Top 3 Sabah fermented foods you must try before you die

Located in the northern part of Borneo island, the Malaysian state of Sabah has its own distinct cuisine different from other states in the country.

Thanks to its multiracial population just like its neighbouring state of Sarawak, Sabah offers various ingredients and style of food preparation.

One of the famous ways they have of preparing food is by fermenting with salt, a similar method to making pekasam (Malaysian fermented food).

When you take a walk through any of their local markets you will find fermented food sold in all sorts of different sizes.

Besides the local market, you can also find them at the roadside stalls along the road from Kota Kinabalu to Ranau or Keningau.

Preserved Sabahan Food 2
Local sellers selling different kinds of Sabah preserved foods. The ones in red are pickled ‘tuhau’ while the ones in yellow are pickled ‘bambangan’.

If you are up for it, here are top 3 Sabah fermented foods you must try before you die. We warn you; they are not for the faint-hearted because of their strong smell and flavours.

1. Pickled Tuhau

The least threatening of all three Sabah fermented foods is pickled tuhau. Tuhau is a type of wild ginger scientifically known as Etlingera coccinea.

The edible part of this ginger is the inner sheath of the shoot. Chop it up and mix it with chives, chilli peppers, salt, sugar and vinegar.

It is usually served as a side dish with hot rice. You can also whisk in some tuhau with eggs to make an omelette.

2. Pickeled bambangan

Bambangan (Mangnifera pajang) is an endemic fruit only found in Borneo. The fruit is considered a type of wild mango but unlike the common mango, it has thick brown skin.

It is usually harvested raw and cured with salt and chilies to make pickled bambangan. The locals enjoy it with plain white rice and fried fish.


Bosou is also called nonsom, sambaat, kinaraatan, gagau and tinamba in different Kadazandusun dialects. It is a preserved fish or meat made with biji kepayang in Malay (Pangium edule) or pangi in Dusun language. The most common main ingredient for bosou is river fish. Mix the fish together with rice, salt and pangi.

To spice it up a little bit, you can also add in pineapple or tuhau. It takes up five to seven days for it to be fully fermented. There are two ways to take bosou; you can have it as a condiment or cook it with onions and chilies.

Patricia Hului is a Kayan who wants to live in a world where you can eat whatever you want and not gain weight.

She grew up in Bintulu, Sarawak and graduated from the University Malaysia Sabah with a degree in Marine Science.

She is currently obsessed with silent vlogs during this Covid-19 pandemic.

Due to her obsession, she started her Youtube channel of slient vlogs.

Follow her on Instagram at @patriciahului, Facebook at Patricia Hului at or Twitter at @patriciahului.

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