Citrarasa Sabah, an event hosted by the magnificent Malaysia. The event features a wide collection of hotels participating in the culinary contest. I was lucky enough to visit during this time of the year. Why miss an experience of signature ‘Sabahan’ dishes! When it comes to traditional food, Sabah has many simple yet delicious dishes which are mainly pickled or preserved, due to the absence of refrigerators and gas kitchens until recent decades. Nevertheless, traditional cuisine continues to be favored by the younger generations until today. If you’re a foreign tourist, a visit to Sabah will not be complete without sampling one or two of traditional ‘Sabahan’ dishes. It will definitely be a gastronomic adventure of a lifetime!
Reap the ripe of Bambangan
Bursting with a distinct sense of smell, unlike Mango, this fruit appears in thick brown skin. Although these fruits are best tasted when ripe, they are picked up raw to be pickled using salt mixed with grated Bambangan seed, and short snips of chili. The pickle can be eaten with rice or noodles. The taste is best described through experience. Apart making pickles, Bambangan, it can also be cooked with Basung fish, as the ‘Kadazandusun’ people of Sabah like a dance of tang in their food. I found them in most tamu markets and vegetable markets. Head straight for your piece of grab, as the fruit gives you the best of both worlds, the rich ripe and the ‘chat-pata’ side.
Soak in the spice of Pinasakan
The dish is sometimes known as Pinasakan Sada or simply Pinasakan. It is made of braised basung fish mixed with takob akob, which is a tangy wild fruit mainly harvested for its skin. As a spice food lover, this was next to heaven for me. Not just that, the dish was topped with fresh turmeric, salt and slices of Bambagan. For a preserved food that is eaten for days, the taste remains consistent, which amazed me. The talk with the chef was informative as he took me through the process of cooking this dish and made it sound so simple. Pinasakan goes well with rice or ambuyat and a dash of sambal.
Get the taste buds to dance along with Ambuyat
A dish prepared by mixing the sago starch powder with boiling water. As the sago starts to coagulate, a pair of bamboo fork or wooden chopsticks is used to roll the starch around the prongs, dip into accompanying dish and munch. I came to know that Ambuyat is a traditional Bruneian dish that is derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm. Combine the dish with Pinasakan or a Bambagan to exploit the tingly taste of Ambuyat.
Explore and experiment with Hinava
A well-known traditional dish, Hinava was popularized by the Kadazandusun community. When I tasted it I was mesmerized. The dish was made of ingredients like fresh raw tenggiri (mackerel fish), which is filtered and sliced in thin pieces, mixed with snips of chilli, ginger, diced red onions, grated Bambangan seed, salt and set with a few squirts of lime juice. If you are in the mood to experiment, you can ask the waiter to add raw slices of bitter gourd. The dish is of the traditional nature and is available in most of the likewise restaurants. Recently, the dish is making waves into hotel buffets as well. While I tried the dish with rice, you can try it with other variants like salad or noodles.
Hop on the unpleasant delicacy of Tuhau
Go past the unpleasant smell of Tahau. The pungent reeks of the dish, a reason for which most people share a love-hate relationship with, but the taste is like one of its kind. It’s delicious on the first bite and all the way down to your belly. It originates from the interior parts of Sabah and is made of a type of ginger, which are thinly sliced, mixed with diced chili and diced scallion, and pickled using salt and vinegar. Tuhau makes a great accompanying dish for anything and everything. I found the ingredients at tamu market while you can find it at any other vegetable markets across Sabah.
Come and eat to your heart’s delight in Sabah, which offers you near perfect blend of traditional cuisine with a modern touch. The state forms the precious piece of Malaysian cuisine and you should dare to miss out on it. …because you are in Sabah, the food takes its course in your system with feather efforts!