THE BRUNEI TIMES 18 SEPT 2016
A Culinary Tour Around Tutong District
by Ikhwan Salleh
WALLED in between Belait and Brunei-Muara rests the third largest district in the sultanate that muffles itself in quietude.
Nevertheless, when the blanket of stillness is lifted, Tutong is actually home to different indigenous groups — creating its own name as a museum that houses timeless traditions, powerful literatures and even breathtaking natural wonders.
Just like any rich heritage, this one too, promises a compulsive adventure when it comes to finding great eats that are usually served with a side plate of culture.
Therefore, The Brunei Times has taken up the role as a guide for a culinary history tour around the riverside burg and have a go at various menu highlights.
Located roughly 40km away from Bandar Seri Begawan (BSB), the ideal way to reach Tutong Town is by car. Other means include renting a car and hiring a taxi.
A more affordable method is to hitchhike or simply muster up the strength and demonstrate great valiance by taking the inter-district buses that route through the region — excluding Temburong.
Best thing about the latter, the fare starts as low as $1. Worst thing, there is no definite schedule and the operation ends at 8pm sharp or way before.
A trip should take an hour or two at most that starts from the main terminal at Jln Cator in the capital.
Depending which roads the bus takes, do take the time to appreciate the stretch of verdant landscape, definitely a treat for the eyes.
Upon arrival, the bus should station itself in front of OG Complex — a building that has gradually aged from pink to faint grey and decks a huge Mum’s Bakery signage — that faces the Tutong River.
Now, ready for a precarious journey for one’s gastronomy? Most foremost, ensure nothing is missing or left behind.
After, if the view up North is the water way, then head over to the row of quaint buildings along Jln Enche Awang, located on the left side of the retail compound.
Here, exists Chop Mei Fang or best known as Mei Fang Café that is very popular for its signature pulut panggang — savoury fillings, with a choice of beef or prawns, stuffed into sticky glutinous rice and then, wrapped in fresh banana leaves — at only 60 cents.
Quick local trivia, the eatery is a landmark that has stood against time for more than 60 years and day-to-day, without fail, all 500 pieces of chewy-goodness would be completely sold out even before the clock strikes 12 noon.
Next on the list of tasty legacies is a household name when it comes to mamak delicacies.
Situated two doors down from the first location, this next stop is known as KK Koya.
Though relatively newer in the kopitiam scene, just a mention of its name would send anyone — who is familiar with the label — to salivate over its best-selling rojak. It is a mixture of the finest deep fried edibles, yam, slices of vegetables — all topped with the restaurant’s very own homemade piquant sauce.
The aromatic dish, albeit its Indonesian background, has found its way to thousands of hearts, right through the local stomachs.
Priced at only $4, one can either pick rojak ayam or rojak sotong or splurge an extra $2 for rojak special, which is a combination of both.
Both venues receive outstanding attendances from the public starting from 6.30am and even up until 9.30pm.
Except for Mei Fang Café, the grilled doors are usually shut tight between 12pm to 2pm.
These tantalising hors d’ouevres are one thing, now the main entrées are another.
At least three out of five Bruneians would have questioned restaurant attendants if they serve the all-time favourite roti kosong, Indomee served with a Sunnyside up or any fried noodle garnished in generous meats.
For a tongue burning experience, do challenge oneself with nasi ayam penyet or nasi katok.
In the vicinity too, there is Aminah Arif that prepares ambuyat, a must-try national feast that comes along with ever so tasty condiments.
Another advice from The Brunei Times, do add ping — a lingo used by everyone for ‘iced’ — when ordering thirst-quenching coolants, just to battle the blazing weather.
Remember the building what used to be painted in coral or rosy? The right guess should be OG Complex and yes, step inside to witness a different set of table d’hote.
Check out Mum’s Bakery, simply because of four words — fresh from the oven —perfect for quick bites.
The selections get better if one journeyed deeper inside, from GS Seafood Restaurant with seashells and crustaceans galore to Lee Loi Fatt, marked by its homemade cultural delights.
At the end of the tunnel, scan the area and one can see family bakeries, generic hawker stalls and WYWY Restaurant with its menu of plethora options — all up-ended on the very ground since the businesses first commenced.
Take a stroll further South down OG Complex.
There will be another building that has aged in white.
To make sure it is the right one is easy, there should be a narrow store named Syarikat Asyakur Masrikil that serves refreshing coconut juice for only $1 to $2.
Now, beyond Halim Plaza, further up on the hill is where there is a breath of fresh air.
Take the yellow brick road to have a change of scene, from traditional to a bit more trendy.
At first glance, the Hjh Rafiah building may seem forsaken but after dusk, it is a food fiesta that bustles and hustles up until midnight.
Looking for a place to sit down while chattering with close friends and family? Well, have a seat in Chit Chat Bistro.
The avenue dishes up a variety of tasteful grilled goods — tongkeng, chicken wings, satay — and the place is bedecked with fairy lights flag garlands, all the while adopting an al fresco concept.
Indeed, a good spot after the sunset.
Loosely translated to ‘ocean ark’, each homemade patty sets sail an explosive taste of flavours. The Brunei Times challenges for an eat-off by taking a bite of its meat lover combo that is trickled and smeared with its own downright-serious-spicy sauce.
Owned by 26-year-old Alim Shah, the business recently embarked down as a food-venture early this year after coming out online a few months before.
The Seri Begawan Religious Teachers University College (KUPU SB) graduate shared the calm ambiance would be popular among younger crowds and families who choose to eat out as a way to spend quality time.
The Brunei Times