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Traditional Food of Keningau


Pinasakan is a common dish among the Kadazandusun in Keningau. The basung fish, a type of fish found in rivers, is featured in this dish. The idea is to remove moisture from the fish, so the basung fish is washed and cooked in a pot with only tamarind slice (asam keping) holding, turmeric, ginger, lemongrass, and salt over very low heat. It's braised until the liquid has mostly evaporated. The fish takes on a sour flavour, but a strong pinasakan should also have a salty balance. Pinasakan can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. This traditional Keningau dish is typically prepared at home and is not readily available in restaurants.


The Kadazandusun group enjoys a dish called tuhau. Tuhau is a form of wild ginger found in the Sabah jungle. It's most commonly eaten pickled, as a side dish, or occasionally made into sambal, as an ingredient in dishes, and, more recently, dried and deep-fried. It's sold raw or pickled at the Keningau weekly tamu, and it's typically sold in jars. Tuhau looks like wild ginger, but it tastes nothing like ginger. It's more like lemongrass.

Bosou or Nomsom

The Bosou, also known as Nomsom, is another common traditional Kadazandusun preserved dish. Raw freshwater fish in small sizes, such as pelian fish, are used in this dish. Ikan pelian is combined with rice, pangi (a local herb), bungor, and a lot of salt to make Bosou. After mixing, the mixture is held in a glass container for two weeks to marinate. The aroma may be overpowering at first, but the fishy saltiness is a delicacy that should not be overlooked. It's usually served as a side dish with rice, but it's also used in stir-fries with chilli and garlic. Bosou is typically made by Kadazandusun families and is not widely found for sale.


Linopot is rice steamed in a leaf, usually a Doringin or tarap leaf which is wide enough to wrap around the rice. The rice is usually cooked with yams or sweet potatoes, which impart a purplish or brown colour to the rice. The mixture is then compacted into a roundish shape. Linopot was once common because it was easy for villagers to transport their rice to work on the farm or in the jungle. Linopot is hard to come by these days, but they can be seen at weddings, the Harvest Festival, or a Kadazandusun food gathering.


Losun is one of the popular dishes that visitors to Keningau can try. Losun has a milder flavour than standard spring onions and is commonly available in Borneo's interior jungles. The way this dish is fried with torch ginger buds (bunga kantan), garlic chives, chillies, garlic and white pepper, and occasionally anchovies, is what makes it special. It's an underrated classic Kadazandusun dish that's not overpowering on the palate and a childhood favourite for those who've had it. It's always served with a linopot of wild rice and hinava for a flavour explosion. It's available ready to eat in most Kadazan coffee shops and at the Keningau weekly tamu.


Basung is just big-eyed scads; the same fish often used in pinasakan but it is deep fried until they are crunchy. The fish is simply marinated and then fried. Dip into chilli and lime juice and you can have the whole fish including the bones.


Butod is sago worms that feed on the insides of the sago palm tree for a few months before turning into beetles. These wriggly animals, which feed on the rotting pith of the sago tree, are said to be a good source of protein and nutrients. To eat it, you pluck it from the tree, catch its hard head (to keep from eating it), and bite it off. Its insides can erupt, and it has been characterised as "creamy" but not especially pungent or foul. Some people find the skin to be a little chewy.