Noodles: noodles are a common base in numerous dishes
Rice: rice is cooked in numerous styles and accompanies most meals
Regional Variations, Specialties, & Unique Dishes
Ambuyat: the national dish is a fluffy mixture of sago
(a starch from a tree) and water usually served with sauces or side dishes
Mee Goreng/Nasi Goreng: fried noodles and fried
rice respectively, these dishes served with vegetables are regular items on most
The likelihood of being invited into the home of a local in Brunei
is slim to none, however you may find yourself dining with the locals in public
or just eating at a restaurant and in all cases you should know the basic etiquette
The first thing to remember is that you are in a Muslim country and with that comes
a couple rules you must know and follow. First, dress on the conservatively side
(see our Brunei Culture Page for more
details). Second, in conservative homes and even some restaurants, it is not acceptable
to eat with a person of the opposite sex unless it is your child, sibling, or spouse.
While this is rare today, to some conservative Muslims this is important so observe
the local restaurant's situation and follow their lead. This makes traveling
with anyone of the opposite sex other than immediate family difficult when it comes
to eating. Lastly, although it is unlikely that you will encounter pork or alcohol,
don't order these items as they are forbidden by Islamic law and you should
follow these restrictions while in Brunei.
If meeting locals for a meal punctuality is something to keep in mind, but arriving
a few minutes late is common. Before entering a house or restaurant check to see
if others have left their shoes at the door; if so you should do the same then greet
everyone personally, elders first (although some conservative Muslims don't
believe men and women should touch so wait for locals to extend their hand first
if they are of the opposite sex). In Brunei most people have no issue with a hand
shake or the like, but let the local lead in this regard to avoid offense. Prior
to sitting down you may be asked to wash your hands; follow others and do as they
Let your local counterpart arrange the seating and once seated you may be asked
to serve yourself first. Food can be served family style or as individual plates
and accepting all food that is offered to you is a must. Once the host invites you
to begin eating be prepared for a number of situations. Often the people will eat
with both a fork and spoon; the spoon is generally held in the right hand and the
fork is used to push food onto the spoon. Other times a knife will be offered or
you will be expected to eat with your hand. No matter what is present, only use
your right hand to eat and only bring food to your mouth with your right hand, even
if using a fork or spoon.
When you finish eating, place your fork and spoon face down on the plate, with the
spoon crossed over top of the fork. You may again be expected to wash your hands,
so again, follow the lead of others. If you are eating in a restaurant, check to
see if a service charge has been added to your bill; it usually is in restaurants
catered to foreigners. If there is no service charge added, an additional tip is
Celebrations & Events
The festivals in the small country of Brunei are numerous
and many of these celebrations boast food as the center of the celebration. Most
of these events are religious events although a couple have secular origins.
In Brunei, Eid al Fitr is commonly referred to as
Hari Raya Aidilfitri, which is a celebration that occurs immediately after
Ramadan; Ramadan is a religious holiday that requires fasting for 30 days. Hari
Raya Aidilfitri is celebrated with satays (kebabs), ketupat
(rice cakes), and numerous street foods, including cakes, pastries, and fruits.
The second major religious food celebration is Eid al Adha, or better known
as either Hari Raya Aidiladha or Hari Raya Koran. This event is
celebrated after a pilgrim returns from haj, the mandatory journey for
every able Muslim to go to Mecca. This celebration is usually marked by the slaughter
of a goat or cow.
Other food celebrations in Brunei that do not involve religion
are Chinese New Year and the Sultan's birthday. Chinese New Year is celebrated
almost exclusively by the country's ethnic Chinese and involves numerous ethnic
Chinese Foods & Drinks. The Sultan's
birthday (the current Sultan's birthday falls on July 15) is marked with numerous
street vendors selling numerous items including fruits, cakes, satays,
and local drinks.
When you're in Brunei don't miss out on some of their
local drinks, which may not be original, but can be quite tasty. Coconut milk and
fruit juices are local and often served fresh, neither of which is to be missed.
Tea and coffee are also popular drinks in Brunei and can be easily found. Other
drinks, such as milk and soft drinks are also available in the country.
As a primarily Muslim country, Brunei has no alcohol available
and it is illegal to consume in the country.
The tap water is generally safe to drink in Brunei. If you
do drink the water (or the ice or salads washed in the tap water), many people may
have trouble adjusting to the local tap water as it will most certainly be different
from what your system is used to if you are not from the region.