Food is one of the important aspects of a festival. I am sure people are always excited and looking forward to the food that is going to be served before a particular celebration or festival. This excitement is what makes food special during celebration of a specific festival. People do not really serve and eat festival’s food on a daily basis. That is what makes it even more unique. As people are only able to eat this food on those special days, the anticipation of eating and the preparation of these foods excite people. Foods also play an important role in terms of bonding people, or bring people together in a festival. Food becomes one of the main topic to be discussed and is normally a good “ice-breaker” for people to get closer to each other. Imagine sitting in a same table sharing scrumptious food and bonding through light-hearted conversations with each other, this type of environment and fun atmosphere is what festival is all about. Now, let me introduce Brunei’s festival and its signature food served during the festival.
Brunei Darussalam is a Muslim country, and according to the Muslim Calendar, the period of Ramadhan is the Islamic holy month of fasting. During the end of Ramadhan, Hari Raya Aidilfitri, or also known as Eid al-Fitr, is celebrated by Muslims. This is one of the religious holidays which is also known as the “festival for breaking the fast”. Families and relatives normally gather together to celebrate and ask for forgiveness for their wrongdoings. They will wear the traditional Malay clothing, Baju Kurung for women and Cara Melayu for men, and often people visit friends and relatives’ homes to relay their greetings. Often during these meetings, food is provided and different types of dishes will be prepared and served.
One of the main dish that Bruneians always serve during festivals is Beef Rendang, particularly during the festival of Hari Raya Aidilfitri. In the first morning of Hari Raya Aidilfitri, mothers of the malay community household usually cook Beef Rendang for everyone to eat. It is normally served as a breakfast. Beef Rendang is slow cooked meat dish, that is cooked in coconut milk, pepper, onion, tumeric leaves and lime leaves. Due to its characteristic of cooking with various different spices, it has this complex and unique taste that you cannot find in any other traditional Malay dishes. It is thick and full of flavors due to the different spices, and the smell of coconut milk in Beef Rendang is just sweet and fresh, which complements the beef and therefore making one coming back for more. It was said that, in a traditional Malay society, that Beef Rendang is a must-eat in every festival.
Bruneians usually eat Beef Rendang with rice or Kelupis. Kelupis is also one of the famous food that is always served during Bruneian festivals. Kelupis is a glutinous rice dish that is cooked with coconut milk. Kelupis is usually wrapped in a leaf and later steamed. The leaf used to wrapped the Kelupis is referred as Nyirik leaves. The Nyirik leaves are usually chosen, because it’s fragrant is much more stronger than using Banana leaves. The taste of a good kelupis is very rich in flavor compared to normal rice. It has a different texture when compared to normal rice also due to its stickiness. Kelupis is always eaten with Beef Rendang. There are other foods eaten during the celebration of Bruneian festivals, but both Kelupis and Beef Rendang are a must-eat combination food during Bruneian Festivals.
By Mohamad Akmal Fauzan ABU BAKAR, ASEAN Correspondent from Brunei Darussalam