Brunei – 10 Must-Try Food
The cuisine and the flavours of Brunei are heavily influenced by its neighbours: Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia. Even farther countries have made their mark in the plates and palates of Bruneians, namely India, Thailand, China, and Japan. The strong Islamic faith of the people, halal is observed in food and pork is avoided. Another unfortunate case is that alcohol is banned in Brunei – so you have to make do with healthy juices, there’s plenty of it in Brunei, after all. The main flavour of Bruneian dishes is spicy and hearty especially, it’s always with rice or noodles.
Rendang is a spicy meat dish that originated in Indonesia. It is a dry curry that’s made with beef, cooked together with a spicy paste and coconut milk until its fork-tender. It’s then fried together with the remaining braising liquid until the liquid caramelises around the beef, coating it with an insane amount of flavour. The unique combination of spice and the richness of the coconut milk make it an irresistible gastronomic treat.
Nasi lemak is a Malay fragrant rice dish cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaf. Other than these two main ingredients, other ones that create its captivating effect on the tongue are addictive spicy sambal, sliced cucumbers, deep-fried anchovies, fried peanuts, and hard-boiled eggs. While the rice is traditionally cooked with coconut milk, variants include the addition of garlic, shallots, a small cut of ginger, and at least two stalks of lemongrass added into the cooking rice. The spices enhance the sweetness and fragrant flavours of the rice. Just imagining it makes your mouth water and your throat dry.
Udang Sambal Serai Bersantan
Udang Sambal Serai Bersantan refers to chilli prawns (prawns cooked in chillis) with coconut milk served on top of rice and vegetables on the side. Udang Sambal Serai Bersantan is a seafood specialty of Brunei. The full list of ingredients of this seafood masterpiece includes tiger prawn, red chilli, dry chilli, pieces of onion, assam jawa flavoured water, small cut Serai, and coconut milk. Now, that’s a deadly combination that will make you stay in your seat eating a long time.
Pandan Leaf Chicken
Pandan leaf chicken is one of the best specialty chicken dishes from Thailand and adapted by Bruneians. Pandan, the aromatic leaves of perennial grass, are wrapped around chunks of coconut-milk-marinated chicken, steamed, and finally deep-fried in this sweet-savoury delight. Steaming the chicken in pandan leaves imparts a floral fragrance, while deep-frying caramelises the sugary marinade and browns the leaves, imbuing the meat with a nutty flavour.
Ambuyat is a dish derived from the interior trunk of the sago palm. It is a starchy bland substance, similar to tapioca starch. Ambuyat is the national dish of Brunei. It’s actually served with a cacah (ambuyat’s dip) and various side dishes such as ulam-ulaman (raw vegetables), fish, prawn or meat according to your taste. Why is this? It is because of the tasteless taste of an ambuyat. A versatile hidden star of the Bruneian plates that amplifies the tastiness of other dishes.
Air Batu Campur/Ice Kacang
Literally meaning “bean ice,” also commonly known as ABC (an acronym for Air Batu Campur, meaning mixed ice), is a Malaysian dessert that is also common in Brunei. Ice kacang was originally made of only shaved ice and red beans, though the number and diversity of ingredients have since expanded. Today, Air Batu Campur generally comes in bright colours, and with different fruit cocktails and dressings. Such cocktails and dressings are attap chee (palm seed), red beans, sweet corn, grass jelly, roasted peanuts and cubes of agar agar. Optional ones include aloe vera, cendol, nata de coco, or ice cream. A final topping of evaporated milk, condensed milk, or coconut milk is drizzled over the mountain of ice along with red rose syrup and sarsi syrup.
Ikan Tenggiri Balado
Ikan Tenggiri Balado or mackerel balado is a spicy savoury fish dish. The fresh mackerel is stir-fried with onions, garlic, kaffir lime leaves, and other herbs. The already spicy dish is then topped with fresh string beans and lots of minced chilli. You can actually request to add the chilli toppings if you love spicy food or you can request to tone it down if you just want it to warm your hungry stomach.
Nasi Goreng Istimewa
Nasi Goreng is an Indonesian rice dish with pieces of meat and vegetables added. It can refer simply to fried pre-cooked rice, a meal including stir-fried rice in a small amount of cooking oil or margarine, typically spiced with kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), shallot, garlic, ground shrimp paste, tamarind, and chilli along with other ingredients such as egg, chicken and prawns. The most common dish in the streets of Brunei, affordable and satisfying actually. And even though, it has its common ingredients, you don’t know what surprise you’re going to get because the stall owners have started to incorporate their family recipes in the dish. A fun way to fulfil your food desires.
Kerabu Udang and Mangga
An example of the fusion of Western and Asian influences, Kerabu Udang And Mangga – or Shrimp And Mango Salad – is a fresh tropical salad often eaten as an appetiser. The lime juice and cilantro are perfect already, but other ingredients that make this refreshing summer salad are lime, mango, grilled shrimp, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Kuih Calak Beef
Kuih Calak Beef is a traditional Borneo Malay savoury pastry, made with all-purpose flour, eggs, coconut milk, sugar, minced beef, onions, salt, sugar, spring onions, curry powder, haricot beans, and chilli. It’s easily found in most street-side stalls and sought after because of its crispiness outside, meaty softness inside, and an overwhelming rich spiciness as a result of the abundant milk and chilli combination. A snack that satisfies like one whole course.