Parked in front of a picturesque view of the Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas park during the weekends is a brightly coloured bus selling freshly made Egyptian food that oozes vibrant flavours.
Turning heads on the road with its tropical colours and whimsical design, the 22-seater bus provides a fun take on Brunei’s landmark and culture.
People are automatically drawn to the adorable monkey mural next to the melting popsicle art.
The mobile food truck has been driving all over the country, travelling from Kiulap to Seria.
In just a short time since its debut earlier this month, the food mobile has become a local favourite among foodies for their authentic Egyptian food made with exceptional flavours.
During normal days, customers will be lining up at the window for a taste of one of their signature dishes namely the Hawawshi, Chicken Fajita and Beef Liver among others.
The passionate and creative minds behind the concept are Sherif Nagaty and Hj Mohd Ridzuan Abdullah who wanted to bring a different twist to meals on wheels.
While food trucks are slowly budding in Brunei, the duo decided to convert an old bus instead, into their own personal kitchen.
“The concept of transforming a bus into a fully-functional food stop has been in the works since last year,” said Nagaty, who spent a few years working in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
“The restaurant-on-wheels is a concept inspired by the growing trend of food trucks in Dubai and I wanted to bring it to Brunei.”
Although Nagaty is a design engineer by profession, his love and passion for cooking motivated him to tap into the food scene in Brunei.
These days, you will find him behind the grill coming up with unique fusion creations of traditional Egyptian street food.
The foodie has always been passionate about his desire to introduce Egyptian cuisine to the sultanate.
Growing up behind the kitchen of his father’s popular restaurant in Giza,
Egypt called Maradona, he was definitely no stranger to the food industry.
Born and raised in Giza, Nagaty spent most of his years discovering various types of cooking and trying out food from his family business.
However he has a particularly strong connection with Egyptian street food.
“Street food plays a huge part in the Egyptian food scene,” he said, adding that it is known for their kofta and kebabs and strong love for spiced beef or lamb.
When it came to naming their business, the partners wanted a name that combined both countries.
“Hence why we chose Bandar Bus as ‘Bandar’ is a word derived from both Malay and Arabic.”
“Our vision is to deliver Egyptian food to every district in Brunei, so people would have access to our services,” he said adding that Bandar Bus features daily rotation around the country.
During the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, the bus is usually parked at the Taman Mahkota Jubli Emas park.
On Mondays, the mobile eatery is stationed in front of Bank Islam Brunei Darussalam (BIBD) in Kiulap and the Halliburton headquarters in Seria on Tuesdays.
He said while the location changes daily, customers are able to track where they are through their Instagram account @bandarbus.
Nagaty added that the company is also exploring new and suitable locations for them to operate their business.
“We obviously just started so our rotation often changes to find the best locations in the country.”
That being said, the journey was not always smooth for the partners.
Speaking on the challenges of the business, Nagaty said that having to obtain a permit for the Bandar Bus took them awhile since they were considered to be the first of its kind to be introduced in the country.
A recent challenge they faced was the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Before the pandemic, Bandar Bus would receive 80 to 90 customers on a daily basis,” said Nagaty.
Business has been slow since then and for the last two weeks, the food mobile has been serving customers solely through delivery and takeaway services.
“However response has been positive from lunch-goers looking for quick to-go options.”
“We hope the situation will improve so more people can try our amazing food.”
Nagaty shared that the business not only enriched his love for food and cooking but allowed him to develop new connections with his customers.
People from all walks of life would stop by Bandar Bus for their Egyptian sandwiches as well as the warm hospitality and friendly face behind the grill.
Maintaining a positive and welcoming atmosphere is important to the Eqyptian national, who has the ability to connect with anyone he meets.
“I am happy,” Nagaty said, “I get to see and talk to different people every day.”
Vibrant and flavourful food
Whether customers are looking to try something hot and spicy to give you that extra kick, a light refreshment or something to satisfy meat-lovers and vegans alike, Bandar Bus is the place to go!
Featuring authentic Egyptian street food of great flavours and wonderful aromas, their popular dishes include hot and juicy chicken and tender beef served in a warm pita accented by a plethora of seasonings and slathered wtih vegetables. A joy in one bite.
For meat lovers, try their iconic Hawawshi which instantly opens up a true symphony of flavours.
It is prepared by stuffing pita bread with minced beef mixed with incredibly rich flavours of onions and spices. Perfect for those looking for a filling meal.
A particular standout is the luscious Egyptian Beef sandwich where the beef is marinated with a host of spices and is perfectly seasoned, giving the sandwich an instant explosion of flavours. A definite favourite among the crowd!
Moreover, Nagaty said the traditional Egyptian falafel is unique as it is not made from a base of chickpeas but from fava beans, giving it a slightly different taste.
Those looking for a healthy option should try their herb-infused falafel burger that’s fresh and gratifying.
Although the Egyptian cuisine is dominated by Kofta, beef and lamb, there are also some more daring, delicious snacks offered by the food mobile such as their signature buttery Fried Brains made with love the authentic Egyptian way.
A selection of sweet and savoury crepes are also available including mix seafood crepe, beef crepe and their signature sweet spaghetti crepe.
If you’re a sweet tooth, indulge in their Arabic desserts that are oh so delectable and truly steal the show namely their sweet pumpkin, Om Ali and Zalabiya.
Bandar Bus also makes special Arabian drinks to quench your thirst such as the refreshing Arabic Kharob, Arabic Doum, Arabic Karkadee.
In the near future, Nagaty expressed plans to expand their menu and identify more locations around the country.
The strong determination to innovate and try something new is a strong part of their motivation to constantly improve and evolve while still maintaining what people have come to love about them: their food.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN