Taste of Southeast Asia: Dining in Brunei
Charcoal-roasted satay at Gadong Night Market in Bandar Seri Begawan. Image: Visualhunt
Welcome back to Taste of ASEAN.
So far we have visited Indonesia and the Philippines in our blog series about the cuisines of Southeast Asia. We are taking readers through ASEAN to learn about the cuisine you can taste during your travels. Our hope is for visitors traveling through the ASEAN region to explore the authentic tastes of each country. If you know the cultural history behind each regional dish, you will appreciate the real thing when you try it in person on your next holiday. Hopefully, you’ll be able to impress your traveling companions with your wealth of culinary knowledge!
Today, we are headed to the small and delicious country of Brunei. Stay with us on this culinary adventure as we taste what this special ASEAN region has to offer.
The Bruneians have a multicultural population with Malay, Chinese, and a mix of other people of Southeast Asian origins as residents. This means that Bruneian cuisine benefits from the delicious influence of many nearby countries like Malaysia, Indonesia, India, Singapore, China, Thailand, and even Japan.
A majority Muslim nation, Brunei cuisine avoids pork in favor of chicken or beef. If you head to rural areas of Brunei, you may even see the local game on the menu like wild birds and small deer-like animals called red muntjac. Meals in Brunei are based around rice and noodles as the staple starch. Accompanying main dishes are sauces, usually served with a side of sambal or chili paste since Bruneians like their spice!
Bruneian cuisine brings together the flavors of an entire region and each dish represents a unique culture, flavor, and cooking style. Let’s take a look at three dishes that you can try in Brunei.
Satay is the generic name for charcoal-grilled meat sticks found throughout Southeast Asia. Each country has their satay specialties that are a typical street food for locals to enjoy. The seasoning and dipping sauce varies from country to country.
Bruneian satay is so famous that there are Bruneian satay restaurants throughout the rest of Southeast Asia. The local favorite is found under the Malay spelling sate, and is typically marinated in peanut or coconut sauce, well-seasoned, and then grilled.
Satay urat at Pasar Malam. Image: Visualhunt
These small sate skewers are made with plenty of fatty meat chunks to keep them from drying out on the grill. Diners can order skewers in groups of 10 and choose from chicken, beef, and offal varieties. Sate is served with ketupat rice cakes and a flavorful peanut sauce for dipping. While you travel through the downtown of capital city Bandar Seri Begawan, don’t forget to drop into Sate House for a dinner of iga penyet fried beef ribs and a huge pile of sate.
Ambuyat is a local sago starch served with sides. Image: Shutterstock
Though much of Brunei’s cuisine is influenced or similar to dishes from nearby countries, there are a few dishes that are purely Brunei. One delicacy that is unique to the local cuisine is ambuyat. Instead of using rice or noodles as the main starch, this dish uses a totally local starchy food made from the insides of the sago palm tree. The starch is served in a large dish at the center of the table along with sour gravy and red chili dipping sauces, cooked greens, and fresh veggies for crunch.
The texture of the ambuyat is translucent white in color and eaten using two straight, bamboo skewers called chandas. Diners have to use the skewers to wrap a stringy, sticky ball of starch around the tips before dipping and eating.
As a dish native to Brunei, this is one meal that cannot be missed during summer vacations in the ASEAN region. Give it a try at Aminah Arif Restaurant, a local chain with branches around the country.
Aminah Arif Restaurant is well known for its Ambuyat. Image: Instagram
The cuisine in Brunei is an amalgamation of all the delicious spices, produce, and agriculture native to the larger region. The flavor profile is bright, spicy, sweet, and extremely varied in texture. When you are traveling to Asia with your friends, be sure to experience sate and ambuyat to get a taste for the best Brunei has to offer.
Thanks for coming to Brunei and exploring the flavors of this small country with us!
Join us for more of the Taste of ASEAN blog series and follow along as we visit each country in Southeast Asia to and discover their delicious cuisines. After all, ASEAN is the perfect place to plan an incredible food journey!