15 Most Popular Foods in Brunei Darussalam
Located at the heart of Borneo Island resides a small country called Brunei Darussalam. The nation is rich in traditions, culture and most importantly food.
Bruneian cuisine is heavily influenced by the cuisines of the countries with which it has strong ties, such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, China, and India. Regardless of what you’re craving, Brunei has tons of variety that are so appetizing!
Without further ado, let’s round-up the most popular dishes in Brunei.
Despite being Brunei’s national dish, few will have tried Ambuyat. At the first glance, it looks and feels like glue! Ambuyat is a flavorless sago that’s usually dipped with sauce called cacah.
It is served with other dishes, which usually include ikan goreng (fried fish), pakis or biring (vegetables), hati buyah (cow’s lungs), beef rendang (slow cooked beef stew), and other mains.
There is a special utensil for eating ambuyat called candas, which is made from bamboo. You should always eat ambuyat while it is hot as turns even stickier when it has cooled down, which can make it hard to scoop up with your candas.
You don’t have to like it but if you’re ever in Brunei, you should at least try it once!
2. Hati Buyah (Beef Lungs)
If you’re looking for adventure, try this. Hati buyah is often marinated and stir fried. These beef lungs are chewy and full of flavor! It is often served with ambuyat.
It is also served as the topping for meat in soto, which is a bowl of slow-cooked soup. It comes with noodles of your choice, mee kuning (yellow noodles), mee hoon (vermicelli noodles), or kahwin (both mee kuning and mee hoon), and is usually topped off with scallions and egg along with the hati buyah.
3. Nasi Katok
If you were to translate Nasi Katok, it would be rice knock, which is a bit of a head scratcher. The origin of the name comes from people knocking on the vendors’ doors when they want some.
Usually wrapped in grease proof paper, this dish comes with a bowl of rice, a piece of chunky fried chicken, which part depending on availability, and sambal (dip), which comes as normal or spicy. The best thing about this dish is it is one of the cheapest meal, costing only BND1.50 or BND1 at certain stalls!
4. Ayam Penyet
Another go to meal for lunch or dinner is ayam penyet, as it is incredibly delicious and affordable (priced around BND4.50-6). Inspired by the cuisine of Indonesia, this dish comes with a hearty bowl of rice, a chicken leg, and is topped off with chili sambal.
The fried chicken leg is usually marinated first in spices and herbs. Depending on the restaurant you visit, you’ll get a side dish of either cucumber or cabbage. You can ask for the cucumber to be steamed or boiled rather than raw.
One of the most common street foods you’ll find on the stalls in markets, these satay are barbequed on a grill. You’ll know these are around because of the aroma from the cooking meat that fills the air.
Essentially satay is meat on a stick. Take your pick of meat, which ranges from chicken to lamb or beef, and occasionally rabbit. But most importantly, don’t forget to dip them into the classic peanut sauce!
Editor’s Note: Satay is a popular food throughout South East Asia and it is a testament to the popularity and versatility of grilled skewered meat.
Back in the good oldie days, most citizens of Brunei would visit other countries by ship. During those long voyages, it was a necessity to preserve food for as long as possible. The tradition of wrapping rice in triangles of palm leaves and hanging them in the open air is thought to have originated from those journeys.
Nowadays, this hallmark Malay dish is still made from plain rice but rhombus shaped, intricately shaped woven coconut or palm leaves. Once cooked, the leaves are cut open. In fragrant ketupat, the rice tastes better than plain rice. It is usually eaten with rendang as a dip.
You’ll see this dish a lot more during the month of Ramadan, when Muslims break their fast, or at Malay weddings.
A breakfast for the champions – roti! Since there are different forms of roti, such as roti kuning (yellow bread), roti canai, murtabak, and more, let’s dig in a little deeper into each of them.
Roti kuning consists of two fluffy buns. The center is filled with cheese, meat, and the option of kahwin, a sweet mixture of coconut milk, jam, sugar, and butter.
Roti canai and murtabak were introduced to Borneo as a byproduct of the spice trade, as Brunei was once its center. Roti canai is an Indian-style flatbread that comes with a kuah (dip) of your choice, chicken, fish or lamb. Murtabak is an omelet filled pancake that originated in Arabia.
But if you go to any Indian or Pakistani restaurant, you’ll find you can customize your fillings with other ingredients: extra egg, cheese, onions, meat, and more!
8. Ais Batu Campur (ABC)
Made from shaved ice, this dessert commonly contains sago pearls, red beans, grass jelly, and corn. ABC can be drizzled with syrup, for those with a sweet tooth.
This is a traditional snack that comes in tons of variations. It is known as cucur jawa, or cucur gula melaka to those in Sabah. The other nickname for this is kuih UFO.
They are made with rice flour, palm sugar, and some water. Despite the simple ingredients, the deep frying process can be a challenge. A good penyaram should be brownish in color and be round in shape with a crispy edge. In the middle, is a little mound full of air holes, which make it nice and chewy.
10. Kuih Mor
A snack that you’ll see more often during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri (a religious holiday celebrated during the whole month after Ramadan). These soft, white balls of bite-sized biscuit are made with flour, oil, and powdered sugar.
Modern versions of this favorite local snack include crushed peanuts or Oreos, adding a slight twist to the classic taste.
Kuih mor are often handed out as gifts at Malay weddings or other gatherings, as a simple token of appreciation.
11. Pulut Panggang
A tea time snack or breakfast, pulut panggang is always welcome. Comprised of steamed glutinous rice and a spicy sambal filling wrapped in banana leaves which it then grilled, pulut panggang is a popular local delicacy.
Kelupis is another light snack that looks quite similar to pulut panggang. The difference lies in the way it is prepared. Kelupis are steamed and wrapped in Nyirik leafs.
Available at hawker stalls or pasar malam (night markets), do consume them while still warm as that’s when they taste the best!
12. Tapak Kuda
This is one of the most sought after desserts when visiting homes during Hari Raya Aidil Fitri. Who can resist the rich and decadent sponge cake filled with chocolate ganache or Nutella? Yes, Bruneians tend to have a sweet tooth, which is quite insatiable.
13. Kuih Cincin
A fun way to propose to your significant other without diamond rings! The word kuih means cake, while cincin means ring. The name derives from the holes tin the middle of the kuih cincin.
Made with both red palm sugar and brown sugar, they are coated with rice flour. The final step is to deep fry them and serve. But don’t let them cool if you want to enjoy these crunchy snacks at their best!
14. Keropok Udang
This is a traditional snack that is shared across Borneo Island, including Kalimantan. You’ll find them mostly during Chinese New Year.
Keropok Udang is made by blending minced prawns and starch. This is then garnished with garlic, salt, and pepper. Next, they are sun baked before being fried in hot oil to crispy perfection!
Commonly keropok udang has a yellowish-white hue. But in recent years, purple crackers made with sweet potatoes have become a popular alternative.
15. Honey Garlic Pizza
Pizza? A Bruneian dish? Well we won’t argue that pizza is a local dish, but the topping is definitely a Bruneian thing.
It became hugely popular when Pizza Hut rolled the product in the early 2000s. Honey garlic pizza became a game-changer for the local pizza parlors and ever since a favorite among local pizza lovers.