Rumbia tree has multiple uses : the leaves can be woven into roofs; the branch can be used to build fences, walls, as a torch, etc; the skin of the branch can be woven into basket or mat; the trunk can be consumed as a delicious vegetable or turned into sago (a type of starch); the skin of the trunk used to make mats; and many more other uses.
Sago Aka Ambuyat
The sago made from rumbia trunk, when mixed with hot, boiling water and stirred well will result in a white glue-paste substance, very sticky, and is affectionately called Ambuyat. Ambuyat is a traditional staple of the Brunei and Bisaya people of Sabah, eaten usually during special events, substituting rice. It is consumed while hot, dipped in other dishes such as fish soup (Ikan Rebus) and veggies or sauces. The dips are usually sour in taste and chillies are added to make them spicier.
An authentic ambuyat experience requires the use of chandas, a chopstick-like utensil made from bamboo. Chandas is stuck into the ambuyat, and then pulled out with some ambuyat sticking on the prongs, then it will be twirled to gather more ambuyat (like twirling spaghetti on a fork) until you get a satisfactory amount of ambuyat on it. Then you dip the ambuyat into the sauce and quickly swallow it.
Sagang Tialiu at Grace Point, Sempelang, Kota Kinabalu:
Sago can be purchased at the local market or tamu. Ambuyat is also popular in Brunei and Sarawak.
But if you just like to have a taste of it, do drop by Sagang Tialiu at Grace Point, Sempelang, Kota Kinabalu. Grace Point is a spacious and comfy food court maintained by Sutera Harbour & Resort, offering various cuisine such as western, Malay, Chinese, Indian, ethnic, and so forth. The washroom is hotel quality, there’s a palyground for kids and also a park for joggers. There’s even a Pastry Shop at Grace Point, selling Sutera Harbour Resort cakes and buns. The doughnut is very costly (RM6 each) but really soft and delicious.
Grace Point is located near The Double Six Memorial Monument. Each year, on the 6th June, a memorial service would be held there to remember the tragedy that took the lives of several Sabah leaders when their plane crash onto the site on the 6th June 1976.
Back to ambuyat. The stall, Sagang Tialiu offers Ethnic Sabah Traditional Food such as ambuyat set (RM12), hinava (RM5/RM8), ampap set (RM8), tuhau (RM3/RM6), salted fish crackers/keropok ikan masin (RM6), etc. But there’s no chandas provided so I had to twirl the ambuyat around a fork, like spaghetti. It’s gooey, tasteless and thick, that’s why the dips are necessary. In the set is fish, additional fish sauce in the bowl, chilli paste, sambal belacan paste and something I suspect to be tuhau, a taste that I haven’t acquired for.
It was a very fulfilling meal, the ambuyat could easily feed 4 adults. I wish they provided the chandas, though.
– Ambuyat @ Grace Point, Kota Kinabalu