Umai Recipe: How to Make Delicious Umai at Home

Umai Recipe

Umai is a traditional Sarawakian dish that originated from the Melanau tribe. This dish consists of raw fish slices mixed with vegetables like onions, garlic, and coriander leaves. On top of that, it is seasoned with a tangy mix of lime juice, vinegar, and chillies. The fishermen traditionally consume this dish due to the lack of heat sources on the boat for cooking. Nowadays, many consume Umai as a salad or an appetiser.


Tips for Making Umai

There is a variety of fish used to prepare Umai. Some common examples are ikan parang, tuna, mackerel, and sea bass. Be sure to use fresh, sashimi-grade fish for the best of taste. 

Besides that, you could also replace the fish slices with any other seafood, such as fresh prawns, oysters, and scallops. Better yet, use a variety of seafood in this dish!

As different vinegar have varying acidity and flavour, it’s best to use light vinegar for this dish. Some typical examples are distilled white vinegar, red wine vinegar, and white wine vinegar. Fret not, as the mild flavour of light vinegar will not overpower the tastes of other ingredients.

If you enjoy the sourness of this dish, feel free to opt for bright vinegar, such as apple cider vinegar and rice vinegar. Bright vinegar is slightly more acidic than the light vinegar but will not overpower the other ingredients. 

While you can use any onion of your choice, it is best to use white, or yellow onions to prevent overpowering of flavours. However, if you enjoy the fragrance of raw onions, feel free to use red onions to have a more intense flavour.

Umai Recipe: How to Make Delicious Umai at Home

Recipe by LokaTasteDifficulty: Easy


Prep time


Cooking timeminutes



Prepare Umai by mixing the ingredients successively. No cooking or heating is required.


  • 800g of fish (skinned, deboned, thinly sliced)

  • 1tbsp of vinegar

  • 5 pounded shallots

  • 10 pounded bird’s eye chilli

  • 4 cloves of pounded garlic

  • 15 Calamansi limes, extract the juice

  • 2 thinly sliced red chillies

  • 1 thinly sliced onion

  • salt (as needed)

  • some chopped coriander leaves

  • 4tbsp of roasted and grounded peanuts

  • coriander leaves (garnishing)


  • Place the fish slices and vinegar in a bowl and mix evenly.
  • Pour out the excess vinegar.
  • Then, put in the pounded shallots, bird’s chilli, garlic, lime juice, red chillies, and onions. Mix all ingredients evenly.
  • Next, set the mixture aside for at least 5 minutes. Add some salt to taste.
  • Before serving, sprinkle the dish with some coriander leaves and grounded peanuts.

Recipe Video


  • Avoid consuming overnight Umai, as it might cause food poisoning and diarrhoea. In addition, it is also best to prevent over-consuming the dish. This is because raw meat usually contains bacteria and parasites that are harmful to human bodies.
  • Some groups of individuals should avoid having Umai and any other raw meat altogether. This applies to individuals who belong to the high-risk groups, such as those with compromised immune systems, babies, children, pregnant women, and the elderlies.

Ways to Enjoy Umai

Typically served with chips or nachos as an appetiser, Umai is sure to satisfy. The crispy textures of chips and nachos complement the soft fish slices. Besides chips and nachos, you can also serve Umai with toasted sago pearls.

Explore other popular Sarawakian delights with Lokataste Recipe and more!


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