Affordable, Quality Live Seafood at Pasir Putih Baru, Sandakan

Affordable, Quality Live Seafood at Pasir Putih Baru, Sandakan

Whenever I ask people what’s there to do in Sandakan, they always say “Seafood, you gotta do seafood!” Thing is, I might have seen some photos on Facebook, but there’s no real reason to keep details unless I’m going to be in Sandakan. So when I found myself on a whimsical trip there with Felitastic and AmericanGirl (yes, she was back in Sabah for 2 weeks, see above), we had to ask Felitastic’s local friend, photographer extraordinaire Jonathan T for recommendations.

Jonathan recommended Pasir Putih Baru as the place to go to for seafood. He owns a gallery showcasing his awe-inspiring landscape photography (more about that later). I figured his recommendation would be sound since he is pixel-specific about quality, and he sounded like a real foodie.

Off we went, in our white little 3-month old rented Proton Saga. At this point, I learned that the way to get anywhere in Sandakan is to pay attention to roundabouts. Roundabouts with larger-than-life animals smack in the center.

In this case we were looking for a giant lobster in the dark. While I had no reason to doubt the navigation skills of AmericanGirl using the interpreted directions from Felitastic, turning the GPS on was just something I did for backup to appease the city slicker in me.

After the roundabout, we drove on and alas, we saw a huge bright sign spread across the dark night of the Sandakan sky. (Excuse the crappy phone photography.)
We were told to look for Mr. Foo, so went in looking for him. He greeted us warmly and seated us on a round table.

Ordering Time… Oooh


The bona fide food critic in me took it upon myself to order, since I can do it in Cantonese and Hakka. This is kind of a neat perk if you want to make sure you understand their menu when there is no printed menu, but don’t worry! Mr. Foo speaks English just fine. 🙂

Mr. Foo lets the catches of the day roll off his tongue as he thinks of what’s left in the tanks. It sounded great, except that they were out of snapper. AmericanGirl who is a full-time vegetarian in the U.S. (except when she’s traveling) wanted snapper. Nonetheless, we settled with a live pomfret at the recommendation of Mr. Foo.


On the first round we ordered steamed pomfret, steamed sea-caught prawns, sabah vegetables with garlic, and sizzling local scallops on a hot plate. I mentioned to Mr. Foo not to make the portions too big since we were just 3 ladies. I guess he really took that to heart because the portions were small.

Steamed Pompret in Soy Sauce & Scallion Oil

Pomfret always reminds me of my childhood. For one, it used to be a popular fish that my mom and grandma would make for dinner. Unfortunately, it’s become so popular that it has gotten stupidly expensive for even unfresh ones in KK, so I end up buying salmon or cod for value.
The one we ordered at this restaurant was live, yes LIVE! Mr. Foo assures me that it will be lovely because it is super-fresh. He was not just right, his fish overrode even the pleasantest memory of the best steamed pomfret I had, because this pomfret was really tender, fresh, and the flesh was so sweet. Umami mummy, my faith in pomfret as an enjoyable fish has been restored! (Amazing because the fish was little!)

Steamed Sulu Sea-Caught Prawns

PRAWNS! Sandakan’s most famous seafood item. Peeling these are a chore, that is until you sink your teeth into these succulent babies. Since they are caught off the Sulu Sea (which connects to Pacific Ocean) and kept alive until cooking time, these are definitely the best prawns ever. The taste, tenderness, and flavors are just exquisite — like nothing I’ve had before!
The best way to enjoy them is steamed. I wasn’t too keen on the thick black sauce that came with it, preferring instead to dip them into my light soy and cilipadi sauce – the best. But I was floored in terms of the freshness and taste of the prawns. Ain’t nothing like it!

Sabah Vegetables with Garlic

Delicious, but the portion was rather lean. Next time I’m going to let Mr. Foo know to make it for chlorophyll gluttons.

Sizzling Hot Plate of Scallops in Black Sauce

I can only describe the taste of the scallops as heavenly. So fresh, so sweet, I’m in love with scallops all over again. Granted, it can’t beat the size of the ones I had in Melbourne, but on flavor, this was oh-mah-goonies “toss-the-diet” yummy! I only wish the portion was bigger.


We were still hungry, so decided to order a second round of stuff; salt and pepper slipper lobster, house special yee mee with live prawns, and deep-fried soft shelled crabs. After all, we were on vacation!

Salt and Pepper Slipper Lobsters

AmericanGirl insisted that she’s had lobsters all her life and requested that we didn’t order lobster. But Mr. Foo suggested Slipper Lobsters, which is a different type altogether. I’m glad we went for it. This was ohhhh so yummy. Again, so fresh, so flavorful, so succulent and tasty!
It was pretty meaty and the simplicity of the salt and pepper thin batter really brought out the true taste of the slipper lobster without masking it. Totally worth it!

House Special Yee Mee with Live Prawns

I asked Mr. Foo what their house specialties are and he said the Yee Mee. We caught sight of the next table eating some noodles and asked if that’s what he meant, and he said yes. Looked pretty good so we ordered that.
The best yee mee ever. With succulent LIVE PRAWNS from the Sulu Sea. You just don’t get anything better than this as far as fresh ingredients are concerned. I’m going to have to bring CBQueen here next time, whose Hokkien propensity for deep-fried noodles compares to vampires craving for human blood. Pretty sure she’ll like it!

Deep-Fried Soft-Shelled Crabs

Last but not least, we ordered soft-shelled crabs. If chewing on edible crustacean shells doesn’t excite you, I should point out that even though I am a proponent of an anti-inflammatory diet, I ate these babies anyway. Even though the last time I ate soft-shelled crabs was closer to 1999, I gladly chewed on these because they were Sandakan soft-shelled crabs – that’s right. In Sandakan, you either do seafood or you don’t. Like Yoda says, “Do. Or Do Not. There is no try.” SO I DID.
And I didn’t wheeze afterwards, like I always do after I have crabs. That’s not to say you should risk your life if you’re allergic to crustaceans, but I’m sharing that I went from crab-free to crab-amour and it was delicieux!

You know when the fake French comes out before the wine, it must be pretty darn good.

It’s pretty darn good! 😀

The damage for 7 dishes, of which 6 had LIVE seafood in them, with side orders of white rice is RM130. YES! That’s about USD43 or GBP26.55. For 3 people? Live seafood? Where on earth can you get this? Incredible!

I can’t believe I blew hundreds of ringgit on live seafood dinners in KK, when I could have just brought some friends over to Sandakan for some quality seafood at blowout prices and do the touristy sights too.

Which begs the question, why aren’t you booking air tickets in advance just for a foodie trip to Sandakan? This place is GOLD if you don’t mind a rustic setting. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip. Thank you Jonathan, thank you Mr. Foo, thank you Sandakan. I’ll be back for more!


How To Get There

Just tell the taxi to go to Pasir Putih Baru (make sure you arrange for your ride back too). If you’re driving, you’d need to ask a local for directions. If you ask me, I’ll tell you it’s somewhere near the lobster roundabout. :}

Pusat Makanan Laut Pasir Putih (Baru),
Mile 2 1/2, Jalan Batu Sapi,
PO Box No. 2251,
90725 Sandakan, Sabah.

Tel: 089-612863
HP: 013-8869888, 012-8175828

Here are more photos from Kwong Fei.

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2 thoughts on “Affordable, Quality Live Seafood at Pasir Putih Baru, Sandakan”

  1. I was there last may 11, 2013 …food was so nice cause they are fresh, I regret for did not take any pic of the blue and beautiful udang batu 🙁

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