Ambuyat: Exploring Brunei’s National Dish

Last updated on October 6th, 2023 at 02:38 pm

ambuyat is the national dish of brunei

Ambuyat, the national dish of Brunei, is a unique culinary creation that holds a special place in Bruneian culture and cuisine. Derived from the sago palm, this traditional delicacy is cherished for its starchy goodness and is often enjoyed with an array of delectable side dishes.

Our team at Remitly created this guide to give you the full story on ambuyat. Food is an integral part of every culture, and we love celebrating the traditional cuisines of our global customers.

Ambuyat Origins and Ingredients

Sago, a powdery substance extracted from the trunk of the sago palm tree, takes center stage in the preparation of ambuyat. This ingredient is also widely used in neighboring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, and parts of Borneo. The process of obtaining sago involves cutting the pith of the sago palm and then processing it into starch. The starch is later mixed with hot water to form the characteristic gelatinous texture of ambuyat.

The preparation of ambuyat often involves the use of a specific utensil known as the “chandas” or a wooden spoon. The dish is traditionally consumed using a pair of chopsticks or even by using the fingers, rolled into small balls that are then dipped into various flavorful sauces.

Making Ambuyat

The preparation of ambuyat is an art in itself. The sago starch is mixed with hot water, and the mixture is constantly stirred to achieve the desired consistency. The result is a translucent, glue-like substance that can be a bit challenging to handle for newcomers due to its unique texture.

Savoring Ambuyat

Ambuyat is not just about the starch; it’s also about the accompanying side dishes and sauces that elevate the dining experience. Bruneians and Malaysians enjoy ambuyat with an array of dishes, often featuring ingredients like shrimp paste (“cacah”), tempoyak (fermented durian), prawns, dried shrimp, and more. These side dishes provide a burst of flavor that complements the mild taste of ambuyat.

One popular dipping sauce is called “linut,” made from a mix of pounded chilies, shrimp paste, and other spices. Another sauce known as “belutak” is made with chili pepper and dried shrimp. These sour sauces add a tangy kick to the otherwise neutral taste of ambuyat.

Cultural Significance

Ambuyat is not only a culinary delight but also a reflection of Brunei’s cultural heritage. It’s a dish often enjoyed during festive occasions, family gatherings, and special celebrations. The communal aspect of sharing a meal of ambuyat underscores the importance of togetherness in Bruneian culture.

Beyond Brunei

While ambuyat is proudly hailed as Brunei’s national dish, similar dishes made from starch-rich ingredients can be found in neighboring countries. In Malaysian regions like Sarawak, Sabah, and Labuan, variations of ambuyat are enjoyed.

In Indonesia, the dish “papeda” shares similarities with ambuyat and is also made from sago starch. Different countries put their unique spin on these starchy creations, incorporating local flavors and ingredients.

Traditional Ambuyat Recipe


  • 1 cup sago starch (available in Asian grocery stores or online)
  • 4 cups hot water
  • Side dishes: shrimp paste (“cacah”), tempoyak (fermented durian), prawns, dried shrimp, etc.
  • Dipping sauces: chili sauce, soy sauce, lime juice, etc.


Prepare the Ambuyat Base:

  • In a bowl, mix 1 cup of sago starch with 2 cups of hot water. Stir until the mixture becomes smooth and resembles a thick paste.

Cook the Ambuyat:

  • In a pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil.
  • Slowly pour the sago mixture into the boiling water while continuously stirring. The mixture will start to thicken and become translucent.
  • Keep stirring until the mixture reaches a glue-like consistency, similar to the texture of pudding. If it’s too thick, you can add a little more hot water and continue stirring.

Serve Ambuyat:

  • Transfer the cooked ambuyat to a serving dish.
  • Traditionally, ambuyat is enjoyed by rolling small portions of the sticky mixture into balls using chopsticks or your fingers. Dip the balls into the side dishes and sauces before eating.

Side Dishes and Sauces:

  • Arrange an array of side dishes around the ambuyat, such as shrimp paste (“cacah”), tempoyak, prawns, dried shrimp, and other preferred choices.
  • Prepare dipping sauces like chili sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice to add flavor to the ambuyat balls.


  • To eat, dip the ambuyat balls into the side dishes and sauces. The neutral taste of ambuyat complements the flavorful side dishes and sauces.

Additional Ingredients and Variations

Apart from sago, other starch sources like potato starch and tapioca starch are used in similar dishes across Southeast Asia. The rumbia tree is another source of starch that contributes to the creation of similar dishes.

Where to Find Ingredients Abroad:

  • Sago Starch: Available in Asian grocery stores or online Asian food retailers.
  • Shrimp Paste (Cacah): Look for shrimp paste in Asian markets or online stores that specialize in Southeast Asian ingredients.
  • Tempoyak (Fermented Durian): Some specialty Asian grocery stores might carry it in the frozen or preserved foods section. Alternatively, you can check online sources for imported Malaysian ingredients.
  • Prawns and Dried Shrimp: Regular supermarkets usually stock prawns in their seafood section. Dried shrimp can be found in Asian grocery stores.
  • Dipping Sauces Ingredients: Basic dipping sauce ingredients like chili sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice are readily available in most grocery stores.

While preparing ambuyat, it’s essential to maintain the right consistency for a pleasant eating experience. The dish’s texture should be glue-like and easy to roll into small balls.

Experiment with different side dishes and dipping sauces to create a personalized ambuyat feast reminiscent of the traditional flavors enjoyed in Brunei and neighboring countries.

Learn More About Bruneian Cuisine

Brunei, a small Southeast Asian nation on the island of Borneo, boasts a rich culinary tradition that reflects its diverse cultural influences. The cuisine of Brunei is heavily influenced by Malay, Chinese, and Indian flavors, resulting in a unique fusion of tastes and ingredients. While ambuyat is the national dish and a must-try when visiting Brunei, there are several other dishes that showcase the vibrant flavors of this country.

One such dish is “nasi katok,” which translates to “knock rice” in English. It consists of steamed rice served with fried chicken and sambal sauce—a spicy chili-based condiment. Nasi katok is a popular street food in Brunei and is known for its simplicity yet bold flavors.

Another beloved Bruneian dish is “ayam penyet,” which means “smashed chicken” in Malay. It features fried or grilled chicken that is marinated in a blend of aromatic spices and served with sambal, cucumber slices, and rice. The highlight of this dish is the crispy texture of the chicken combined with the fiery kick of the sambal.

Seafood lovers will delight in trying “udang masak lemak cili padi,” which translates to “prawns cooked in spicy coconut milk.” This dish showcases the use of local ingredients such as fresh prawns cooked in a rich coconut milk gravy infused with fiery bird’s eye chili peppers. The creamy yet spicy flavor profile makes it a favorite among locals.

For those with a sweet tooth, don’t miss out on trying “kuih melayu.” This traditional Bruneian dessert features bite-sized cakes made from glutinous rice flour, coconut milk, pandan leaves (a fragrant leaf commonly used in Southeast Asian cooking), and palm sugar syrup. Kuih melayu comes in various shapes and colors and offers a delightful balance of sweetness and richness.

Bruneian cuisine is a reflection of the country’s cultural diversity and culinary heritage. From the starchy goodness of ambuyat to the bold flavors of nasi katok and ayam penyet, Brunei offers a culinary adventure that will satisfy every palate. So, when you visit this beautiful nation, be sure to explore the local food scene and savor the unique flavors that make Bruneian cuisine truly special.

Visit the homepage, download our app, or check out our Help Center to get started.