The Best Braised Fish is in the Middle of Nowhere, in Inanam

The Best Braised Fish is in the Middle of Nowhere, in Inanam

Today GOURMETSAILOR and I would like to introduce you to a shop that was highly recommended by friends living around the area. Tucked inside the crevices of industrial Inanam, Tong Fung is the only coffee shop among a few blocks of shoplots, and unless you are told about this place you would never go there.

Braised Fish with Yellow Bean & Dark Soy Gravy

From snapper to garoupa to wrasse, Tong Fung specializes in offering various types of seasonal tropical fish that are sourced locally in Sabah. What we absolutely need to share with you is the braised fish dish. Less adventurous diners can just go for fish fillets, but if you know how to eat some of the parts that Chinese people prize (like the head, stomach, etc), don’t be shy to ask the captain what they have. We went for a mix platter of fish skin, lips and snapper fillets…

This isn’t exactly our first visit, but every time we order the braised fish we have loved how tasty and fresh it is. One way to tell if the fish is funky is whether or not the fibers of the flesh goes all powdery when you eat it, and look out for that foul fishy aftertaste!! If you get a sweet-savory taste and the flakes comes off in visible layers, you know you’ve got yourself a winner!

The fish lips were gelatinous and texturally it was a little bit like soft beef tendon. The fish fillets and skin however, look like it had to go through a different process. They were likely first coated with starch, then deep fried to prime the fish for sauce absorption. After that, all the fish pieces would have been braised in this lovely sweet dark soy and tao jeong sauce (yellow bean sauce) with some sugar. I think there’s some sweet Chinese wine in there but I can’t be sure, because the sauce had a bit of a teriyaki-effect. This effect only comes from the use of alcohol like Mirin, but I love this sauce better than teriyaki because the bits of garlic and ginger made it a lot more complex. The coating on the fried fish absorbed and carried the delicious sauce very well! Yummmyyy…

Fish Skin: The Poor Man’s Unagi

What was absolutely, colossally and lunar eclipse-worthily ‘out of this world’ was the fish skin (yu pee)!!! It tasted like very high-grade unagi, especially with the sweet soy gravy. The flavorful fish skin slices were generously-portioned, soft, gelatinous, and it would go beautifully with hot rice. GOURMETSAILOR said that it is not one of the best, but “‘THE BEST fish skin preparation I have ever had, hands down!” I concur and add that we might have found a poor man’s gourmet unagi in Sabah. We only hope that this is a consistent feature, especially since this huge plate between us costs RM20 only. Just know that if this term “Poor Man’s Unagi” ever becomes popular, it is because I, KKMOI coined it. :}

Fish Noodle Soup

After that epic rave, this next share may come as an anticlimax, but I think it’s worth mentioning that Tong Fung is typically patronized for their mixed fish noodle soup. Depending on your fancy, your choice of fish and its byproducts like fishballs, fish nuggets (yu wat), and other more exotic parts of the fish can then be added to a base soup of tofu and tomato broth.

While their fish fillets are very fresh, the fish nuggets (yu wat) here is very basic in comparison to the famous places nearer to the city center. They don’t use fresh herbs like parsley like the others and the texture is not as bouncy or aerated. Nonetheless, it is fresh and thoroughly edible. The broth is light and not as salty (may be a good thing), a pattern that I am beginning to see in the soups from the Inanam area. Maybe the folks there prefer to hold back the salt for health reasons?

Finally, what strikes me as wonderful is that, in spite of its obscure location the shop has a very healthy turnover of customers.

Updated: 22 June 2011 / 2nd visit

Stirfried Bittergourd with Eggs

For our second visit, in addition to our favorite braised fish we ordered some stir-fried bittergourd with eggs. We loved the taste of the wok flamed-seering but it could have been better if they had sliced the bittergourd thinner.

Stir-fried Squid in Black Bean and Dried Shrimp

The sauce was yummy and the squid was fresh, but it was just a tad bit tough (still enjoyable though). Not a bad dish but the tenderness of the Sambal Squid at Chuan Hin is the standard I’m looking for in a perfect squid dish.

We’d still order it again, though it’s not something that I’ll drag myself to Inanam especially for. It’s great as a complimentary dish, but not as the highlight.

So if you are looking to have something interesting and flavorful to have for brunch or lunch, do consider Tong Fung in Inanam. The only thing is, you have to be patient and forgiving of the owner’s lack of social skills. He doesn’t smile… AT ALL. You may also have a field day finding the place and getting out of there. I’ll try to explain how to get there as best I can.

How to get there:-

From KK, go toward Inanam on Jalan Tuaran. When you get to the Inanam roundabout, make a U-turn, and stay on the left lane. Turn left on the turning before Shell station and drive on to the shoplots behind. Tong Fung is right in front of you.
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Operating hours: Guestimated to be 7:00am – 2:00pm, daily, with a rest day.

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