I believed most people who visited or will be visiting Sabah soon thinking about nature or seafood. But we as Sabahan (People from Sabah) has a lot more to offer than just seafood and natures. We have many unique traits that appeal to both local and tourist. One of them is the unique local cuisine.
In this article, I will be writing and telling you a few unique local cuisines of Sabah. Some of the food on the list you may have heard, taste or never heard it at all.
Perhaps if you are looking into the photo attached, the food seems slimy and not tasty at all. Well, that is the first impression people give the first time they tasted the food.
I gave such impression too in my first time trying it. However, after a couple of times eating it, I get used to the taste and the texture.
Technically ambuyat served with sauce, soup and side dishes to give depth flavour and a little texture. Among the side dishes are fish soup, sambal belacan, and sauteed cassava leaves or depending on your liking and creativity.
In English people called it Smoked Wild Boar, however, in Sabah we called it Sinalau Bakas. This food is a delicacy for the non-muslim community and known as traditional street food among the Kadazan-Dusun tribe.
If you are coming to Sabah and keen on trying this food, you can find it in the roadside of Kundasang, Tamparuli, Tambunan, Ranau, Keningau and Telipud.
The dishes mainly found there because many of the Kadazan-Dusun community lives here.
Sinamu is a type of pickled food that served as an appetizer or main dish which served with steaming white rice. This delicacy is famous among the Rungus tribe and in fact, sinamu has been a staple food in some of their households.
Sinamu made with the mix of young mango, jackfruit, bambangan or wild mango, galangal, water, salt and anchovies (fried without oil). The dish will be fermented for a few weeks before you can eat.
However, if you could not wait for a few weeks, a few days will do fine. The best part of this is you can have a crunchy texture.
This delicacy comes in into two types — the dessert and alcoholic beverages. Tapai is a staple food in many households in Sabah mainly for those who live in the remote area.
The dessert will be wrapped in leaves and fermented for one or two days to get the soft texture and sweet taste. On the other hand, tapai beverages are fermented for a few weeks or months to produce alcoholic drinks.
Tapai usually served during celebration like Kaamatan or wedding ceremony. The process of making tapai beverages could take weeks or months to complete because the rice needs to ferment at least a few weeks before you can serve or taste it.
Traditionally, tapai is made from fermented rice, starchy food or tapioca and has been favorite drinks among non-muslim during the festive season.
Hinava is another pickled food that resembles sinamu and usually served as an appetizer or main dish. Hinava is a staple food that found in the household of Kadazan-Dusun and the natives of Sabah.
The food is a combination of fish, bitter gourd, shallots, ginger, and lime will produce salty, sour and spicy taste. The best thing about hinava is the texture since it consists of different elements in one dish.
The main difference between hinava and sinamu is the main ingredients. However, even though it has some difference, both cuisines can be enjoyed as an appetizer or main dish served with steam white rice.
If you like mango, then you need to taste bambangan at least once in your life. Bambangan is another notorious food of Sabahan which part of the mango family.
Bambangan or known as wild mango can be found only in Borneo Island, which will be in Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei and Kalimantan. Many people do not fancy bambangan because of the weird taste and sharp fragrant.
The fruit usually pickled or cooked with fish. Unripe bambangan usually made into pinasakan (steamed fish) while the ripe ones are stir-fried with salted fish. Bambangan is a seasonal fruit and can found in the local wet/farmers market.
Thanks to social media, this delicacy has been gaining attention from people all around Malaysia.
Latok or sometimes called as Sea Grapes are traditional food or Bajau and Suluk tribe which usually eaten raw on its or if you are not familiar with the taste, you may try it by mixing it with lime juice, a slice of shallots and bird’s chilli eyes.
Latok can be found in most seafood restaurant and fish market in Sabah during its season. This food is prominent to those who live nearby the seashore.
Bosou or known as noonsom or tonsom among Kadazan-Dusun tribe is a traditional recipe that resembles perkasam. Bosou is a mix of meat or fish with white rice, salt and fruits. Some may add pineapple, jackfruit, tuhau and banana stick to having more depth flavour.
The dish needs to be fermented for a week in an airtight container before you can serve it. Proper storage will allow the bosou last for at least six months to one year.
Tuhau is another dish that has a strong aroma. Those who are trying it for the first time may find it difficult to swallow the food.
Similar to bambangan, latok, and bosou — Tuhau also has a pungent and strong smell. However, it is slightly different because the tuhau smells like a ladybug. That is the reason most people do not enjoy the food.
Tuhau served by slicing it thinly and eaten together with chilli, salt and vinegar. The food served as pickled or with steaming white rice.
Tuhau mostly sold in a farmers market or any types of the market all around Sabah.
Perhaps among the list above this food are the most notorious and, not many Sabahan are fond of this food. Butod or snail caterpillar is another traditional food among Kadazan-Dusun people which, believed to have high protein.
Unlike the other food stated above, there is no recipe for cooking butod because it is supposed to be eaten raw. However, in recent days people came with a creative to eat it such as pizza, stir-fry butod and many more.