In an enthralling expedition, the Kampong Bolkiah Women’s Group, alongside prominent community leaders, delved into an unforgettable exploration of their country’s heritage and cuisine on the 14th of October 2023. This captivating journey, organised by Green Brunei under the Ristaan Abadi project with the generous support of Yayasan Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, served as a medium for cultural exchange and learning for the participants.
Led by notable figures, including Awang Raimi bin Awang Rashid, and other esteemed community leaders, the group of 34 individuals set out on a mission to immerse themselves in Brunei’s cultural riches.The excursion began with an intriguing visit to Surinam Enterprise, where the participants were enlightened about sustainable aquaculture practices and the crucial role of the fishing industry in Brunei’s economy. Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Awang Haji Zaini bin Haji Awang Damit warmly welcomed the group and shared invaluable insights into the local fishing practices, leaving the participants fascinated by the intricate balance between tradition and innovation.
Continuing their quest to uncover Brunei’s historical legacy, the group proceeded to Sultan Hassan Tomb, an ancient cultural landmark that encapsulated the essence of Brunei’s bygone era. This immersive experience allowed the visitors to absorb the history and legacy of Sultan Hassan, the 9th Sultan of Brunei, and grasp the rich historical tapestry that continues to shape the country’s identity.
The journey further unfolded with a visit to Seri Tanjung Tourism Services Centre MPK Sungai Bunga, where the group was warmly embraced by Awang Zaini bin Haji Salleh and the Sungai Bunga Village Consultative Council. The hospitable locals painted a vibrant picture of the warm and welcoming community that characterises Brunei, leaving an indelible mark on the participants’ hearts.
However, the highlight of the excursion was the captivating food demonstration, where the participants were treated to an authentic showcase of Brunei’s culinary heritage. The preparation of local delicacies such as Keropok Udang, Kuih Sapit, Penyaram, Tofu Fa, and Ambuyat not only delighted the taste buds but also offered a deeper understanding of the cultural significance attached to these traditional dishes.
Witnessing the artisans at work was a mesmerising experience. Take, for instance, Keropok Udang, a treat cherished by locals and tourists alike, prevalent not only in Brunei but across Borneo and Kalimantan. Crafted from a blend of minced prawn and starch, seasoned with garlic, salt, and pepper, and then sun-dried before achieving crispy perfection through deep-frying, each prawn cracker bore a unique touch, reflecting the individual craftsmanship of its creator.
Another highlight was Kuih Sapit, a crispy, delightful favourite enjoyed during celebrations and festive events in Brunei. Reminiscent of Dutch wafer rolls, this delicacy was made by baking an egg batter in round metal moulds, resulting in a visually appealing treat that tantalises the taste buds.
Then, there was the delectable Bruneian delicacy, Putu Mayang, also known as ‘katu mayang.’ Its creation involved meticulous attention to detail, with the artisans pressing through a brass utensil with 66 holes called a ‘pangantulan’ Katu Mayang’ to create the delicate, uniform strands that define this exquisite dish. The accompanying sweet green coconut milk sauce provided the perfect balance to this simple yet deeply rich delicacy.
Lastly, the pride of Brunei’s cuisine, Ambuyat, stole the show with its unique preparation and consumption. Derived from the sago palm tree, Ambuyat is a starchy, solid white substance served with a tangy dip, meant to be swallowed rather than chewed. Using the V-shaped bamboo stick, or ‘candas’, participants were introduced to the distinctive art of twirling the sticky texture and dipping it in the sauce, also called ‘cacah’, making for a refreshingly unusual culinary experience.
Expressing heartfelt gratitude for the enriching experience, the Kampong Bolkiah Women’s Group and their accompanying community leaders returned home with a profound sense of appreciation for Brunei’s cultural heritage. Their shared memories of this remarkable journey served as a testament to the enduring spirit of community, heritage, and culinary traditions that define the heart and soul of Brunei. As the echoes of their journey reverberate, their experiences continue to inspire a renewed sense of pride and connection within their own vibrant community of Kampong Bolkiah.