usually the town of Semporna where they catch their boats to the islands.

As Tawau is quite laid-back and a little original compared to cities like Kota Kinabalu, you will see that it is very different, in terms of being a city. 

But having been this way, the culinary rewards are pretty exciting, where you get to explore local food which has never changed since the day they started selling it. 

This is what a true foodie will appreciate, rather than the commercial 'stall to shop concept', which has taken Malaysia by storm. 

Personally, for me, a famous or popular stall will always have the realness and the authentic charm, and when people try to be different and bring the concept to shopping malls, this is where it fails. 

Tawau Nasi Kuning
Nasi Kuning Ikan on the left and Nasi Kuning Ayam on the right

1. Nasi Kuning Tawau

One local dish that is most sought after in Tawau is no other than the extremely popular Nasi Kuning or translated as yellow rice.

But for foreigners visiting Tawau, please do not use the name 'yellow rice', as you will not expect any response from the locals. The dish is known as Nasi Kuning and that is it.

Haji Tamrin Nasi Kuning
Restoran Haji Tamrin in Tawau

The most famous place is no other than Nasi Kuning Haji Tamrin, which is located in the city area of Tawau.

There are in fact numerous places that sell this dish, and most of them are just jumping on the bandwagon due to the popularity of this dish. 

Nasi Kuning Tawau
What to Order: Nasi Kuning (Chicken and Fish)
Where Are They: 4188, Jalan Sim Hua Seng, Tawau
Halal: Yes
Price: $$

Tawau Pisang Cheese
Selection of Pisang Cheese and other banana snacks

2. Pisang Cheese Tawau

There is no doubt that this is one of the very local favourites found here and has been for many years. Though this dish originates from Indonesia, the Pisang Cheese Tawau has become a very popular dessert.

They don't only sell the cheese fried banana fritters but they have a full range menu catering to rice, noodles and many other dishes.

Tawau Pisang Cheese Menu
The Pisang Cheese menu at Indo Cafe in Tawau

Be careful as there may be other shops attempting to ride on the popularity of this dish, but the brand Indo Cafe has two branches. One in the city and one out of Tawau. 

Pisang Cheese Tawau 
What to Order: The Pisang Cheese hands down. But if you have a sweet tooth, try the Pisang Coklet. 
Where Are They: 542, Jalan Bantu, Tawau
Halal: Yes
Price: $

Seafood in Tawau
Some of the seafood dishes that I ordered
3. Tawau Fresh Seafood

This is no doubt the main thing that anyone visiting Tawau should try and I personally vouch for it. After having eaten fresh seafood around Sabah, namely in Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan, Tawau is still the best and the cheapest.

You can find a row of seafood restaurants along Jalan Chen Fook in the Tawau City area, and the restaurant I visited was Kam Ling Fresh Seafood and Goof View Seafood restaurants along this busy road.

Tawau Seafood Restaurant
Kam Ling Seafood with an interesting choice of fresh seafood
I will also recommend that you head here at about 6.00 PM to order early as the seafood restaurants here can get really crowded from around 7.00 PM.

One more thing is that you need not worry about the size of your group to eat the local seafood. When I was here, it was two of us, who just ordered a few dishes, and the price was just under RM100. 

Tawau Fresh Seafood Restaurants
What to Order: Anything seafood, the shells, fish, crab and so on. 
Where Are They: Along Jalan Chen Fook, Tawau
Halal: No Pork Served
Price: $$ to $$$

Tawau Mee Tauhu
The famous Tawau Mee Tauhu

4. Mee Tauhu Tawau

This dish is also a very popular dish among the Muslim travellers heading here and also for just about anyone who loves noodles and tau foo.

Also, there are plenty of places that are selling the Mee Tauhu in Tawau, so finding the right one can be a little difficult.

During my trip here, I must have seen at least six restaurants selling the local favourite noodles, and with much asking around, there are only two restaurants that are quite popular.

One of them is Kedai Kopi Tawau, which is found along Jalan Kubota in the main city area. But again, the locals here have their own favourite place for Mee Tauhu.

Kedai Kopi Tawau Mee Tauhu
What to Order: Mee Tauhu
Where Are They: Jalan Kubota, 91000 Tawau, Sabah
Halal: Yes
Price: $ to $$

Sup Payau
Sup Payau on the left and Nasi Goreng Payau on the right

5. Nasi Goreng and Sup Payau Tawau

This is probably one of my favourites whenever I am in Tawau and you can find this little restaurant just outside the Tawau airport.

Ever since being introduced to the Kari Payau (Deer Curry) back in 2007, I have always made it a point to visit this restaurant called Bibiq Corner, which is about five minutes' walk from the airport.

Tawau Sup Payau
The interesting menu at Sup Payau Bibiq Corner

The restaurant is very local and simple, but it is the unique wild deer that is served that captivates the foodie. Most Malaysians will relate to this dish as it is cooked very local style.

When my flight lands at Tawau, I will usually take a walk over and have my Nasi Goreng Payau, and then only head towards town. If you are taking Grab, then just walk over and call your Grab from here.

Bibiq Corner (Next to Tawau Airport)
What to Order: Sup Payau and Nasi Goreng Payau
Where Are They: Jalan Airport, 91000 Tawau, Sabah
Halal: Yes
Price: $ to $$

Sunset in Tawau Sabah
A sunset scene at the Tawau Esplanade

What else to do in Tawau?

While you are here in Tawau, you may also have some free time to explore one of the least visited cities of Sabah. 

You may be here for work, a quick family trip, or even for a wedding and you might have some extra time to wander around. 

And for those seeking on what else you can do here, I have written a comprehensive article about the many things to do in Tawau for just about anyone. 

Map of Tawau Town
Map of Tawau's main city area

How To Go To Tawau? 

There are direct flights from Kuala Lumpur, Kota Kinabalu and various other cities in Malaysia. Airlines that fly there include Malaysia Airlines and AirAsia where the latter has more flights.

For those travelling from Kota Kinabalu, the best option for travelling to Tawau is still via a flight. If you have time to spare, you can always travel overland via bus or rented car.

While most Malaysians or Asians plan limited travel days, then your best way to get to Tawau is through a flight so you can make the most of your trip here.

Hot Plate Nasi Lemak
This is called Nasi Lemak Bakar, not sure if it is still available in Tawau city


Are you planning to visit Tawau anytime soon? If you are, I hope that this list of the best food to eat in Tawau has come in handy for you. 

You can also follow David Travels Instagram account where I share my random photos of travel and food, while Malaysia Asia is more focused on travel photography and destinations. 

If you have any comments or feedback, I would love to hear them in the comment form below. And if you think there are other dishes that I may have missed, do let me know.

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