Hidden on the quiet residence of Lambak Kiri, a large bowl of Ambuyat takes center stage at a dining table where a family takes turns twirling the stretchy sago starch around their V-shaped bamboo sticks locally known as ‘candas’.

The home-based restaurant Ambuyat Kitchen, has made a name for itself for its wholesome ambuyat experience and its menu of unique and colourful Bruneian side dishes.

Image: Azrina Zin

Wholesome being the key word; this off-the-beaten-path eatery puts a strong emphasis towards the comfort of its customers. 

Portraits of these customers can be seen adorning the large banner that hangs across one of its walls. 

“We treat all our customers like our family,” said owner of Ambuyat Kitchen, Hjh Fatimah in an interview with The Bruneian. 

Image: Azrina Zin

For the 72-year-old, the eatery was less about the income but more of an opportunity, to preserve the sense of family and community, something that is inherent in the Bruneian culture of eating ambuyat.

“My favourite part of being at the restaurant is I get to see how happy people are just sitting and enjoying our ambuyat with their family and friends,” she added.

Ambuyat Kitchen has only been opened for a year, and it has already become the talk of the town, especially with its homely ambience.

“We would receive more than a 100 bookings a day (not including walk-in customers),” she shared. 

Image: Azrina Zin

Over the months and due to the overwhelmingly positive response, the humble eatery began to expand becoming the 150-sitting capacity restaurant that it is today.  

As a strong believer of hospitality, having identified it as a major component of the business Hjh Fatimah  believed that it is the family-friendly atmosphere that keeps customers coming back time and time again.

For her, the ambuyat has always been a dish meant for sharing. 

Now as she lives out her days, the 72-year-old grandmother would be seen spending her days with her family whisking the sago or ambulong until it was firm and starchy.

Image: Azrina Zin

“When making ambuyat it takes a lot of patience and practice, ”she explained, applying the same philosophy to her many businesses she has established over the past decades.

At the young age of 16, Hjh Fatimah was determined to master the art of weaving, which fortunately turned into a lucrative business.

This was the first of many businesses for the womanpreneur.

Before establishing Ambuyat Kitchen in 2019, the family already had a successful catering business for more than 30 years.

Image: Azrina Zin

Yet, running a catering business was necessarily such an easy task as business started to slow down in the early 2010s due to steep competition. 

Age was also one of the factors as she found it difficult to catch up with the fast-paced needs of the catering business. 

That did not stop her nor her family, as her passion for cooking still runs deep. 

It may have started simple, with the family selling cacah ambuyat or the dip which quickly became popular among friends and family. 

In no time, with continuous support from their loyal customers, the plan evolved into something much bigger; opening the now Ambuyat Kitchen. 

What’s on the menu

Priced at $21 for 3 pax, $15 for 2 pax, the ambuyat menu is a wonderland for those craving for the local favourite with a wide selection of colourful and flavourful side dishes and garnishes.

Owner Hjh Fatimah said that the ambuyat dish is not complete without the sourness and sweetness of the signature fermented cacah or sauce, the Tempoyak Binjai or Binjai.

Image courtesy of Ambuyat Kitchen

The family-owned restaurant regularly draws a large crowd of guests craving for their signature ambuyat dips.

A recipe that has been perfected by her daughter, Zaimah Hj Mohamed for 10 years.

Their signature garnishes are a favourite among customers. The restaurant features a selection of cacah including Binjai (a mango-like fruit), Membangan and Tempoyak Binjai (fermented durian). 

Moreover, their classic Binjai sauce hits all the right notes; a perfect balance of sweet, sour, salty and spicy that goes well with the ambuyat.

Their signature Udang Goreng Rangup is one of the highlights of the menu, an aromatic golden crispy perfection that pairs well with their stir-fried pakis (fiddlehead ferns).

Image courtesy of Ambuyat Kitchen

Another highlighted side dish is the Daging Goreng Empuk AK mixed with subtle spice and aromatic flavours resulting in a pinnacle of flavourful explosions. It is no wonder a favourite among customers.

Some of the other must-tries on the other hand are the Urat Tumis Goreng (Stir-fried meat veins), Salai Sambal Ikan (grilled fish with sambal), deep-fried fish or fish marinated in tamarind and more.

The home-based eatery is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 10am until 9pm. For updates, follow their Instagram @ambuyat_kitchen.

This article was first published on 17 April, 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 137

THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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