Tickling the taste buds with traditional cuisine

Rokiah Mahmud

The authenticity and uniqueness of traditional food in Brunei Darussalam has become a part of the heritage that the young generation can be proud of and these must be preserved so that they are not forgotten.

Preserving traditional food, it is not only the responsibility of our elders but the young generation must also take their role and responsibility. Much of our traditional cuisine is gradually being left out as the influence of modern and fusion food takes space in our children’s meal menus.

In recent days, several hotels are promoting traditional and local food.

The Rizqun Coffee House often provides their young local chefs a platform to gain exposure to local traditional foods.

Siti Nurhayati binti Haji Abdul Haris, a Commis Chef at The Rizqun Coffee House, spoke to the Bulletin about her experience in learning and preparing the local dishes.

During Brunei Gastronomy Week, she had the opportunity to introduce Ayam Buluh, locally known as Ayam Pansuh (chicken cooked in bamboo). She said that the idea was inspired from the experience shared by her parents and elders. Ayam Pansuh derives from an Iban local dish Manok Pansuh.

Siti Nurhayati binti Haji Abdul Haris and Aflah bin Haji Aziz with their prize winning dishes. PHOTOS: RAHWANI ZAHARI
Ayam Pansuh and Nasi Kerabu that won judges’ hearts during Brunei Gastronomy Week.

To prepare the dish, the chicken needs to be marinated overnight with several spices such as lemongrass, tepus, turmeric, onions, garlic, ginger and several other local herbs and inserted into a bamboo for half-an-hour cooking.

To get the taste just right, conventional cooking with small fire is used.

“It does take a long time because we want to ensure that the dish is cooked nicely, evenly and tastes excellent,” said Siti Nurhayati.

Asked how they know when the bamboo chicken is cooked, she shared that once the dish is ready, it will produce an aroma and steam will be visible from the bamboo. “It is then that we know the dish is ready to be served.”

During the Gastronomy Week that they participated in last year, Ayam Pansuh won first place.

Apart from Ayam Pansuh, another dish that has won the judges’ hearts is their Nasi Kerabu (Kerabu Rice) that comes along with the bamboo chicken dish.

As Commis Chef Aflah bin Haji Aziz explained, Nasi Kerabu is cooked with rice, coconut milk and water. It is then mixed with other ingredients including lime leaves, bunga kantan and a number of natural ingredients to produce its aroma.

Aflah highlighted that the dish introduced at The Rizqun Coffee House has received overwhelmed response from diners. He added that if diners wanted to order the menu, they need to book it in advance, as preparing the ingredients takes time.