Tue, 12 Dec 2023


Kota Belud’s unique Tamu
Published on: Sunday, May 21, 2023
By: Lorena Binisol
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Ahong showing some of her Petai produce.
ALTHOUGH featuring mostly jungle products and vintage items, Tamu Kota Belud on Sundays continues to attract crowds. At times foreign tourists can be also spotted buying these items.

It is because of certain items that are not available in shops.

Like salted fish which is found in other districts. However, Kota Belud has its own version, whereby the fish is spread with copious amounts of chilli paste on top so it has some spiciness when consumed.

“Originally, we sold it like the normal salted fish, but by and by people continue requesting for some spiciness to it.  

Kota Belud salted fish products are in high demand. 

“Hence, we came up with this idea of putting an amount-full of red chilli paste on top of the fish.”

Maybe, it is due to people here being fond of eating everything spicy.

Ahong, who sells Petai, a stinky broad bean, with health benefits, said it is very difficult to harvest due to tree being too tall.

“Luckily we have someone in our village at Kg. Tombotuon who is willing to do the job and he is the only one who could climb but, of course, with a price.

“Hence, the price of Petai is not cheap and is sold by the kilo,” she said, adding RM25 per kilo is not uncommon.

Another elderly woman sells river fish that had been pickled, known as “Bosou”.

She said her children got her the fish from a nearby river and she has them pickled like how she was taught when young.

“This authentic delicacy had been around in the family for many generations.

Left: River fish made into pickled products. 

“There are people who still look for this kind of authentic food of the natives and it is a source of income for my family,” she said.

Another interesting feature was to see elderly people, despite their age, still selling in the open area.

They continue to survive by selling whatever they could get from the nearby jungle just to make ends meet.

Or, simply because they want to pass time at the flea market and an opportunity to meet up with old friends and new people (tourists).

Penjaram, the popular Bajau cake, is seen everywhere at the Tamu area.  

It used to be sold at 30 sen a piece, and today the sweet dessert is getting more pricey.

A young mother, who sells leaves, said life gets tougher when prices of everyday goods doubled or tripled.

“I had to find ways to increase family income by getting some jungle produce to sell.

Locally known as Daun Kobu, these leaves are only found in the deep jungle (left pic). Popular dessert: Penjaram (right pic)

Right: Two vendors showing Daun Silad. 

“Since Daun Kobu and Daun Silad are still sought after by people who make kuih, I diligently harvest them at nearby jungle as they are still abundantly growing,” she said while carrying her infant baby.

The local vendors, despite the hardship, patiently smiled at each passersby. Their act had somehow warmed the ambience at the Tamu ground.

It also provides them space to catch up with each other on their everyday life, on current events, especially in May where a lot of happenings in the district level.

One of the vendors was heard saying she would make more authentic food and traditional drinks so she could sell them to tourists who dare to try out anything. 

Known as “cowboy town”, Kota Belud is synonymous with horses and populated by the Bajau community, believed to be the early settlers there.



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