Ice Cream Cupcake

Last year the country was besieged by an unprecedented craze for cupcakes. I found out later that this was in fact a global trend, and Bruneians, as always, were happy to embrace it. If I’m honest, I never quite understood the fuss, but it just so happened that last year’s Raya celebrations coincided with the fruit season, so surely this occasioned an opportunity for some creative experimentation.

And this was the inspired creation – the chunky Durian kuning ice cream-filled cupcake served with Mangga Manila puree, dusted with Pandan sugar. All natural ingredients and all came from either the kabun buah or roadside fruit stalls. I guess that’s the twist in this simple serving.

I thought it worked quite well. We all went for seconds… or thirds…

Nasi Bungkus Sekulah

I’m pretty certain it’s not just me growing old and reminiscing over how good things were in the past, because much to my surprise my young-er mates also shared the same feelings when we came across these little gems recently.

The Nasi bungkus sekulah is called so in reference to its presentation in a plastic wrap, folded over, and this was the common way rice was sold in primary schools in the morning and Ugama school in the afteroon. Usually consisting of fluffy white rice, topped with some sambal pusu, and a tiny slice of Talur dadar or fried egg, this delight brought smiles to children who over the years only had to pay between 20 cents to 50 cents. These packets of rice would be prepared early morning no doubt, and sold during break time at around 10 – by which time the pusu sambal would have infused the rice with its delicious spicy sauce, and in many cases, grease. But we couldn’t care less, yang penting nyaman.

Its counterpart from the Noodle world is the “Mee Goreng Duaposen” (20 cents), mainly oil-soaked worms of egg noodles, with slithers of fried egg (if you’re lucky). Nothing special, except it’s uniquely wrapped in parchment paper exactly like you see in the picture here. As the grease gets absorbed by the paper, it becomes increasingly translucent. Just like your underpants when you got some unplanned bowel movements in class, having consumed makanan bangas. Only less stinky and messy. ugh.

I had always assumed this kind of packaging had been replaced by much fancier ones over the years, but apparently not. I found these ones sold by an old Pa’Aji and Bu’Ajah in the middle row of the Pasar Malam, Gadong just recently, so I reckon it must still be current in the schools. The mee goreng was 20 cents each, so we bought a dollar’s worth, and the rice was 50 cents apiece.

If only I’d done my homework everyday and not be told to stand on a chair outside the classroom as punishment everyday during primary school, in lieu of a good beating, or sometimes together with. I exaggerate, of course. It wasn’t quite every single day that I was punished, as I vividly recall the 3 days in the year that I actually did do my homework and was allowed to play with friends during break, and enjoy the nasi bungkus. Don’t we all miss the days of corporal punishment..?

Note 1: I’ve written about the Nasi Bungkus Daun before. I’ll link later.

Note 2: Malas ku spell check or grammar check eh.
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Nasi Ayam Sri Meradun

Busy month! Where do people get the time to blog everyday?? Honestly!

So, after a long silence, I’m back, thanks much to my 5 days off work- not much- but nonetheless a most welcome intervention in my progressive mental disintegration.

Appropriate to this theme of ‘hiatus’ and ‘return’ is this meal I had a couple of weeks ago in Gadong Central.

The last time I visited Sri Meradun was maybe in 1996 or 1997, since when most of my time has been pretty much spent on the coast where I’m enslaved. That and my time overseas. In the 1990s there weren’t too many ‘posh’ restaurants around, and Sri Meradun was one of the handful. It was well-known for tasty Thai food, and was particularly for its Chicken Rice – as well as for being the place untuk bescandal (restoran ‘class’ la tu).

I had honestly completely forgotten about this place, and was only reminded of it by a friend who’d said he’d just been from there, to which I blurted perhaps rather a bit too uncoolly, “Lakat ada kan??” – with a tinge of overexcited shrill.

Indeed it’s still around, as I discovered soon enough. Apparently where it used to be has been razed by fire, so they moved to the adjacent building, behind the Mercedes showroom. The new venue seems a bit more dressed down than I remember the old place to be, with lots of space. Nothing pretentious about it all.

We didn’t need the menu. We knew what we wanted from memory.

This dish stands out from any other Chicken Rice for a few reasons: the rice is light and not greasy, the chicken pieces (all 10) are sliced from the breast and arranged atop the rice, and the special chili dip that’s unmistakeably Sri Meradun’s own. This was what people came for in the 90s, and it’s the same now. The food tasted exactly as I remembered it from my last visit. That says a lot about the dish, and the restaurant – which is why I’ve featured it here, as I only tend to mention deserving establishments of distinct repute.

But you can’t come to Sri Meradun without having their famous ABC as dessert. (I had mine before my meal, and another after. Burp!)

Even the ABC tasted the same, complete with its unique Keladi or Taro pieces! And I’m not just referring to the ABCs I had pre- and post- the Chicken Rice that day!

In a country where the favourite pasttime is eating out, with hundreds of restaurant popping up every minute – yet failing to impress – some win effortlessly simply by sticking to what they do and know best. This is one of them.