A MEMORY, NOT JUST A MEAL

Written by root. Posted in BEST OF BRUNEI

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Published on March 06, 2019 with No Comments

Once an afterthought to a holiday, food is now challenging the notion that the journey is more important than the destination.

Words ANIS RAMLI

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Credit(s): Jose Barrios/Eco Ponies Garden

 

Food is an intrinsic part of the tourist experience. No longer a stop on short break itineraries, visiting world-class restaurants and hitting popular street food vendors offer travellers with an authentic local story. Pushing a country’s food agenda also helps to create a sense of pride and renewed appreciation for what is available from the local landscape.

That is true for Brunei Darussalam that has a stunning food scene. It is also the country’s best-kept secret. Access to quality fresh produce has enabled Brunei to put its gastronomy on the map for culinary enthusiasts. With influences from the Brunei Malays and ethnic Dusun, Belait, Kedayan, Murut and Bisaya, including the Indian and Chinese communities, Brunei has added flair and flavours to explore.

Guests will almost always find their food garnished or made with the staple herb ingredient of ginger or lemongrass. For an exploration of indigenous flavours and rustic cooking, Eco Ponies Garden, a little farmstay in Tutong, about 40 minutes from Bandar Seri Begawan, is perhaps the best place to start exploring the influences of these traditions in Bruneian cooking.

Cooking highlights include rattan shoots sambal (sambal umbut rotan) made using edible rattan shoots foraged from the forest, aniseed chicken with lemongrass skewers (ayam serai jintan manis babu) and stir fried wild fern (pakis masak tumis) using ferns grown in the wild, usually by the river water.

For a food crawl like no other, the Tamu Kianggeh in Brunei’s capital, offers plenty to graze on and more. The offerings at this food market are more comfort food. There are fresh grilled seafood; rice in banana leaves and various condiments (nasi lemak, nasi katok); fritters made from bananas, yam, corn and more (cucur) and desserts such as local pancakes filled with crushed peanuts, condensed milk and sugar (kueh Malaya). The food market is also where guests can explore local fresh vegetables, spices and herbs. It is also here that visitors get a chance to meet and interact with the locals while taking in the country’s diverse food culture.

Meanwhile, innovative chefs with access to quality fresh produce have also put their own spin to local cuisine. At Riwaz, a nouveau Indian restaurant by the Radisson Hotel Brunei Darussalam, much of the menu focuses on global fire-cooking techniques, specifically preparing items à la broche – a spit-roasting method – or with a tandoor oven. Traditional mains such as the Murgh Makhani (chicken tikka in velvety tomato gravy) and the Hyderabadi Murgh Dum Biryani (baby chicken marinated overnight and cooked along with fragrant basmati rice in a sealed pot) easily go well with the freshly baked naan breads and paratha. There is also Patthaka Gosht (escalope lamb marinated for 48 hours cooked on a hot stone) that makes use of local green chilies and cashews.

Food will continue to remain the backbone of the relationship between the traveller and the destination. With Brunei’s varied cuisines, the food scene will only get better.

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