“Shan Ba” Feast, as its name suggests, is a feast that is served during special occasions. The word “Shan Ba” ( 山芭) derives from the Hakka word of “village”. Although a “village feast” does not sound like much, trying to find it in a restaurant may yield no result. Merely looking at how the server serves the dish is an easy way to know whether the server is experienced. An experienced local server will always serve the dish symmetrically, and there will always be two servings of each dish, making it twelve servings of six dishes, in addition to a big bowl of soup.
The “Shan Ba’ Feast served in Tawau differs from those served in other places. The difference is easily spotted in the dishes served, for example the Fish Maw and Pork Soup. The Yam Cooked Pork is a dish that delights the people of Tawau. Other dishes served include Pork Stomach cooked with Pineapple, Fried Chicken in Oyster Sauce, Roasted Pork in Plum Sauce, Chicken Offal and Mushroom Stir-fry and Chicken’s Feet braised in Shiitake Mushroom. All these dishes may sound a bit strange to those first trying it, but its taste is guaranteed to be good. Although Tawau is famous for its variety of seafood, but apart from the fish maw, there is no trace of seafood in the feast. This may have something to do with the fact that the Hakka people who live in villages do not have easy access to seafood in the early days and relied on domesticated animals such as pig and chicken to crank up a feast during special occasions. Hakka people are known to be diligent and not wasteful, and that is why even chicken offal are used to create the feast. For those who want to try the “Shan Ba” feast, be aware that there isn’t a trace of vegetable in the dinner and if one really wants to say, the only trace of vegetable would be the coriander used to garnish the dishes.