When the weekend comes, Gaya Street becomes the lively and bustling Api Api Night Food Market and one of the top attractions in Kota Kinabalu. The market’s location is easily accessible in the hippest part of Kota Kinabalu. The Night Food Market is the place to be at the end of the week, not to mention the place to EAT!
Food at the Api Api Night Food Market
The Api Api Night Food Market is a food lover’s playground, offering drinks, local comfort food and guilty pleasures. It’s a jumble of different scents, with food stalls stretching up to the north end of Gaya Street. The Night Food Market is a popular nighttime activity for locals and tourists alike.
Tourists looking to try classic Malaysian dishes like laksa, nasi lemak or satay can get a taste at this night food market. There’s also grilled meat and seafood, loaded fries, corndogs, burgers, baos and much more if you want something hearty yet familiar.
The Penang kuey teow stall about halfway up the street makes great fried noodles. It’s very popular among the locals, so expect a long wait at peak times. The vendors don’t seem to understand many English words, though, so I wouldn’t try asking them any questions or making substitutions.
When it’s time for something sweet, there are all sorts of options to indulge that sweet tooth. The taste of Malaysia continues with apam balik, popis and kuih, the catch-all term for a chewy coconut milk snack that comes in a rainbow of eye-catching colours and shapes. I also spotted Korean bingsoo and sweet pastries. If you’ve already eaten too much and want something lighter, there’s a stall selling local fruits.
A standout stall, in my opinion, is the Baby Mochi stall. I picked up a box of their mochi both times that we came to the market. Their chewy, bite-sized mochi balls are made fresh at the market. There are six different flavours, including a unique salty dal option, but my favourite flavours were pandan and red bean.
Night market food just isn’t the same without the perfect drink to go along with it. There are stalls selling milky tea, boba tea, iced coffees, fruit juices and smoothies. Not surprising, but the Api Api Night Food Market is a dry event. None of the vendors serves alcohol.
When To Visit the Api Api Night Food Market
The Night Food Market runs weekly, every Friday and Saturday night, from 6 pm to midnight. I highly recommend going early to get the freshest food and the widest variety. On our first visit to the market, we arrived quite late, around 10:30 pm. A number of the vendors had sold out of certain items, and the food that remained at their stalls looked like unappetizing dregs.
We tried going early on our second attempt, at 7 pm, and it was a much more successful visit. Everything at the stalls was freshly served with full trays of food. It was much more crowded, of course, and we had to endure long queues and indecisive people blocking the stalls. I would say that you shouldn’t go to the Api Api Night Food Market any later than 10 pm.
Facilities at Api Api Night Food Market
It’s important to note that there are no tables or seating at the Night Food Market. When we ordered our Char Kuey Teow, we had to sit on the curb and eat. It was a mild inconvenience but not a huge issue, as most other food at the market is easy to eat while walking.
There is a public toilet at the north end of Gaya Street. Since it’s public, there’s a good chance that it costs a couple of ringgit to use. I didn’t try them, so I don’t know how clean or stocked they are. Ideally, use the toilet before you come to the market. Bring your own wet napkins and pocket tissues to make cleaning up after eating easier too.
You shouldn’t miss the Api Api Night Food Market on Gaya Street if you’re in Kota Kinabalu on a Friday or Saturday night. We went to the market twice during our stay in KK because there was so much to eat. It’s also a much more interesting dinner option than the restaurants around. There’s a huge variety of drinks and freshly made local cuisine that visitors are sure to find something that will get their mouths watering.