The Stickiest Business in Brunei

By Mark Wiens 17 Comments

Unless you happen to dwell or grow up on the islands of Papua, the Maluccas, or Borneo, you will certainly hold Sago palm tree starch and the accompanying meal as a brilliant culinary novelty.

In Brunei Darussalam, the sago is a local staple and is known as Ambuyat.  After searching out a traditional location to eat Ambuyat in Bandar Seri Begawan, I joyously ordered the combination meal from a cheerful family serving out of a food court eatery.

As the smiling waiter emerged from the kitchen with Ambuyat in hand, an overwhelming feeling of happiness swept over my being and I knew I was ready to have another great cuisine experience in the far-off and unique Brunei.

ambuyat in brunei

Here is a short video of how I managed to eat Ambuyat:

The transparent glue paste (ambuyat) is eaten with a utensil that is a double pronged bamboo stick (Candas), resembling a pair of amateur chopsticks where the two sticks automatically spring back together. The sticks are twirled into the ambuyat to create a bite size peice and dipped into the sauce.

sago starch in brunei

ambuyat candas twirl

Along with the sago paste, the meal deal came with a fish based soup (Ikan Rebus), a green leaf boiled vegetable (Sayur Bayam), and the craziest tasting sauce in the world (Cacah Binjai).

The cacah binjai sauce is made from the binjai fruit which resembles a mango but has been neglected throughout much of world except in parts of Borneo and is still thriving in Brunei.  The sauce was one of the more intense flavors that I have ever come across in my life.

Try to imagine this; cream of fermented mushroom soup blended with a super shrimp paste, mixed with pickled sour ginger, and doused with a dash of vodka, just enough for a sharp bite.  I was left speachless at the mercy of the powerful cacah binjai and loved every bite of super pungent excitement.

Much like a durian buffet, an ambuyat feast in Brunei is an imperative move for a gourmet guru. 



17 comments. I'd love to hear from you!

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  • Lindsay

    3 years ago

    Wow I never knew people used Binjai as a sauce. I will definitely keep a look out for this when I’m in Brunei next week. Thanks for another great and useful post!

    • Mark Wiens

      3 years ago

      Hey Lindsay, this is the one and only time I’ve had it, but I’d love to try it again. Hope you’re enjoying Brunei.

  • Mark Wiens

    7 years ago

    @Earl: hehe, as long as they consider it a delicacy, eating is surely a good thing!

    @Nayen: That is very true. I think you just need to salivate it slightly until it slides down!

  • Nayen

    7 years ago

    The thing that you need to know on how to eat Ambuyat is that, you don’t need to chew it, instead you swallow it! 🙂

  • Earl

    7 years ago

    I have definitely never heard of this dish before. And is fermented sour cream supposed to be a good thing???

  • Mark Wiens

    7 years ago

    @Paulo – actually translucent poi is a pretty accurate texture and flavor!

    @Corinne – Ha, yah, It takes a bit of time to get started eating it, but then the paste is extremely filling. I could barely move afer eating that entire bowl with a friend!

    @Dave and Deb – Yah, it really is one of the more interesting dishes I’ve ever had!

  • Dave and Deb

    7 years ago

    Your eyes were hilarious when you had the sour stuff. They went very wide:) It looks like a fun dish to eat.

  • Corinne @ Gourmantic

    7 years ago

    I hope you’re not too hungry when you’re trying t eat this. It looks like a lot of effort! Definitely worth a try. I’m curious about the taste.

  • paulo

    7 years ago

    Looks interesting…sort of like a translucent Poi. Liking the shirt!