Soto Hj Jamudin

Anyone from Tutong would readily identify with Soto Hj Tuah at the Tamu Serambangun, Tutong. But a lesser known, though just as tasty and just as popular among many Urang Tutong too, perhaps, is Soto Hj Jamudin in Kampung Luagan Duduk. If my memory serves me well, this soto has not been around quite as long as Hj Tuah’s, although I have to admit I’ve not been a frequent client. But the few times I’ve been there, I’ve never been disappointed.

You know how in most restaurants now the soto is simply a bowl of noodles with condiments chucked in and poured over with a rather generic soup or broth? Well Soto Hj Jamudin is not like that. People say a good soto is defined by its soup. Well, this is certainly the case for Soto Hj Jamudin. In fact, it’s one of the few sotos around that I can think of and quite confidently say have “that Malay taste” ~ real Malay spice mix with strong Cangkih and Bunga Lawang ~ much unlike the said generic bland soup.

I was there recently with the whole family for a very rare family breakfast. Rare because 1. I’m not normally a breakfast person, 2. I don’t breakfast with the the family a lot of times, and 3. Soto for breakfast, really??
Nevertheless, I felt rather compelled to share this soto with the rest of the world… well, with my two readers, my mum, and the friend I owe money to and who’s trying to locate me through this blog. I kid, of course, coz really only one person reads this blog- and it’s not my mum.

But anyway…

Soto Hati Buyah~ my absolute favorite!!

The lada rindu. Quite a kick actually!

Need I say more?

There’s also a certain Kampung charm in the way this ‘restaurant’ operates. It’s basically a little place with a few seats and a food prepared from the house kitchen. Well, it is essentially a two-storey wooden kampung house. You don’t get a lot of these ‘restaurant’ any more nowadays.

On this occasion too I witnessed a customer who’d wanted to take away $10 worth of soto, only to be told straight up, “$5 saja ah… kan mengampiti urang lain lagi.” To me, this can only happen because the place embodies a real community spirit in making sure as many people as possible “ampit” its food, rather than worry about profit.

I’d better be careful here and not fall into the trap of becoming a restaurant review, which is not what this blog is about in the first place; we’re about the food. But Soto Hj Jamudin qualifies as an institution that is made up of its food, its service, its operation, its place, its spirit – this really is a prime example of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, where you simply can’t look at just the food alone.

The person who started it all has sadly departed, Mulah Hj Jamudin (Al-Fatihah). But his legacy lives on in this little gem of a restaurant and its special soto, and long may it continue.

(London, 25 Dec, 2011. Merry Christmas family & friends!)


My Latest Obsession

[Note: October & November entries remain in draft. These will be uploaded as soon as I manage to find the pics that disappeared when the macbook crashed.]

I was in Ho Chi Minh City or Saigon, Vietnam recently. Such a beautiful city. I’ve travelled quite a bit, but I really have to say that this trip was probably the first one ever I totally did not prepare or do research for. The reason being I was so busy with work, inda tekain-kain lagi. So this trip was something that I was really looking forward to as a break from work, and lagipun this was going to be the second last RBA flight to Saigon. So kan menyampati.

When I say “unprepared” I mean I had no idea what to expect, didn’t know what to look out for, didn’t know quite how things are done, not even the general history of the place. So this was really a journey of discovery ~ we were prepared to discover new things as we went along. I think it’s quite a novel concept as well.

Anyway, one of the things I discovered in this colourful and history-rich city was the Vietnamese Weasel Coffee. NYaaaammmmaaaannnnn!

The complete Drip filter set and the bag of coffee ground.

This Coffee is called the Weasel Coffee because it comes out from the “wrong” end of the weasel. It’s the equivalent of Indonesia’s famous Kopi Luwak, which comes out of a Civet (Musang) instead of a Weasel (Tikus-like).

Coffee connoisseurs assess coffee in terms of aroma, body and acidity, and to me the Weasel coffee has the most fantastic aroma, a “solid” body (it’s usually drunk espresso shot-style), and it’s low in acidity. It’s certainly in a different league from our local coffee, which by comparison (in my opinion, not that I consider myself a connoisseur), has medium aroma, rather weak in body, and rather acidic – but still a good drink. But when I first sipped the Weasel Coffee in the unassuming streets of Ho Chi Minh, I was completely blown away! (I just didn’t like the fact it was served warm – but this is due to the dripping process which can take a while. But it seemed they preferred the Iced coffee instead there.)

You see, I never was a coffee drinker until fairly recently (around 6 or 7 years ago). I had always been a tea person, drinking up to 20 cups of strong tea with milk (Teh Kaw), mainly to keep the cold away while living in Britain. A sip of coffee would put my head in a spin, sparking an unenviable migraine, causing me to hurl vomit and equal amounts of swearing. Not a pretty sight or sound.

Then Starbucks came to where I lived, but even then I resisted drinking coffee and ordering “designer tea” instead (how lame) – I reminded myself “Starbucks isn’t real coffee”. So it would seem ironic that eventually Starbucks would be the one to encourage my interest in coffee. Starbucks was just dalam pelintasan in town, you couldn’t avoid it. And as I began to drop by regularly, I began to experiment with very milky coffee, to ease myself into drinking real strong coffee eventually.

So now, having educated myself about coffee, I am always on the look out for the best. And I think I might have just found it in the Vietnamese Coffee.

So now I talk about it constantly, and colleagues at work pretend to be interested when I know full well they’d much rather have their heads shoved up the bloody weasel than listen to the drone of my voice. But that’s how good it is! Too bad supply is limited here in Brunei.

Now, I’ve raved about the Kopi Brunei in this blog before. Sure, you can’t compare it to the Vietnamese Weasel Coffee – that would be unfair – but it certainly doesn’t deserve to be sooo underrated and be snobbishly downgraded by many to be suitable only for your common Kadai Kopi or restaurant mamak. I think “trendy” coffee shops should include it in their menu for what it is. Afterall, if you can sell a cup with 3/4 steamed milk and 1/4 cup of coffee and drizzle it with those syrupy things and still call it “coffee”, then surely a local Kopi O could claim its rightful place in the menu.

[p.s. This rant may not make sense at times. But it’s late and I’m groggy, but determined to put in a December entry. Will review later.]