Bruneian delicacies overlap with those found in neighbouring countries like Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore, drawing inspiration from Malay, Chinese and Indian cuisine.
Rice and noodles are the staple food on most menus, whereas chicken, beef and seafood form the base of various local dishes. Visitors looking for sweet healthy treats will enjoy seasonal tropical fruits such as papaya, mangosteen, rambutan, kembayau, tarap and durian, also affectionately called the king of fruit and is native to Southeast Asia.
Asian cuisines ranging from Indian and Thai to Japanese and Korean are relatively easy to come by in Brunei. Western food, particularly Italian, is also a popular option.
Ambuyat is a national and traditional dish derived from the interior of sago trees. Known for its sticky texture, ambuyat is commonly eaten with a cacah (dipping sauce) using a v-shaped bamboo stick called candas. Ambuyat is found not only in Brunei but throughout the Borneo Island in places including Sabah, Sarawak, the eastern part of Indonesia as well as Labuan.
Nasi katok, one of the nation’s favourite food items, is a simple dish featuring plain rice combined with fried chicken and sambal that can range from sweet to savoury at all levels of spiciness.
Roti john, nasi lemak and mee goreng are some of the local dishes commonly found at food stalls. Visitors can often find freshly prepared ikan panggang (grilled fish), tongkeng ayam (grilled parson’s nose), hati buyah (grilled beef lung) and satay (grilled chicken or beef skewers) atop most barbeque pits at these stalls. Various local kueh (cakes) are also available, as well as refreshing drinks like sugar cane juice, air kelapa (coconut juice), milo and air bandung (rose water) for a quick recharge while strolling in the sun.
Typical breakfast items for Bruneians include roti kahwin kuning (kaya and butter on toast), roti mentega (butter buns) and roti kacang (peanut butter buns). Roti canai, also known as murtabak, is another popular choice.
It is a type of flatbread originating from India often coupled with a savoury curry sauce. For a complete Bruneian breakfast experience, have a cup of teh tarik – hot tea mixed with sweet and creamy condensed milk.
For those who are looking for various food items under one roof, Brunei’s vast array of food courts offer great options. Jerudong Park Food Court, Sumbangsih Food Court, The Mall Food Court and Little Soho are some of the popular lunch and dinner spots among locals.
Food stalls are called gerai in Malay and are ideal for a quick grab-and-go meal especially street food. Popular gerai in the Brunei-Muara District include Tamu Selera, the Gadong Night Market and Gerai Makan Jalan Residency. Other eating areas are Tudung Saji, Gerai Bunga Rambai and Gerai Simpur in Kuala Belait and Tamu Muhibah Aneka Rasa in Temburong. Each offers an abundance of food choices at affordable prices. Some gerai only pop up on special occasions such as His Majesty’s birthday and the whole month of Ramadhan.
Kopitiam are traditional coffee shops found in Brunei. The word kopi is Malay for coffee and tiam is Hakka/Hokkien for shop. Chop Jing Chew, one of Brunei’s oldest kopitiam and most widely recognised, is well-known for their freshly baked bread. The kopitiam was founded in 1946 and is often packed with loyal patrons early in the morning. Other popular coffee shops include Jee Juan Coffee Café in Kuala Belait, Seria’s Universal Café, Soi Heng Coffee Shop and Wah Hing.
Located in the heart of Gadong and set by the river, One Riverside has a wide range of restaurants with varying cuisines onsite including Iskandar Curry House, Ximply Chriz, Margherita Pizzaria, Nanyang Food Garden, Daon, Excapade and Area 8. Also available are Mr Baker’s Bakeshop, Twinkle Kids Café, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Chocolate Origin and the Supa Save Café, offering popular local delights. There is also The Copper Kitchen located within the TKO gym.
International food and beverage chains have found relative success in Brunei over the years, including McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Jollibee, Burger King and Wayback Burgers. Other franchises like Dairy Queen, Auntie Anne’s Pretzels and Mochi Frozen Yoghurt can also be found in the country.
Bubble tea, also known as pearl tea, is a typically Bruneian guilty pleasure. With outlets of established brands such as T4, Gong Cha, Ochado and Chatime on every corner, it is always a good time to grab a sweet treat in this heat. Bubble tea remains popular among locals with the establishments of outlets such as TeaLive, LiHO, Daboba, Feng Cha and Colobaba.
Coffee chains Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Gloria Jean’s Coffee and Roasted Sip have been well received by Brunei’s coffee-loving community. A number of hipster cafes and independent brewers have sprouted up to meet the country’s growing caffeine demand, and customers are more than happy to have their caffeine boost in the morning, afternoon and even in the evening.
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