7 Fascinating yet Delicious Traditional Borneo Delicacies

Some people say that 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 a variety of traditional Borneo dishes, each distinct to a tribe and indigenous group.
Dishes from Borneo somehow, 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 down from one generation to the next, they accentuate and showcase simple flavours. Plain Jane ingredients are suddenly transformed into the best versions of themselves.

While rice and noodles rule Borneo, tribes and indigenous cultures also enjoy sago as the main component of their starch, accompanied with boar, deer, and vegetable dishes made from jungle ferns and paku. Being a coastal state, fish is an important source of protein in their dishes.

Other than fish, chicken is also favoured, especially cooked with their homemade chilli and spice blend. A trip to Borneo will never be complete without a taste or two of their traditional dishes. After all, the area’s gastronomic adventure is just as much of an experience as visiting their green jungles. Here are seven interesting traditional Borneo delicacies for you to try if you’re heading over there:


  1. Hinava

    Credit: peppers-love.blogspot.my

    Much like Japanese sashimi, the Kadazan enjoy consuming fish raw. Although there are many different types of fish that can be used, mackerel is favoured.

    Mackerel is mixed with seeds of grated Bambangan, red chilies, onion, ginger, lime, and salt. The fish is then cured in a citric acid of the lime. However, because the lime may not kill all the bacteria, it is crucial that only fresh fish is used for this dish. 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, just head over to visit to the Murut community in Borneo! Note that this dish goes through weeks and weeks of fermentation before it can be eaten. That is one long preparation time for one dish.

    Jaruk proves that some food – especially traditional Borneo dishes – are worth the wait, and it is what makes this 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 food that is pretty mediocre on its own but when paired with some other flavour goes through a delicious transformation? If you have, then you will 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 a bland starchy glob, almost like a tapioca starch. Doesn’t sound too exciting right?

    Pair it with another dish, especially one rich in tanginess, saltiness, and spiciness, and you’ll suddenly like Ambuyat very much. Making it is also simple – just 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

    Many people have a love-hate relationship with Tuhau. Some love it way too much; some don’t. Its distinct and pungent smell probably plays a huge role in the subjective preference. However, one bite may make you overlook the aroma.


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

  5. Pinasakan

    Credit: toppeaktravel.com

    You can call this dish 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

    Midin can be found practically at every corner in Borneo. What about in other parts of Malaysia? Well, let’s say that the dish is as rare as yellow diamonds. The reason you can’t get this dish anywhere else is that the vegetable only grows in the forests of Sarawak. To top it all off, it does not have a long shelf life.

    To cook Midin, simply stir fry it with shrimp paste and anchovies. The quintessential vegetable is something you should never forget to indulge in 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. Bosou is made by mixing raw freshwater fish together with rice, which is then pickled using salt and pangi, a local herb in the area. It is then marinated in an airtight glass jar for approximately two weeks. Like most preserved food, it is salty and tangy in flavour which can be paired well with rice.


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

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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