Brunei’s culinary scene is enriched by its diverse cultural influences, making it a true melting pot of flavours. The neighbouring countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, and Singapore have played a significant role in shaping Bruneian cuisine. As a result, the local delicacies offer a unique blend of tastes, drawing inspiration from Malay, Chinese, and Indian culinary traditions.

First-time visitors are highly encouraged to try ambuyat, Brunei’s national and traditional dish derived from the interior of sago trees. Known for its sticky texture, ambuyat is eaten with a cacah (dipping sauce) usually made of shrimp, lime juice and chilli depending on the restaurant.

To eat ambuyat, locals use a utensil called candas, a v-shaped bamboo stick similar to a pair of chopsticks but is adjoined together at one end. After twirling the ambuyat around the candas, the ambuyat is dipped in the cacah and can be swallowed whole without chewing. While the ambuyat itself is tasteless, it’s the cacah that truly makes this local dish shine with its burst of flavours. Ambuyat is typically shared among friends or family members, making the dining experience even more delightful as you bond over this uniquely Bruneian dish.

Another must-try for visitors is nasi katok, arguably one of the nation’s most beloved foods. This is a simple dish featuring rice, one piece of fried chicken and sambal that can range from sweet to savoury at all levels of spiciness. It is said that in the old days, people would knock (katok in Malay) on the vendor’s door to buy a pack of nasi katok, hence the name. When it comes to afternoon snacks, cucur pisang (banana fritters) and cucur udang (prawn fritters) are two of the most popular choices. The latter is often served with chilli, and restaurants often have their own special blend.

Other must-try local delicacies include pulut panggang, made of glutinous rice usually filled with dried shrimp then grilled while wrapped in banana leaves. Penyaram is a classic favourite of many, with a soft and fluffy middle part in contrast to its crispy edges. Tapai, traditionally made with white rice, is a sweet delicate treat with a hint of sourness.

Where to eat

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, Kianggeh Food Court, Sumbangsih Food Court, The Mall Food Court, Little Soho and Kontena Park 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. Some gerai only pop up on special occasions such as His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di- Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam’s birthday and the whole month of Ramadhan.

Franchises and cafes

International food and beverage chains such as McDonald’s, KFC, Pizza Hut, Jollibee, Burger King, Wayback Burgers, SugarBun, Dairy Queen and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels are very popular in Brunei. Locals often flock these establishments for their fast food and junk food fix.

Bubble tea is a typically Bruneian guilty pleasure, with outlets of established brands such as T4, Gong Cha, Ochado, Chatime, TeaLive, LiHO, Daboba, Feng Cha, Colobaba and Yum Cha. Coffee chains Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Roasted Sip have also been well received by the coffee community.

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