Ambuyat is unique to Brunei as well as to Bruneians. It is a type of starch taken especially during lunchtime and mostly on Friday afternoons or anytime you fancy really.
It’s glue-like appearance (top left) and bland taste might not be appetising but the trick is actually to dip it in the accompanying sauce known as cacah and swallowing it whole. Cacah or the dip can either be made from local fruits known as binjai or pidada or from fermented shrimps known locally as cencalu. Normally the cacah is sour but may be added in with chillies for those who like it hot or more chillies to make it hotter. Ambuyat taste best while hot so be very careful when swallowing it.If you do get your experience of your lifetime in accidentally swallowing a very hot ambuyat, don’t panic. My mom, who quoted an old wives’ tale, said to hug a banana tree instead of gulping cold water. She wasn’t sure sure why banana tree but thought that maybe banana is cool (I thought cucumber is cool? No? But then again cucumber is a creepy veggie, not a tree).
There are other races in this world who make full use of the sago tree. We have the Penans of Sarawak who processes sago flour from sago tree. The Kombai tribe, one of the tribes found in Irian Jaya, Indonesia, also eat the pit from the sago tree though I am sure they don’t have our cacah nor chandas (the two-pronged chopstick made from bamboo use to twirl and place Ambuyat in your mouth). Rumbia or sago trees take ten years to mature. I have no information on the number of such trees still intact in Brunei. I do hope they are still growing everyday so my great-great-grandchildren will know where Ambuyat come from.