We haven’t spent much time in southern Asia yet, so I was excited to get to Brunei, which is a small country bordered by Malaysia and the South China Sea. That excitement turned to disappointment when I realized that this is one of those small countries with very little information posted on the internet. I eventually resigned to the fact that anything I found would probably not be unique to Brunei but would instead be shared among Brunei, Malysia, and Indonesia. The national dish of Brunei is something called ambuyat, which is a starchy mush that is twirled around a bamboo fork and dipped in sauces. The consensus among several other international cooking blogs with a similar premise to mine is that this recipe was not a winner, especially with the tapioca starch that most of them had to substitute. One post even had several comments from Bruneian people who confessed to having difficulty cooking ambuyat well. So I scratched that off the list.
What I ended up selecting is a rice/curry/chicken dish called beriani. From what I have read, many different countries and regions have variations of this dish, but this particular recipe is listed as a Bruneian version. I also selected an interesting looking dessert called rujack or “spiced fruit salad.”
We used a lot of fresh produce for this meal!
Brunei Beriani (recipe)
This meal started by blending together the sauce/curry ingredients–ginger, cashews, almonds, poppy seeds, garlic, and chili peppers (we used one anaheim and one jalapeño). The ingredient list’s inclusion of of 10 cashews and 10 almonds seemed oddly specific, but whatever. This stuff smelled amazing after blending it, and it kind of looked like avocado/guacamole.
Next the garlic, cloves, cinnamon, and shallots were heated in melted butter (no ghee here…we just use melted butter).
Then the chicken, sauce, curry powder, and salt were mixed together and cooked. Again, this smelled so good. Meanwhile, we started cooking the rice in the coconut milk (we used canned coconut milk instead of squeezing it out of a fresh coconut. Call it cheating if you will, but I’m not sure we even could have found a whole coconut here).
Once the chicken was fully cooked and the rice had absorbed the liquid, the chicken mixture was plopped on top of the rice. Then it simmered over low heat for a bit longer until the rice was fully cooked.
Bruneia Rujack–spiced fruit salad (recipe)
Like the sauce mix for the beriani, I just had to throw a bunch of ingredients in the food processor for this one. The fruit dip/sauce used a very unexpected mix of foods… green banana (yes, it specifically asked for an un-ripe banana), brown sugar, chile peppers (we used the same combination of one anaheim and one jalapeño), and tamarind paste (the only tamarind product we were able to find was a can of nectar, so I poured a reasonable looking amount of it in), and ground peanuts.
After blending, the dipping sauce was served with a selection of sliced fruits. We chose several of the options listed by the recipe–star fruit (seriously, those things look awesome, and how often do you have an excuse to buy one??), “firm green” pear, tart apple, papaya, and cucumber. From what I have read, the “modern” method is to mix the fruit slices with the sauce, and the “traditional” method is to serve the fruits and dip separately. We went with the traditional method so that leftover fruit could be eaten if the sauce was a total bust and because it looked pretty to spread out the fruit and dip like this.
I loved that this meal was easy to prepare. This definitely didn’t feel like more work than a typical non-international meal we would cook, which was a nice change. The beriani was delicious. It started to seem a little dry as leftovers, but the flavors were still amazing. I could actually taste the coconut milk, which is unusual for me. The yellow color and poppy seeds kept tricking my brain into thinking about lemon poppy seed muffins and tasting lemon. I could also pick out the combination of ginger and chili peppers. We have run into that combination a few times (Bhutan in particular), and it is really starting to grow on me. Overall the beriani was a big hit and is definitely something we would make again. I would consider using less rice and chicken or more sauce so it isn’t quite as dry next time.
The fruit salad and dip was okay. I really went back and forth on my opinion of it. I thought the dip smelled awful when I was making it. It was better than expected, even pleasant, when I tried it with dinner. I did really enjoy the light dessert of fresh fruit, and the flavors complimented each other surprisingly well. After having leftovers a few times, my opinion is sinking back to somewhere between “meh” and unpleasant. Maybe it’s just not as a good after a few days in the fridge.
All in all, not a bad meal! Next up is Bulgaria!