Taste tradition at Sabah’s new cultural hub

Flavours to savour: Pairin (left) being briefed about the menu at Situn’s (right) stall in Hongkod Avenue in Penampang, Sabah.

KOTA KINABALU: Jessica Chang is happy to share her family secret. Most importantly, she is doing it to honour her mother’s wish.

“It is a family recipe passed on for generations, and I am happy that we are serving people our version of Hainan coffee,” said Chang, who operates one of the stalls at the newly-launched Hongkod Avenue.

The centre is located within the Kadazandusun Cultural Centre (KDCA) vicinity in Penampang here.

Chang said she grew up smelling coffee as her parents used to run a coffee shop in Inanam.

“I always remember the aroma and loved the coffee brewing process.

“We would serve it with homemade charcoal toast bread. This is my life experience; a lot of goodness, and the good must be shared,” she said.

Chang, who operates two petrol kiosks with her husband, said her mother had hinted to the family to revive the coffee shop business.

“After discussing with my sister, we decided to honour my mother’s wish and opened this coffee shop; our specials would be Hainan coffee, charcoal toast bread and Johor nasi lemak, which my sister learned from her in-laws,” said Chang.

She said this was also part of their business strategy.

“We realised that to stand out, we have to offer something different to visitors. We hope our Hainan coffee and homemade cakes will do the trick,” she said.

Another stall operator, Jiliah Situn, said she thanked her lucky stars because out of hundreds who registered for spots at Hongkod Avenue, she was among the 22 successful applicants.

“I applied, went for the interview, and passed. I am very happy because I can now pursue my wish to promote local Sabah cuisine,” she said.

Serving both traditional and fusion menus at affordable prices, Situn who operates the shop with her daughter Serena Bridget Stephen @George, said she gets her ingredients from rural areas in the state.

“We serve traditional food as well as a fusion menu for that added modern twist, which we believe should be able to satisfy the people’s taste buds,” she said.

Situn is confident that the area would soon be packed based on the increasing number of visitors.

“We have been here for about two weeks; there are many local visitors but not many tourists, but I believe the crowd will pick up soon,” she said.

Apart from the food outlet, there are also 12 stalls that offer various products from traditional Sabah costumes to handicrafts.

Hongkod Avenue, launched by KDCA president Tan Sri Joseph Pairin Kitingan recently, will act as a one-stop centre for those wishing to find local cuisine and shop for traditional handicrafts.

“We are starting a journey to make Hongkod Koisaan (a Dusun word for unity hall) as the newest food and craft landmark in Kota Kinabalu.

“It’s not just about physical upgrades but about making it a place where families and friends can come together to... forge memories and share laughs.

“This lively street will offer a fresh shopping experience for both locals and tourists,” Pairin added.

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