It’s true that the food of a place defines its soul and culture. Looking to try famous food in Sarawak during your next trip to Borneo? Here’s a list of the 20 must-try foods in Sarawak - including unique, traditional and tribal dishes which you simply cannot miss. Don't forget to bookmark this Sarawak food list to help you plan your trip!

Read also: Canada Hill in Miri, Sarawak

    sarawak famous food
    20 Must-Try Foods in Sarawak, Malaysia


    20 Must-Try Foods in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Sarawak Laksa

    This delicious rice vermicelli dish is served in a flavourful shrimp and chicken broth made with mixed spices and coconut milk. Garnishes include shredded chicken strips, thin omelette strips, fresh coriander leaves, as well as an extra generous portion of peeled, boiled prawns. Other ingredients such as fried tofus, fishcakes and bean sprouts are commonly added too. You’ll notice a small saucer filled to the brim with spicy shrimp paste sambal and half a lime - use them unsparingly to bring the taste of the broth to the next level!

    Read also: Sarawak Laksa: The Unique Dish of Sarawak

    Sarawak Laksa
    You must try Sarawak Laksa when visiting Sarawak, Malaysia

    Wild Durians of Borneo

    Trying the wild durians of Sarawak is a very unique and memorable experience. The villagers gather the fruits from the deep forests of Borneo. The wild variation is usually smaller in size compared to the ones found in West Malaysia. The red-fleshed durian, also known as ‘sukang’, has long, curved spikes while the flesh has a deep caramel or roasted almond flavor. Another type of wild durian called ‘dalit’ has short, sharp spikes with orange flesh. The taste of ‘dalit’ is rather bland though it emits a turpentine-like odour.

    Kueh Chap

    A dish of Teochew Chinese origins, it consists of flat rice noodles or “kueh” that is served with a dark gravy known as “chap”. The stew involves long hours of slow cooking that results in juicy and tender mixed innards and different cuts of pork. This is a simple and warm dish that is very comforting!

    Kueh Chap Sarawak
    Kueh Chap in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Mee Kolok

    A local favourite dish of springy hand-tossed egg noodles that comes with minced meat, fried shallots, bean sprouts, chopped spring onions, and slices of ‘char siew’ or barbequed meat slices. You can also find halal alternatives for the dish, where chicken is used instead. Mee Kolok is often served with a bowl of warm and clear chicken soup.

    Mee Kolok Sarawak
    Mee Kolok in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Manok Pansuh

    A traditional Ibanese and Bidayuh dish, Manok Pansuh is a way of cooking chicken or ‘manuk’ inside a bamboo known locally as ‘pansuh’. The bamboo stalk is filled with chicken pieces, water, lemongrass, and seasonings. It is then covered at the top using a lid made naturally of tapioca leaves from the cassava plant. The bamboo is then cooked over an open fire, effectively preserving the natural flavours within. The cooked meat comes with a splendid taste as it is infused with the subtle fragrance of lemongrass and bamboo.

    Manok Kacang Ma

    Manok Kacang Ma is a unique dish with Chinese origins. It is made using the healthy and nutritious Motherwort herbs known locally as ‘Kacang Ma’. Combined with a generous amount of ginger, it is then slowly boiled in a pot with chicken to extract the earthy flavours and goodness from the ingredients. For some, this hearty soup can also benefit those with menstruation problems as it is effective in easing blood circulation.

    Pucuk Midin

    Pucuk Midin is a type of jungle fern shoots. In Sarawak, it is typically stir fried with spicy shrimp paste, garlic, and chillies to make up a simple yet delicious dish. The taste of Pucuk Midin is just as sweet as spinach, and it is a very popular choice at Nasi Campur stalls around town.

    Pucuk Midin
    Pucuk Midin Belacan in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Manicai

    Manicai or ‘Cangkuk Manis’ is a type of herbs used by the Hakka Chinese to prepare a healthy rice vermicelli dish. This popular Manicai salad dish is a beautiful combination of rice vermicelli stir-fried with eggs, chicken slices, fish cakes and manicai. Light yet wholesome, it can be enjoyed at any time of the day!

    Manicai
    Manicai dish in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Kek Lapis Sarawak

    The famous Kek Lapis Sarawak is a thinly striped layered cake with an interesting mix of different flavours, colours, and patterns. Apart from the traditional square cakes, you can also find rolled and triangular versions today. The price of Sarawak layered cakes varies according to the ingredients used (those made using butter are typically twice as expensive than margarine), as well as the complexity of the pattern. Local favourites include the Lapis Evergreen, Lapis Masam Manis, and Lapis Insang Pari.

    Kek Lapis Sarawak
    Kek Lapis Sarawak in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Sago Worms

    Sago worms are grubs or larvae of snout beetles that chew on the sago palm. They look like giant maggots with yellowish white segmented ring bodies. When eaten raw, sago worm tastes creamy as it has a custard-like flesh. However, when fried, grilled or roasted, the taste transforms to resemble that of salty bacon. Considering sago worms as insects, it makes it challenging for some to try them. However, researchers have proved that sago worms are highly nutritious. Afterall, its main food source only comes from the sago palm.

    sago worms
    Eating sago worms in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Aiskrim Gula Apong

    Gula apong is a sugary syrup made from the sap water collected from mangroves or the ‘Nipah’ trees. Unlike other traditional sugar products that often appear as solid crystal lumps, gula apong comes in a form of thick and brown molasses syrup. It is bitter, sweet, and has a slightly salty taste since the nipah palms are always bathed in saline water. At many ice-cream shops in Sarawak, you can easily find gula apong flavoured ice-cream.

    Aiskrim Gula Apong
    Aiskrim Gula Apong in Sarawak, Malaysia
     

    Buah Dabai

    Buah Dabai is a seasonal black olive fruit from Sarawak. It has an oblong shape with thin, edible black skin. You’ll find yellowish white flesh with a three-angled seed in the middle. Buah Dabai has to be soaked in hot water before you can enjoy its creamy flesh. Bonus: The nut withinthe seed can also be eaten!

    Feeling adventurous? Check out the special menu at local restaurants in Sarawak and try the Dabai Fried Rice!

    Buah Dabai
    Buah Dabai sold at Sarawak, Malaysia

    Sarawak Famous Snacks: Tebaloi

    Tebaloi is a traditional Melanau sago biscuit snack made using sago flour, desiccated coconut, eggs, sugar, and turmeric. The dough is then placed on large banana leaves and flattened with a rolling pin before it is cooked on hot embers for approximately 20 minutes. It is then cut into squares and stacked with heavy wooden blocks to flatten the biscuits further, before being dried inside a wooden stove for a crispier texture. Tebaloi is best enjoyed with a cup of hot coffee.

    Umai

    Umai is a native traditional Melanau dish made by combining raw fish with thinly sliced onions, bird's eyes chillies, salt, and freshly squeezed calamansi juice. The calamansi juice cures the fish while giving it an elegant and sourish taste - just like Thailand’s kerabu or the Peruvian seafood ceviche. The most common type of fishes used to make umai are anchovies, black pomfrets or mackerels. There are also other types of seafood umai, such as those made using prawns and jellyfish, which are available depending on the season.

    Ikan Terubuk Masin

    Ikan Terubuk is a medium-sized, scaly fish with oily skin and a million bones - metaphorically! Unlike other salted fish, IkanTerubuk Masin from Sarawak is not preserved through drying. Instead, it is kept wet and salty. To serve, the fish is deep-fried along with all the scales. This is yet another appetite booster and a lovely side dish for warm, white rice.

    Ikan Terubuk Masin
    Ikan Terubuk Masin in Sarawak, Malaysia

    Bubur Pedas

    Bubur Pedas is a dish that’s commonly prepared during the month of Ramadan. It originates from Indonesia and incorporates a variety of ingredients including potatoes, beef chunks, black fungi, dried tofu skin, and tang hoon. Although ‘bubur pedas’ is literally translated to ‘spicy porridge’, the taste is just as velvety rich as vegetable dhal curry. No curry spices are used but the combination of galangal, ginger, shallots, turmeric, and chillies does the trick in flavoring the dish!

    Bee Hoon Belacan

    This is a simple noodle dish cooked with a local Sarawakian shrimp paste known as ‘belacan’. The paste is used to flavor a sweet broth which is then served with rice vermicelli topped with julienned cucumber, century egg, cuttlefish slices, and calamansi which gives the dish a fresh tangy taste!

    Terung Dayak

    Terung Dayakis a type of hairy, yellow, and round brinjal. It is most commonly found in the wild jungles of Borneo. Today, many locals in Sarawak have started to plant and harvest these brinjals on their paddy fields. This fruit is usually used to make sour soups, paired with dried shark meat or salted fish.

    Terung Dayak Sarawak
    Terung Dayak in Sarawak, Malaysia


    Nasi Aruk

    Nasi Aruk is an oil-less, smokey, and slightly burned fried rice that’s cooked with anchovies, onions, pepper, and salt only. This seemingly basic dish comes with a serving of shrimp paste sambal and salted fish for that extra kick. With only five ingredients, you can even make this dish at home!

    Or Chien

    Or Chien is a Chinese crispy fried pancake with a generous portion of fresh oysters that are concentrated in the centre. The pancake is made for sharing and is usually served with chili paste and a lime wedge. It is best enjoyed warm with a pair of chopsticks!

    Got a delicious dish that you want to add to this list? Send us an email at editor@rollinggrace.com now and we will get right to it!