Pesek @ Udang Galah

Sungai Tutong is famous for its bounty, fish, udang siar, udang galah… biawak, buaya etc.

You just need to drive through the Tutong town waterfront to see so many people waiting patiently for a tug on their fishing line, friends, whole families, some even having a picnic – night or day.

I spent the afternoon today at a more secluded part of Sungai Tutong, upstream in Panchor Papan.

It’s a private jetty behind a friend’s house, which takes you away from the hustle and bustle of town (even for Tutong) and transports you into a world of peaceful quiet surrounded by Apong palm.

Patience is not my virtue, but it is my friends’.

And their patience pays.

These giant prawns are prized for their succulent meat and if cooked the right way, the “brain” or otak should permeate through the sauce, be it masak sambal, masak cili, masak tomato, or the simple soupy masak rabus.

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Bingka Ubi at Restoran Putih

How crap was my last post?

Well, this morning on my last day of cuti from work, I had breakfast with my cousin and some friends at Restoran Putih, the reincarnation of now defunct Restoran Hj Asbullah. My last visit was within weeks of its relocation in April 2009. This will not be a restaurant review, but I was perhaps too early to write off the new restaurant, perhaps out of loyalty to the old legend. But this morning I was pleasantly surprised by a thriving business in the new location. I had underestimated the loyal patrons, so in true Bart Simpson style, I’ll eat my shorts. In fact, I learned that its clientele has been faithful, and that as early as 5.30 am the place is full of people who’ve come straight from Subuh prayers at the Masjid.

I clearly wasn’t one of them this morning. We came at 10, and were happy to see again the same trays of Kuih Melayu, Nasi bungkus, Kelupis and the famous Pulut panggang from the old cafe back in place. These are the same things the old faithfuls come here for.

But today my sweet of choice was this bingka ubi.

Well, technically that’s not the right name. I don’t know what it’s called really. I just know it has caramalised ubi kayu or tapioca as its base, and it’s topped with a pandan santan cream. Jia anyam!

Both my cousin and I share a thing for ubi. He, unfortunately, has it as a namesake.

As a kid, I loved it so much my mum told me to grow my own patch in the backyard. In the mean time I had to endure war stories and how they survived on the humble ubi.

When the time was right, we (the amah actually) would harvest the tubes and process them to make tumpi ubi or other kuih, or slice them and dry them out in the sun to make chips or kuripek. None we made at home was quite as exquisite as the one we had for breakfast tadi.

So in sum: Ubi, good. Restoran Putih, good. Give ’em both a go.

Tipping

Happy new year 2010 everyone!

Been on leave, on so many levels.

But New year’s eve and a recent incident at a restaurant just before that bring us to this year’s first post: tipping.

Let’s face it Brunei isn’t a tipping country, we just don’t tip. But having lived in UK for a fair bit of time, where tipping is not really compulsory but is sometimes expected, the habit lingers. A couple of weeks before the new year, we paid our bill for lunch and rushed off. Literally a week on, I was back at the restaurant and much to my surprise the waitress gave me $5, explaining they’d overcharged us the previous week. How honest! So I told her to keep the money as a tip, but she politely refused. On new year’s eve, I treated my anak buah to pizza and ordered a few. When the delivery guy came, we gave him the $4 change as a tip, but he would only take $2 after much insistence on my part.

On new year’s day I flew to Singapore and in the taxi there was a leaflet on tipping ettiquette which said tipping was not encouraged nor expected there.

And just hours ago, a friend asked me about tipping, hence this post.

Don’t know about you, but I do think sometimes tipping is just good manners. Ok I won’t tip in all restaurants, but when I’ve been impressed with the services rendered to me, I would. And in turn, I show displeasure by not doing so. And never if a service charge has been included in the bill.

In little cafes and restaurant I went to in the UK, I’d leave a spare change up to a pound for the waitress. I’d also tip hotel staff for little favours. I’d do the same in Australia, Canada, Thailand, Malaysia etc. In the States it is expected- in fact that’s how some sectors earn their living!

But why wouldn’t the Tutong pizza guy or the waitress take my tip? Were they offended by the gesture? I surely hope not.

But my general rule is 10% of the bill – more, if particularly good service is rendered.

Here’s a good