Tuhau – Traditional Food of Sabah

July, 2017

Tuhau – you either hate it or love it…

Tuhau is one of the most popular traditional food in Sabah.Tuhau is scientifically known as etlingera coccinea, and is endemic to Borneo. It is wild ginger that grows in Sabah Borneo jungle, and it can be found mostly in the interior parts of Sabah; which are Tambunan, Keningau, and Ranau – a place that have major Kadazandusun community. Thus, tuhau is a popular food among the Kadazandusun community.

Tuhau - Traditional Food of Sabah

Some people or for the first timers, may not like the tuhau because of it stringent and strong smell. It smells quite similar to the small beetle insect called “posisang” local Kadazandusun dialect. Most people endure the smell and have a go at the tuhau, which in turn, makes them very fond of the taste and they forget about the pungent smell of tuhau. Although it is wild ginger, it does not taste anything like ginger, but it is. So, you can either love it or hate it due to its distinctive smell.

Tuhau is not actually a dish per se, but you can think of it as a condiment in traditional dishes. It is a flexible delicacy as it can be cooked in various methods of cooking that depends on your taste, origins, and creativity. One of the cooking method of tuhau is, it can be eaten as an appetizer, you will only need to mince it into small pieces, then mix and stir the tuhau with a pinch of salt, lime juice ( you can also use vinegar as an alternative ingredient), equally tiny bits of diced chili and diced garlic. It is best to consume the tuhau with white rice. 

Tuhau - Traditional Food of Sabah
Tuhau as appetizer
Tuhau - Traditional Food of Sabah
Tuhau in container packaging

Local Kadazandusun usually fry the tuhau with salted fish or cooked stew with “Pinasakan” (Another traditional dish of braised basung fish mixed with takob akob, a tangy wild fruit that is mainly harvested for its skin). If you want to know more on “Pinasakan” , feel free to read our other blog post on “The PINASAKAN Popular Dish Among The Kadazan Dusun”. Tuhau also can be made into spicy sambal or made into dried tuhau floss.


Tuhau - Traditional Food of Sabah
Tuhau Floss or Serunding Tuhau
Tuhau - Traditional Food of Sabah
Tuhau cooked with Salted Fish

Apart from its distinctive smell but delicious taste, tuhau is believed to have medicinal benefit. It contains a very high fiber content, antioxidant and antibacterial properties. Thus, tuhau can clean out dirty blood, as well as reduce high blood pressure, which makes the tuhau a delicacy for health.

Tuhau is available all year round and can be found at local market or tamu around Sabah. The tuhau are sold in raw form, pickled and sold in jars, or dried tuhau floss in small container. If you are looking for a place to try out this local delicacy, you can drop by to D’Place Kinabalu, Tavern Kitchen & Bar, or some local restaurant in Sabah, or asked the locals to point out to where you can get them! So, if you haven’t tried out tuhau, be sure to give it a try once you’re in Sabah. Who knows, maybe you will wish you have tried tuhau earlier?

Pulau Tiga- The Survivor island
Tuhau can be found in local market or Tamu all year long.

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