When you’re on a holiday especially in a foreign country, what should your priority be? Food hunting and eating to your heart’s content, of course!
Anyway, if you’re planning a holiday to Sabah or you would love to visit The Land Below The Wind one day, here’s a list of 10 must-try traditional and local dishes that will send your taste buds on a trip!
A local favourite of the Kadazan-Dusun people, this appetizer is made from wild ginger and has a strong distinctive smell and taste. Some people might not be able to stand the scent but I can assure you, it tastes better than it actually smells! The tuhau tastes sour, salty and has a hint of spiciness to it too, which I must say, is an amazing combination of tastes. It’s usually eaten with rice which usually turn into two or more helpings on my part.
When you come to Sabah, the seafood here is one of the things we’re famous for. You have a wide variety of affordable and fresh seafood to choose from and sink your teeth into! Deep sea fish, crabs, prawns, clams, you name it! If you want to know the best places to have your fill of seafood in Sabah, speak to the locals there and they will gladly recommend you the best.
Named after a district in Sabah, this noodle is one of Sabah’s most loved noodle dishes. Tuaran Mee is handmade egg noodles that is fried and is commonly served with Char Siu, Chun Kien, eggs and vegetables. Today, you can find some halal Tuaran Mee outlets around Sabah too.
Another traditional favourite, this famous Kadazan-Dusun dish is Sabah’s version of sushi. Hinava is fresh raw fish (a must) that is mixed with lime juice, shallots, grated ginger and cili padi. Eaten as an appetizer or with rice, this raw fish salad is not just delicious but healthy as well. Hinava is usually marinated, then chilled for a couple of hours before it’s eaten.
Also known as the Sabah Veggie, I was surprised to find out that you can’t get this vegetable in Peninsula Malaysia and Singapore. I have friends and relatives there and overseas who has craving for this vegetable while they’re away, and they make it a point to eat this when they’re back in Sabah! The name of the veggie speaks for itself- Sweet and delicious, it’s usually fried with egg and garlic.
Or also known as Pucuk Paku, this vegetable grows mainly in the wild. The vegetable is often cooked stir fried with belacan, dried shrimp and chili. Sometimes, it is also cooked in ulam. It’s not hard to have a taste of this vegetable in Sabah because many restaurants there serve it.
A unique local fruit here in Sabah, some people call it the wild mango. Bambangan is normally pickled and is another much loved appetizer, not only by the Kadazan-Dusun folk but also other locals. The fruit is sour and sweet and has a pungent flavour which deters people from eating it raw on its own. However when pickled, it makes an amazing appetizer that’s great with steamy hot rice!
Besides all the traditional food mentioned, Sabahans also love their Ngiu Chap! This beef noodle dish has many variations today but the most common and most loved version is the noodles in plain tasty beef broth with tender beef slices and meatballs! Other ngiu chap variations include laksa ngiu chap and kon lo ngiu chap.
Known as Brunei’s national dish, Ambuyat is also a local delicacy in Sabah and is said to be a substitute of rice if not for the tedious preparation required. The ambuyat is a starchy mixture that is mixed with boiling hot water until it becomes a whitish glue-like paste. It is normally eaten with sides like fish with bambangan soup and fried vegetables with belacan.
A good source of protein, everyone should try at least once especially when they’re in Sabah is the butod or sago worm. Yes, you heard me right, sago worm. The larvae is called that because it eats sago palm. The fat juicy worms can be eaten alive or cooked. It doesn’t taste or smell bad, honestly. Plus, having to eat just one will make a good story to tell when you’re back home. “Guess what? I ate a worm!” is always a good conversation starter, no?
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