The Best Nasi Katok in Brunei…

(in my opinion)

is this one from Serambangun in Tutong.

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It’s a bit out of the way for most of you, I’m sure, but I actually know people from Bandar and KB who drive all the way down for this nasi katok. If simplicity had a taste, this would be it.

Fluffy fragrant boiled rice, topped with traditional turmeric and ginger-coated deepfried chicken, sweet and spicy sambal pusu, and most importantly, a healthy helping of green chili sauce.

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I’ve tried various other nasi katok before, but unlike this particular one, they are either nasi lemak or the rice isn’t quite as fluffy or fragrant, or the chicken is coated in simply chili and soy sauce marinade, and their sambal pusu equally lazily made.

So if you’re thinking of heading down to Serambangun, bewarned that they often run out and close early, say around 10. If the cucul is still on, they’re still open then.

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But the kampung style garage-turned-garai outfit is well-worth a visit if only to have a glimpse of beautiful big fat cat that just sits there. And the puspa isn’t too bad either.

PS: After writing this post, I was so tais liur, I dropped everything and drove all the way to Serambangun and bought 5 nasi katok pedas. nyam nyam. Sehingga menjilat jari sudu…!! (Upon close examination of the cucul-lit sign, I can now confirm the garai is named “Nasi Katok Peroda”. Don’t ask.)

Feelin’ the Blues?

This caught my eye in Chattuchak Market in Bangkok, Butterfly Pea tea.

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I was told I’d get a good cup of blue-coloured tea out of it, but I didn’t quite expect how intense it would be.

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It tasted… herbal… Actually, it tasted fine, but I couldn’t help imagining myself chugging down Blue Soda, which isn’t quite appealing. I guess I best stick to my Earl Grey, thanks. More tea, vicar?

But if you’re interested, I think it’s available in Huaho (thought I saw some during the Chinese New Year sales).

The Curious Case of Buah Mentega

Never before has a fruit caused so much debate and controversy in my family.

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Unripe, but edible

I got this fruit, ‘Buah Mentega’ (Butter fruit) I was told by the seller at the Tutong Tamu, and tootled back home. When I presented my gatherings to my mum, and told her what it was, she flatly said ‘NO, that’s not buah mentega’. (In cakap Tutong plg tu). Okaaaay I said.

Later that evening, my older brother tried and liked it, and agreed it wasn’t Buah mentega. ‘Buah Mentega’ apparently is the local avocado. Then came my sister who couldn’t care less what it was called but quietly finished a whole fruit- none the wiser after she had done so.

Dad disagreed with both mum and yours truly and said it’s called something else (I forget) and argued it’s a wild jungle fruit. So there you go. I waited 5 minutes to see if the fruit would revert to its younger self, as was the case of Benjamin Butang @ Button, but of course it didn’t. It did leave us all utterly curious, confused and bangang nonetheless.

Creamy-crumbly texture

Heart-shaped halves

Seeds akin to Durian-pulu seeds

Lemme describe the taste and texture of this fruit. The flesh is light orange, slightly sweet, and the texture appears to be a cross between that of the avocado, chiku, persimon, except it’s ‘sticky’ in the mouth, much like cream cheese. Actually, it does taste like chiku and persimon somewhat. In short, it’s a very interesting fruit indeed.

But if indeed this is “Butter fruit”, perhaps it should be eaten with the “Bread fruit”.

Death of a Legend

Mention “Pulut Panggang”, and it’ll conjure images of an old coffee corner in downtown Tutong, Restoran Hj Asbullah, or better known as “Kadai Hj As”. And it is known not just among us Tutong folk, but also among many across the country.

Last Sunday morning, the trio of us headed there for our usual “easy-lazy brekkie” only to be greeted by shut gates and what appeared to be workmen doing repairs inside. So we scooted elsewhere, thinking no more of it. But two days ago, we heard that in fact the shut down was permanent (at least in that premise). Shock Horror! That can’t be right, we thought! Hj As is an institution- it’s one of the Trilogy that makes up the iconic Hj As/Mei Fang/KK Koya combo on the Tutong riverfront – ALL legendary institutions.

But it is true, it’s closed now, sadly. Apparently, their 60-year lease of the property (pintu) had run out.

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So, no more can we have our pulut panggang and kuih Melayu while looking over the river (and busy traffic) and sipping our “kupi” and teh tarik served well-used cups and saucers with original retro designs. Add (very) loud and noisy chatter in the local language. In a way, it was an old boys’ club almost.

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The iconic red back door.

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For as long as we remember, that’s always been where it was, in the heart of town. However, as the sign above states, they’ve moved into their own building not too far away, but far enough for regulars. The coffeeshop now operates under the name “Puteh” (what Hj As’ deceased wife was known as for her fair complexion, she was Chinese).

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And this is the view that you’ll get now. Nice, but different.

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I happened to be one of the first few clients at this new outfit on its first day of operations yesterday, Thursday, 1 April 2009. I actually didn’t know it was their first day. The manageress was quite apologetic for some reason, but they really weren’t in full swing yet. I commented the kuihs were not as varied as they used to be, and she promised they would serve the normal menu from before. I could tell she was not oblivious to the fact that people would make comparisons, and I could tell she was determined to keep her clientele and keep the legend alive. The loud conversations in the Tutong language could still be heard, the pulut panggang was still as tasty – but it just wasn’t the same feeling. Change never is easy, but I wish the restaurant well.