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10 Traditional Dishes in Sabah You Need to Try Once in Your Lifetime.

Every state in Malaysia has many traditional foods that are often a favorite of locals and international tourists.

Sabah is one of the most famous of traditional foods that is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for tourists coming to Sabah.

Among the most popular dishes in this traditional dish in Sabah are Mee Tuaran, sang nyuk mian (pork noodle ; non-halal), ngiu chap noodle (beef noodle) and roti cobra (roti canai mixed with chicken curry and sunny side up egg).

In addition to these foods, there are plenty of traditional foods to try in Sabah that may be a onc- in-a-lifetime experience for those who have never been to Sabah.

Here are the eight of them below.



A glance at this blob of starch and words like “tasty” is immediately remembered. This lump of starch is actually known as ambuyat in Sabah and very famous among Brunei society.

It is made from sago palm derived from the trunk of a Rumbia tree and 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.


This dishes known as hinava is very famous among Kadazan-Dusun people in Sabah but today, it is also the favourite of local and international tourist which is one of the list in their menu when they visiting Sabah.

It is a traditional Sabahan dish commonly made from sliced tenggiri (mackerel) mixed with chilli, ginger, onions and lime juice. The lime juice itself cook the tenggiri without put it onto fire or gas.

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.


Bambangan is actually a wild mango fruit with a thick brown skin. The inside flesh is bright yellow in colour when ripe and it can be eaten raw as any other mango.

Bambangan is sour in taste, where it is usually pickled by locals with a mixture of salt, grated bambangan seed and chilli. Some of the bambangan looks bigger and taste of inside is sweet while others size like mango and has a sour taste.

Best paired with white rice or fish dishes, you can find this fruit at tamu markets during the harvest month from July to August.


This dish is also one of the popular traditional foods among Kadazan-Dusun people of Sabah.

Some called it Pinasakan, some called it Pinarasakan and some called pinasakan sada. It is made from basung fish braised 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.


Tuhau is a taste that has been acquired, thanks to its unusually strong pungent smell. It is a type of wild ginger but doesn’t actually taste like one.

It depends with the person who made this tuhau whether taste sour or spicy mix with chilli, salt and vinegar. Those who do not like a smells of Durian would probably a bit sensitive to its smell.

It can be eaten as a pickle or paired with other dishes. You can find tuhau in most tamu markets around Sabah.


Latok is a type of seaweed dish. This traditional dishes is very popular among the local bajau in 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.


It is usually known as Bosou, another favorites traditional dishes among Kadazan-Dusun people in 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.


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.


These kuih penjaram are often provided during celebrations of thanksgiving or celebration among the Bajau community. This cake tastes a little sweet and fat.

Penjaram are also known as kuih UFO. In addition to the Bajau community, it is also very popular among the Malayan Brunei in Brunei.


Piyassak is one of the special dishes among the Bajau community. It sounds like a French national dish of foie gras but the Bajau people use beef hearts as their main ingredient.

The cow’s heart was cut into small cubes. It is fried with ginger, turmeric, ginger, black pepper, lemongrass and roasted coconut.

Coconut milk included and cooked with the cow’s heart until it is completely absorbed by the liver.


In the nutshell, there are still many traditional foods in Sabah that had been discovered since long time ago and served throughout the generations.

Many locals had created this traditional dishes as their favorite of all time since their ancestors’ generations.

One of the main reason of local and international tourist want to visiting Sabah because of its traditional foods. It could be their once in a lifetime experience to them.

Have you ever try all of the above traditional food in Sabah? Enjoy your dishes. SABAH BAH INI!

By: Shamsul.

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