Treating tourists to traditional fares

Rokiah Mahmud

As a budding chef in the Sultanate, Mohammed Ali Asma’e bin Haji Mohammed Nasir has taken the initiative to organise cooking classes for both locals and tourists on how to prepare Brunei’s traditional delicacies.

In an interview with the Bulletin, Asma’e said he was still in school when he showed interest in learning how to cook. Believing that skills can be improved, Asma’e, from a three star sous chef, went to further develop his skills by taking culinary courses.

Residing in the Tutong District, Asma’e was often invited to demonstrate on preparing local delicacies at cooking classes. Most recipes he shared were those he learnt and those he created himself.

The recipes that he is most proud of is the Lemongrass Chicken Satay, which was featured in the April 2019 edition of Muhibbah magazine. Since then, he has received many requests to re-create the dish.

As Asma’e loves to share his recipes, his friends suggested that he organise a scheduled cooking class as a platform for locals and tourists interested in learning about Brunei’s traditional delicacies.

Chef Mohammed Ali Asma’e bin Haji Mohammad Nasir and his sous chef during a demonstration. PHOTO: BAHYIAH BAKIR

With regard to local produce, he said that the country is blessed with many plants that are healthy and nutritional.

“One good example is lemongrass. We can create many recipes from this plant,” he said.

For the chicken satay, he said, “Use chicken breast that has been chopped and grounded finely. Mix it with turmeric, pepper, onion, garlic, ginger and chilli for those who like it spicy. Mix the ingredients and let it rest for a while before coating it with the lemongrass stalk. After that, you can deep fry the mixture.

“The lemongrass stalk and leaves can be used to improve health issues such as constipation or digestive disorders,” he said. “It also can relieve nausea, reduce inflammation, help control the cholesterol level and reduce menstrual cramps.”

Plants like the Rosella flower also have several benefits.

“Rosella has been used as natural food colouring and can be made into manisan due to its natural sweet and fresh taste.

“The flower also has its own benefits. It helps balance the sugar blood level, gout, cholesterol, coughs and sore throat.

“Rosella flower can also help to reduce weight, increase metabolism and help smoothen your skin.”

Asma’e said that sincerity is the most important thing for a cook. He said that once your heart is calm everything will be simplified with the guidance of Allah the Almighty. “Let everything come deep from your heart so that it will help you to produce a quality work. Of course, in preparing all the dishes and drinks, it is vital to ensure cleanliness is practiced for all aspects including fresh ingredients, kitchen utensils and personal hygiene.

“In the class, we provide at least six different types of food items that are mostly of local produce. So far we have hosted tourists from Japan, Europe, China, South Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia. We hope that our efforts will be appreciated as one of the ways how the youth has tried to preserve local delicacies and introduce them to the international arena.”