Steve’s house

14 January 2014

I’m afraid the entry for Brunei is a little sparse, probably because we’ve blocked out the experience from our memories. The evening was somewhat ruined for everyone by a mishap with the shrimp paste.

Shrimp paste smells the way Hell must smell. It stinks so badly that you can smell it through the jar. That’s right, a smell so strong that it can penetrate glass. And if you think it smells bad in the jar, that is nothing compared to the smell it makes when you put it into a hot pan. Subsequently, we learned that the way to use shrimp paste is to add a tiny, tiny amount; “enough to coat the end of a chopstick” was some useful advice that I received too late.

Instead, Sophie took a big spoon of the stuff and whacked it into the frying pan, unleashing an unbelievable stench that quickly infested all of my soft furnishings and remained there for weeks. I wondered if I would have to throw away everything I owned in order to be rid of this horror.

Sambal Udang, sort of

Sambal Udang, sort of

So we ate some Bruneian foods and I’ve got some photos but we can’t really remember what they were. Steve’s starter was an attempt at Sambal Serai Udang Bersantan, i.e. prawns in a sauce of lemongrass, chili and tamarind. Unfortunately it looks nothing like the other photos of that dish on the web.

Sophie’s main course, apart from the shrimp paste horror, looks like it might have been a chili chicken dish with greens and Ambuyat, a traditionally Bruneian form of sago rendered into a tasteless paste.

Not sure what this was


For pudding, Joe created Bubur Ketan Hitam, a dessert made with coconut, pandan leaves and black rice. From the photo you can see that the rice resembles Damien Hirst’s dead-fly-montage Armageddon, but in fact this was the most palatable aspect of the whole evening.

Black rice cooking for Bubur Ketan Hitam

Black rice cooking for Bubur Ketan Hitam

I doubt we have done the slightest justice to Bruneian food, but this was a truly dreadful culinary experience, and one I was forced to relive each time I came home for the rest of January.


Food: 1/5


Sambal serai udang bersantan (Prawns in lemongrass Santan sauce)


500g tiger prawns

1 lime

100ml cooking oil

5 cloves of garlic (minced)

10 shallots (diced)

2 fresh red chillies

7 dry chillies

3 pieces of lemongrass (finely minced)

125ml tamarind water

3 kaffir lime leaves, sliced (optional)

Salt to taste

1 tsp sugar

25ml of coconut milk


Squeeze lime and sprinkle salt over the prawns. Marinate for 15 minutes.

Heat the cooking oil and fry the shallots, garlic and chillies. Add the lemongrass and tamarind water. Next, add the prawns, lime leaves, salt and sugar. Cook for 2-3 minutes until shrimp are pink. Finally, add coconut milk and stir until thickened. Add water if a thinner sauce is preferred.

Bubur Ketan Hitam


225g black, glutinous, rice (available from Asian stores)
2 pandan leaves, pounded to a paste
1.2l water
120ml palm sugar syrup
pinch of salt
360ml fresh coconut cream
Rinse rice well (at least 2 minutes) then transfer to a pan along with the water and pandan leaf paste. Bring to a boil then simmmer for 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Add the palm sugar and continue to cook gently until the mixture is almost dry. Season with a pinch of salt then take off the heat and allow to cool. Transfer into serving bowls and garnish with a generous swirl of coconut cream.