Located at the heart of Southeast Asia and flanked by the South China Sea along the northern coast of the island of Borneo, the tiny nation of Negara Brunei Darussalam is wedged between the Malaysian states of Sarawak and Sabah.
Food and travel go hand in hand. When travelers sample delicacies traditionally specific to that particular region, they get a better understanding of the region's culture and traditions. One of Brunei's greatest treasures is its food culture, amalgamating its traditional treats and a blend of cuisines from Malaysia, China, India, Indonesia, and Singapore. When in Brunei, you are spoilt for choice as there is a variety of flavourful snacks found exclusively here. From delectable Nasi Katok, scrumptious Kuih Cincin, and succulent Hati Buyah to the national dish Ambuyat – no better way to connect with a culture than with food!
For food lovers wanting to indulge in Brunei's cuisine, we have got you covered – here is a breakdown of unique, delicious food that is bound to leave your taste buds wanting more:
This is Brunei's national dish which is made from the inside portion of the sago palm tree containing a translucent, starchy substance (almost identical to tapioca starch) and mixed with water to get a sticky texture. Locals usually swallow this unique food instead of chewing it because of its paste-like consistency. It is served with a sour and spicy dip called cacah made with shrimp, chilies, and lime and can have other variations too. Ambuyat is also eaten alongside main course dishes such as Hati Buyah (marinated stir-fried beef lungs) and Ikan Goreng (fried fish).
This dish dates back to the days of World War II when Brunei was under Japanese occupation. Since there was a shortage of food, the locals tried their hands to make dishes with whatever was available, and hence, one such result was the invention of Ambuyat.
Candas, a V-shaped thick bamboo stick, similar to chopsticks but adjoined together on one end, are used for eating Ambuyat and dipping in the sauce. It is advised to eat it while still hot as it becomes difficult to use the candas to scoop out the cloggy texture by the time it cools.
Places to visit to try this customary delicacy: Aminah Arif Restaurant, Tudung Saji Market, and the Salera Babu Restoran.
Bamboo Chicken, also known as Manuk Pansuh, was the brainchild of the Iban community in Brunei. It incorporates a blend of aromatic spices, ginger, onions, a unique local herb called bunga kantan, and flavourful lemongrass. The marinate for the chicken is then wrapped in banana leaves (believed to bring out the rich flavor in comparison to other conventional cooking styles). It is then transferred to the hollow bamboo poles, which are placed on an open fire and cooked for about 20 minutes, making the chicken juicy and tender.
Speaking to HalalTrip, Johari Achee, former Editor-in-Chief at the Brunei Times, exclaimed that the preparation and consumption of the bamboo chicken is a food adventure with nature! He added that this is a delicacy that could harmoniously complement your lunch and dinner.
This signature dish of Brunei is commonly eaten during weddings and festivals, especially during the harvesting ceremony – the Gawai festival celebrated by the Iban community.
Enjoy the juicy, succulent meat with a bowl of steamed rice, and you may have found your new favorite comfort food.
A place to go and savor this aromatic delicacy: Syarikat Haji Metali Bin Abdullah Dan Anak-Anak. This restaurant was started by the late Haji Metali, who was a pioneer in the Brunei food and beverages industry. His children continue to carry on his culinary legacy today.
Penyaram, also known as Cucur Jawa, is a traditional sweet snack widely available throughout the country. This dome-shaped dish with a chewy texture and crunchy curled edges that resembles a Mexican Hat is savored during important events, ceremonies, and weddings.
Made with plain flour, rice flour, palm sugar, coconut milk, and water, this simple yet irresistible specialty is said to have been created by the Bruneian Malay and the Bajaus. It is nicknamed Kuih UFO because of its distinct shape.
Your tastebuds will be in for a treat as you indulge and relish the delicious Penyaram! Pair it with your evening tea or coffee.
Stir-fried beef lungs known as Hati Buyah is Brunei's exotic dish full of flavor. The preparation for it contains only a handful of ingredients, including boiled lungs, cut into small pieces, and marinated with spices that include coriander, cumin, salt, and sugar.
This spicy dish is best enjoyed with Ambuyat or can be consumed along with Soto (a hearty bowl of slow-cooked soup) or with yellow noodles (mee kuning), vermicelli noodles, and topped with half-fried/boiled eggs.
One of Brunei's mouthwatering crunchy confections, Kuih Cincin, is made from a blend of wheat and rice flour and red palm sugar, which is then molded similarly to a waffle's structure but with holes scattered in the middle, resembling the flower. Kuih is loosely translated as cake, while cincin means ring. Typically, this dish has two types: Iranun style is the harder version of Kuih Cincin, whereas the Brunei-Malay style incorporates a soft variety (this too is crispy), which is generally sweeter.
The batter is deep-fried twice to get a shatteringly crispy texture of more than one layer and to bring out extra flavor. With such a strong appeal, it is a delectable snack to pair up with your evening coffee or tea or have it to satisfy your sweet cravings after a meal.
Indulge and relish in Brunei's own version of beef sausage, which is made up of 80% meat (cow or buffalo) and 20% fat. It is then marinated with ingredients that include garlic, a variety of spices, chilies, onion, salt, sugar, and then shaped into a sausage and stuffed into casings made of cow's intestines. The next step is to dry them under the direct sun for 3-4 days. This gives the meat a distinct flavor and texture. It is typically fried before serving.
Belutak Daging is one of the delicacies that Brunei could offer to food connoisseurs. So try it for yourselves, and it will leave you wanting more!
Brunei's iconic fast food meal, Nasi Katok, includes white rice, fried crispy chicken, and sambal (a mildly spicy dip made with a blend of peanuts, chilies, and spices). Nasi Katok literally translates as rice and knock, respectively. According to local folklore, people knocked on rice sellers' doors to get food at midnight. This name continues to be used to date.
Nasi Katok has several variations to it, the most famous ones being with an infusion of buttermilk and honey glaze. The rice and deep-fried chicken combo are famous for their appetizing taste and affordable pricing; priced at about $1, a full meal is available for you to enjoy!
Places to visit to try the nation’s favorite Nasi Katok: Abu Marta Kitchen, Nasi Katok Mama.
A breakfast and tea-time savory treat in Brunei, Pulut Panggang is a steamed dish made with sticky rice, coconut milk, and sambal mixture wrapped in fresh banana leaves that makes it more fragrant. The stomach-filling comfort food is a local delicacy either steamed or grilled and served hot.
Places to enjoy Pulut Panggang: Mei Fang, Puteh Restaurant and Sumbangsih Mulia Complex.
When in Brunei, do not miss out on these unique culinary delights that will transcend you to the flavors of Brunei's rich culinary heritage!