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Due to its geographical location and a melting pot of cultural influences, Borneo’s cuisine is anything but boring; offering a tantalising mixture of Malay, Chinese and indigenous tribal food.
Is your mouth watering already? Read on for our top selection of food to try in Borneo.
Our Borneo food favourites
1. Sarawak Laksa
Sarawak’s signature dish is a delight for the senses. This is a spicy soup that’s comprised of chilli paste, coconut milk and thin (mee hoon) noodles topped with beansprouts, chicken and prawns. If you can’t quite hack the spiciness, then tone things down a notch with a squeeze of fresh lime!
2. Kolo Mee
Seek out this simple but unique dish and you won’t regret it. Kolo Mee is a stir-fry dish consisting of yellow egg noodles, barbequed pork and vegetables. This street-food staple has become somewhat of a Borneo signature dish in recent years.
3. Mee Sua
Our Borneo food guide wouldn’t be complete without Mee Sua. Made with wheat rice noodles, chicken and mushrooms as part of a large broth that’s laced with wine – be sure to try it when you’re in this incredible country.
4. Lok Lok
Borneo is renowned for its street food and Lok Lok is a prime example of its best. Delicious skewers of fish, meat or veg are deep-fried or boiled and eaten with sweet and sour or satay sauce.
Our favourite Borneo restaurant
Check out Choon Hui Café in Kuching which is a really popular haunt for locals. It’s no surprise when it serves one of the best Sarawak Laksa’s to be found anywhere.
Vegetarian & vegan food advice
Eating out in Borneo shouldn’t be too much of an issue for vegetarians. Tahu Sumbat means ‘stuffed tofu’ and is a tasty little street food, ideal for veggies. If you wander around local food markets and food courts, you should be able to find this delicious dish.
Fired tofu cubes are sliced open and stuffed with cucumber and bean sprouts then drizzled with spicy chilli sauce for that final kick.
Nasi campur, which translates as ‘mixed rice’, is also a good food option for vegetarians. The contents vary from region to region, but vegetarians can typically expect rice mixed with tofu, jackfruit or veggie fritters.
Useful phrases for eating in Borneo
Some conversational Bahasa Malaysia will stand you in good stead on your travels to Borneo. Indeed, a few simple phrases here and there will come in particularly handy when you’re trying to order your evening meal or lunchtime snack. And don’t worry, if you forget the basics, there are also some great translation apps that you can download before you go to make things a little easier (iTranslate, Google Translate etc.)
How much is this? – Berapa
I don’t understand – Saya tidak faham
A table for (two) please – Meja untuk (dua) orang
Can I have the bill please – Tolong bawa bil
I don’t eat meat – Saya tak suka makan daging
For even more Borneo travel tips, head to our travel guide below.
Drinking alcohol in Borneo
It’s worth remembering that some of Borneo spans Malaysia, Brunei and Indonesia too. Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and as you may know, most Muslims don’t drink alcohol. We recommend being mindful of these local customs by not drinking alcohol in public, for instance in restaurants along the side of the road. Some places don’t serve alcohol on the menu and if you try to find a beer in certain parts of the east coast, you may not have much luck. Most hotels and restaurants frequented by foreigners serve alcohol and it’s no problem to drink one or more alcoholic drinks here. If you like a tipple and you’re heading to one of the beautiful islands off the coast, one tip is to either pick up some supplies as you pass through duty-free or purchase some before you leave the mainland, as drinks can be pricey due to the remote location – especially wine.
As Malaysia is a predominantly Muslim country and you are visiting as a tourist, it’s important to be mindful and considerate of certain religious holidays. During the month of Ramadan, special markets are set up selling foods for Muslims breaking their fast at sunset. At the end of the month, a special feast (Hari Raya Puasa) takes place and many locals spend the next few days visiting family and friends.