8 Traditional Dishes You Need To Try In Sabah

Every state in Malaysia has its own unique food speciality. The same also goes to Sabah. Among the recommended Sabahan dishes are mee tuaran, sang nyuk mian (pork noodle), ngiu chap noodle (beef noodle) and roti cobra (roti canai mixed with chicken curry and sunny side up egg). But other than the aforementioned foods, there are plenty of traditional dishes in Sabah that you need to try at least once in your lifetime. Here are the eight of them below.


1) Ambuyat

One look at this starchy blob and words like “appetising” doesn’t immediately come to mind. This gooey starch otherwise known as ambuyat is actually made from sago palm derived from the trunk of a Rumbia tree. Originating from Brunei, ambuyat is traditionally eaten using a pair of pronged bamboo chopsticks a.k.a. candas to scoop and roll around it. The taste is actually bland when you eat it on its own, which is why it’s best to pair the ambuyat with a flavourful dipping sauce.

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2) Hinava

Hinava is particularly popular among the Kadazan-Dusun people of Sabah. It is a traditional Sabahan dish commonly made from sliced tenggiri (mackerel) mixed with chilli, ginger, onions and lime juice. It can be eaten either as an appetiser or a main dish typically served with white rice. Other seafood like prawn and squid can be used as a fish substitute to make hinava.

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3) Bambangan

Bambangan is actually a seasonal wild mango fruit which has a thick brown skin. But the flesh on the inside is bright yellow in colour when ripe and like any other mangoes, it can be eaten raw. Bambangan is sour in taste, where locals usually pickle it with a combination of salt, grated bambangan seed and chilli. Best paired with white rice or fish dishes, you can find this fruit at tamu markets during the harvest month from July to August.

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4) Pinasakan

Here is another fish dish popularised by the Kadazan-Dusun people of Sabah. Pinasakan or pinasakan sada is made from braised basung fish with a tangy wild fruit called takob akob, salt and fresh turmeric. Sometimes, bambangan is also added as part of the ingredients. It can be eaten with white rice or ambuyat.

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5) Tuhau

Tuhau is an acquired taste, thanks to its unusually strong pungent smell. It is a type of wild ginger but doesn’t actually taste like one. Tuhau is usually served by dicing it thinly and later pickled with chilli, salt and vinegar. It can be eaten as a pickle or paired with other dishes. You can find tuhau in most tamu markets around Sabah.

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6) Latok

This type of seaweed dish is particularly popular among the Bajau people from the east coast of Sabah. It is usually eaten as a salad or a side dish mixed with chilli or bird’s eye chilli (cili padi), lime and sambal belacan.

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7) Nonsom

Otherwise known as bosou, this traditional preserved dish is popular among the Kadazan-Dusun people of Sabah. It is actually made from fermented freshwater fish and mixed with rice, salt and a local herb known as pangi. The mixture is then stored in an airtight glass jar or container to be marinated for around two weeks. Best paired with white rice.

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8) Linopot

Yet another popular dish among the Kadazan-Dusun people of Sabah, linopot is actually a rice wrapped in a type of leaf called tarap and cooked with yam or sweet potato. It can be found at certain restaurants, even though linopot is typically served during festive seasons or traditional Sabahan wedding ceremonies.

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