TRADITIONAL SWEET TREATS

Written by root. Posted in BEST OF BRUNEI

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Published on September 03, 2016 with No Comments

Brunei’s ode to the sweet-toothed.

Words & Images JACQUELINE WONG

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No one can resist desserts. In Asia especially, the repertoire of desserts ranges from sumptuous mini cakes to puddings in parcels and delectable biscuits. Much like their Western counterpart, Asian desserts make for popular tea time treats. However, they are also taken as snacks and are sometimes a meal in themselves!

In Brunei, desserts-making is an institution in its own. The art of making them is not one to be studied in classrooms but rather, through being in a living kitchen working under the watchful eye of the family matriarch. The tradition of making desserts is passed down from one generation to the next. It requires one to have patience, deft fingers, and above all, love and passion to go into making them.

That’s because Bruneian desserts are not just about the taste. They are also a feast of the eyes. Katilapam (savoury rice flour snack), tapai (sweet fermented dessert) and kelupis (glutinous rice rolls) come in delightful little dessert parcels made of banana leaves. With patience and diligence, these parcels become tidy, neat boxes. Those with no flair for dessert-making may find themselves with something that amounts to a banana leaf rucksack!

Brunei’s local desserts are predominantly starch-based. There are sago, rice flours, glutinous rice, fermented rice yeast and tapioca flour. With rice being a staple of Bruneians, it’s not surprising to have rice and its variants feature in many of the recipes. Desserts made with rice flour have a unique texture and taste. They can be steamed, baked, boiled or fried, and each variety will give a different flavour to the dessert. Other ingredients that add depth and flavour to the desserts are palm sugar, coconut milk and pandan (screwpine leaf) – which is an aromatic local plant that also gives a gorgeous green tint to the desserts and sweet cakes.

Traditional biscuits are also among the snacks considered as dessert treats in Brunei. Kuih kering, makanan cincin, bahulu, sapit and cacah are local delicacies that had their humble beginnings with the people of Kampong Ayer, Brunei’s first settlement. Some biscuits, such as kuih kering, has cumin, coriander and aniseed added to it, which gives this biscuit a sharp but subtle edge. Others are unique in their making as they require moulds, such as bahulu and sapit, with some of the moulds having been in the same family for generations.

The best part about these Bruneian sweet treats is that you can get them at the local tamu (market) or supermarkets. They make great gifts and souvenirs, especially when you long for that one lasting taste of Brunei.

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