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Outstanding Tribal Dishes In Sarawak And Where To Find Them

When Sarawakian food is discussed, the famous dishes that will come in our mind surely either Sarawak Laksa or Mee Kolok. These two are so significant to Sarawakian identity and with a population of 2.6 million, Sarawak is the most diverse state and a very multi-cultural too.

Apart from the major races, Sarawak has its own tribal community. These include the Iban, Melanau, Bidayuh, Pekan, Kenyah and so much more. These tribes and others make up to 40 sub-ethnic groups, hence, it is the most diverse state in Malaysia.

Besides all the famous ‘must-try’ food in Sarawak, there is actually less familiar but authentic Sarawak cuisine of many indigenous tribes of Sarawak. Although these dishes have evolved, some of them been passed down through generations. As a result, the tribal heritage is well preserved and it also provides an authentic Sarawakian gastronomy experience.

When you visit Sarawak, try to search and try these tribal dishes :

#1. Manuk Pansuh (Chicken Cooked In Bamboo)

Manuk is a local language for chicken, from the title we know that the main ‘star’ is the chicken. Traditionally, a free-range chicken will be used for the dish, but it's cooked using a normal one nowadays.

For this dish, the chicken has been marinated in a special sauce in which the ingredients are ginger, lemongrass, garlic, salt, and torch ginger flower for about 30 minutes before being put in the bamboo. Then, the bamboo will be placed over a fire with the opening will be coved with tapioca leaves.

The method of cooking used is slow steam-cooked. This will ensure that the chicken absorbs all flavor while it remains tender as well as juicy.

Manuk Pansuh or Ayam Pansuh is a traditional Dayak delicacy. The Dayak community consists of the Iban, Orang Ulu, and Bidayuh. The dish is served during festivals but today, it is a common menu option in many restaurants.

#2. Midin ( Sarawakian Wild Fern)

Midin or scientifically known as Stenochlaena is a wild fern that can be found only in Sarawak, India, and parts of Indonesia. In Sarawak, it is one of the most commonly consumed vegetables and eats with traditional dishes.

Amazingly, the vegetable is not planted or cultivates by anybody. It grows freely in forests, rubber estates, palm plantations, river banks and other locations.

There are no specific ways to cook Midin, but it is best to eat stir-fried with belacan or shrimp paste or some will use garlic. This will ensure to retains the natural crunchy, juicy texture of the vegetables but with a spicy twist.

Since the fern can easily be found, it can be found easily at any restaurant that sells or has a menu contains it.

#3. Umai (Raw Fish Salad)

If you ever tried Mexican Ceviche, Umai is the Sarawak version of it. The only difference is instead of lime juice, it will you calamansi lime and the shrimp will be substituted with fish.

Umai is a traditional dish of the Melanau tribe and usually, the tribe will settle along the Rajang River in Central Sarawak. Because of this, seafood is an essential part of their diet and why Umai is associated with Melanau people.

For the real taste of umai, head to the Top Sport Food Court located behind the Pullman Hotel in Kuching, look for Makanan Tradisional Sarawak and the stall only sells Umai.

#4. Ka Chang Ma Chicken

Ka Chang Ma or Motherwort Herb Chicken is a Chinese specialty dish that integrated into the traditional Sarawak Cuisine. The migration of the Chinese community during the Brooke era brings this wonderful dish together.

The ‘Ma’ in Ka Chang Ma refers to the main ingredients, which is the Motherwort herb. The chicken is steam cooked with the herb-based broth and then will be served with rice.

The dish usually served to women who are in confinement and the herb is believed can strengthen the body as well as the recovery process. This Dayak dishes can be found at a café called Mummy Patz Dayak Café in Kuching.

#5. Nuba Laya

Consisting of mashed rice wrapped in leaves, Nuba Laya is a traditional Kelabit dish. The leaves used are called Daun Long in Iban, daun isip/itip in Kelabit.

The Kelabits are the indigenous Dayaks of the Bario highlands and actually they are untouched by the modern or western influence because of their location which is considered quite remote.

Approximately, there are 6600 people in the community and they are the smallest ethnic group in Sarawak. One of the best places in Kuching serving Nuba Laya, along with other authentic Kelabit dishes is Tribal Stove. There aren’t many restaurants serving Kelabit cuisine so be sure to check them out for a real Kelabit culinary experience without having to go all the way to the Bario Highlands.

Wanna indulge it all? We can arrange it for you and includes it in our packages as well! 
Call +6016 893 0309 or click on the link to enquire more about our packages ordrop us an email at

Smart Leisure Travels is a Sarawak-based licensed boutique travel agency that provides end-to-end inbound and outbound travel services focusing on unique experiences making every holiday unforgettable.


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