7 Fascinating yet Delicious Traditional Borneo Delicacies

People always say the best way to get to know someone is to get them angry. But to get to know Borneo is to get to know its food – authentic or contemporary. When it comes to food, there’s plethora of variety of traditional Borneo food, each distinct to a tribe and indigenous groups.
Somehow, they have the power to turn obscure ingredients such as wild plants, fruits, and herbs into a culinary masterpiece that arouses your taste buds. Through preservation and fermentation cooking techniques which have been passed over for over a decade, they accentuate flavors and simplicity of plain jane ingredients at its best.

Rice and noodles rule Borneo; however, it is – steamed, fried, boiled, to name a few. However, tribes and indigenous culture enjoy sago as the main component of their starch, accompanied with boar, deer, and vegetable dishes made from jungle ferns and paku. Straddle in the equator with a stunning stretch of coastline; you can expect to see them consuming fish very much.

Other than fish, chicken is also as likable, especially with their homemade chilli that they blend with different spices. A trip to Borneo will never be complete without taste or two of their traditional dishes. Its gastronomic adventure is just as much of an experience as visiting its green jungles. Let’s go through these seven interesting traditional Borneo delicacies!

  1. Hinava

    Credit: peppers-love.blogspot.my

    The Kadazan are responsible for their version of Japanese sashimi, or Spanish ceviche which is also one of the most popular food in the region.   They are similar in a way that they use fish which they do not cook and is eaten raw. Although there are many different types of fish that can be used, mackerel is their favorite.

    They will mix the mackerel with seeds of grated Bambangan, red chilies, onion, ginger, lime, and salt. The fish is cured in a citric acid of the lime. However, because the lime may not kill all the bacteria, it is crucial for them to get the freshest fish for extra precautions. Expect to find Hinava during Tadau Kaamatan, a rice harvest festival, or other special occasions such as weddings and birthdays.

  2. Jaruk

    Credit: encyclopedia.com.my

    Where can you try a tender flesh of wild boar or fresh river fish that is stuffed inside a bamboo tube together with rice and salt? Well, a visit to the Murut community in Borneo will! The process of making the dish did not stop there. It will then go through weeks and weeks of fermentation before you can have a bite of it.

    Jaruk proves that some food – especially traditional Borneo dishes – is worth the wait, and it is what makes the dish so unique. Whether you have it as a side dish or main course, it is a must-try when you come to visit!

  3. Ambuyat

    Credit: blog.ingredientmatcher.com

    Have you ever come across something which is somewhat decent but when you pair it with anything, it makes the other shine so bright? If you have, then you’d be able to understand and appreciate Ambuyat. The jelly-like traditional Borneo dish is made from the inside of a sago palm trunk. It is merely a bland starchy glob, almost like a tapioca starch but it’s so versatile.

    It brings out the best of another dish, especially one rich in tanginess, saltiness, and spiciness. Making it as also simple – one just needs to mix the sago starch powder with boiling water. Once it starts to thicken, use a wooden chopstick to roll the starch around it and transfer it to your plate. Voila!

  4. Tuhau

    Credit: encyclopedia.com.my

    Tuhau has a love-hate relationship with most people. Some love it way too much, but some just don’t. It’s distinct, and pungent smell probably plays a huge role in the subjective preference. However, one bite may make you overlook its scent (not that the smell is so unpleasant!).

    To make Tuhau, you need to make a fine dice of wild ginger, chili, and scallion and mix them together before adding salt and vinegar to make it into a pickle. The fantastic accompaniment to any and every dish can be found in many markets across Sabah.

  5. Pinasakan

    Credit: toppeaktravel.com

    You can call it however you like it: pinasakan or pinasakan sada and it still would not matter because the most important thing is its delicious taste. In this traditional Borneo dish (Kadazandusun, to be exact), basung fish is braised in takob akob (tangy wild fruit), turmeric, salt, and slices of Bambangan (optional) until the broth reduces by half of the original volume. Although it may sound like another preserved food to you, with rice and a dash of sambal, it is the perfect meal!

  6. Midin

    Credit: sethpeli1.wordpress.com

    You may find it at every corner in Borneo but other parts of Malaysia? It’s as rare as a raining diamonds. Although recently, seeing it is also like a treasure quest due to high traffic of tourism. The reason you can’t get it anywhere else is that it only grows in the forests of Sarawak.

    You should even consume it on the day itself because it doesn’t last long. Stir fry it with shrimp paste and anchovies, have yourself a plate of the nutritious and crispy dish! The quintessential vegetable is something you should never forget to indulge whenever you’re in Borneo.

  7. Bosou

    Credit: bosoudelivery.blogspot.my

    If you come across Tonsom, don’t be surprised if it’s similar to Bosou because they are in fact the same. It’s just a matter on how people preferences in calling it. Bosou is made from mixing raw freshwater fish together with rice, which is then pickled using salt and pangi, a local herb in the area.

    Only then they store the marination in an airtight glass jar for approximately two weeks. Like most preserved food, it is salty and tangy in flavor which can be paired well with rice.



Have you ever tried any of these delightful traditional Bornean delicacies? Which one is your favorite? If we miss out on your favorite delicacies, let us know by commenting down below!

Regina Wiriadinata
Regina Wiriadinata

Hello there, pleasure to meat you.. oops, I mean meet. Hunger tends to get the best of me, which happens almost 24/7. You can probably find me at a gelateria, holding triple scoops of gelato in a cone. Please donut talk about my diet because I always end up with a slice of cake at the end of the day.

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