When asked about what food I would miss the most when I leave Brunei, Malay food and Brunei’s very own Ambuyat were on top of my list. And with this, Mama Anne [as we fondly call Anyati Orcullo] decided to have a Malay-themed farewell dinner for me a few nights prior to my departure.
I have particularly requested for this dish as it is quite difficult to get one with the right consistency and texture even in the best restaurants around Brunei, aside from the well-known fact that Mama Anne hosts great Ambuyat dinners!
AN AMBUYAT DINNER
One of my earlier posts when I started blogging, was about Ambuyat. I didn’t even have proper photos of that uniquely Bruneian dish then, except for a sketch by Bruneian artist Pengiran Kamarulzaman.
Ambuyat is a traditional Brunei dish and is prepared with ambulong, a starch made from sago yielded by a type of palm tree known as rumbia. The starch is mixed with hot water, stirred thoroughly and it then transforms into the paste-like ambuyat, which is tasteless by itself.
When Mama Anne announced that dinner was ready, we were ushered into the kitchen for a live demo of how Ambuyat is being prepared. We were then introduced to Singaporean Chef Hamidah, a favourite chef of the family whom they would always invite to whip up this simple-looking yet tricky delicacy, on special occasions such as this.
This time, you won’t just be looking at a sketch but actual photos of how it is done!
Sago powder placed in a large coco-wood bowl. Mixed with normal temperature water, dissolved and stirred while waiting for the boilng water to be added later.
Boiling water is then poured in a circular motion on to the sides of the bowl and towards the center with another person mixing with a wooden ladle in a similar circular motion.
While the two hands were busy with the rhythmic motions of mixing the sago, everyone else were busy chattering in excitement that Mama Anne called everyone’s attention to watch and pay attention to the transformation.
True enough, within a second of Mama Anne’s warning, the mixture turned into a coagulated mass and Chef Hamidah immediately took over the stirring carefully until the right consistency was achieved. Throughout the dinner, the ambuyat retained its original consistency as if it was just freshly-made — neither watery nor lumpy and dry.
Ambuyat done. Ready to be served and consumed. The gooey mixture is then transferred into individual serving bowls, normally shared by two or three persons.
Ambuyat is eaten using candas [above on napkin and plate], some kind of a forked chopstick cut from the rib of the sago palm. You are supposed to roll it on, like pasta on a fork and dip in some sauce, and swallow it. Itâ€™s useless to chew and you wonâ€™t be able to breathe as long as it is in your mouth.
It may look gooey but, ambuyat is delicious and is eaten with a variety of side dishes [usually five], such as ikan rebus [boiled fish], ikan masin masak lemak [fish curry], sambal ikan [fish with sambal], pais ikan [fish paste cooked in banana leaf], pais udang [prawn], ikan panggang [grilled fish], pais daging, and vegetables. The ambuyat dipping sauce is made of salted durian paste, vinegar, soy sauce, chili, belacan [shrimp paste], binjai [rambutan] and tampuyak [kind of a brown mango-like fruit].
As it was a sit-down dinner, Mama Anne’s 12-seater dining table was set family-style as shown above, with individual servings of food to be shared by two persons facing each other on the table.
Apart from the Ambuyat taking centre-stage that night, the dinner consisted of an array of my favourite Malay dishes like the Lontong Ensemble [ Lontong and Sayur Lodeh ], Beef Rendang [ Malay Beef Stew with creamy sauce ], Daging Lalap [ dried and cured beef similar to the Filipino beef tapa ], Begedil [ Potato dumplings ], Fried Dried Prawns, condiments like the Sambal Belacan and finally, the Ambuyat dip made of salted Durian paste.
Maraming salamat Mama Anne! I’m gonna miss all these great food!