Keropok Amplang of Sabah

Keropok Amplang, the seafood cracker of Borneo

Sabah is abundant in seafood, so many that we make crackers out of them. In the local market of Sabah, you would see piles of packaged yellowish and round-shaped snacks for sale. It’s Keropok Amplang (or Amplang), the most popular cracker of Sabah and a crunchy and savory snack made of seafood.

Amplang of Sabah in fishing baskets
The scoop baskets are the traditional fishing tool of Sabah, so is the (standing) fish trap “Bubu” at the back. The motif on the blue sarong table cloth symbolizes squid.

In contrast to potato chips, which are packed in colourful bags bloated with air, Amplang is a “low-profile” snack sealed tightly in clear plastic bag. Potato chips (or crisps) is a junk food that only makes you thirsty, Amplang can be eaten as a complement food.
You can dip Amplang in tomato sauce for richer taste. That reminds me of fish & chips, but Amplang is a “fish in chips” instead.

Sabah amplang in the basket
Amplang crackers are commonly made of ikan tenggiri (wahoo) or any type of Spanish mackerel

Most Amplang is made from the flesh of fish, prawn or squid, mixed with tapioca flour, starch, garlic, egg, sugar and salt (spice and MSG would be added). The mixture is then deep-fried in small pieces until it expands and turns crunchy.

Amplang of Sabah in different flavours
Once you take amplang out of its packing, your whole room will be filled with seafood aroma.

Tawau in East Coast of Sabah is famous for producing the best Amplang in Sabah, so people think Amplang is a Sabah food. In fact, Amplang is first made in Samarinda, the capital city of East Kalimantan (Indonesian territory on Borneo Island).

Amplang and seafood origami
I use seashell craft, fishing net, and seafood origami to hint that amplang is a seafood snack.

The traditional Amplang is made of freshwater fishes such as ikan pipih or ikan belida (Species: Chitala lopis). As the population of river fishes is declining, they are replaced by ocean fishes. The most common choice is Ikan Tenggiri (or Wahoo Fish, Species: Acanthocybium solandri), for its high quality flesh. Gabus (Striped snakehead) and Spanish mackerel are also used.

Ikan Tenggiri (or Wahoo Fish, Species: Acanthocybium solandri)
Ikan Tenggiri or Wahoo Fish is commonly used in making of Amplang and Hinava. The flesh of this big ocean fish remains white in raw and cooked states.

The original Amplang is fish flavour, but now you can find other flavours such as prawn, curry squid (sotong kari), sweet squid and cheese, and each has its own fans. I personally like curry squid and prawn which have stronger aroma.

Amplang in four flavours. 1) Original fish amplang, 2) Curry Squid, 3) Squid, and 4) Cheese
Amplang in four flavours. 1) Original fish amplang (same colour as prawn amplang), 2) Curry Squid, 3) Squid, and 4) Cheese

Cheese Amplang tastes exactly like cheese ball crackers that melt in your mouth. Cheese amplang is double the price of fish amplang and it’s soft, taste great but not to my liking. Crab and seaweed flavours are available in Kalimantan, but I haven’t seen one in Sabah market.

Amplang of different flavors sold in plastic bags
Amplang of different flavours sold in plastic bags at the market

Amplang from Tawau is also available in other parts of Sabah. Other fish amplang might contain less seafood and taste starchy. Anyway, some sellers allow you to sample it before buying. A small pack of fish Amplang costs about RM6 or RM7.

Marshmallow Vs Amplang
Marshmallow Vs Amplang, West Vs East. Which is your favourite snack?

The more I look at Amplang, the more it looks like marshmallow, though they are totally different snacks. Anyway, in my heart, Amplang is always the “Marshmallow of the East”.

Photos taken in Sabah, Malaysia Borneo

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