Crunch! Crunch! Crunch!
The satisfying sound coupled with the smell of freshly baked bread draws you in and gets you asking – do I smell bread?
Even better, it’s cakoi; a long-shaped dough fried until golden brown which can be eaten as is or typically with coconut jam or Kaya mixed with butter fillings.
The sweet local delicacy is available at Chakoi Rindu located at Darussalam Enterprise’s (DARe) newly revamped Kontena Park in Anggerek Desa.
“The crunch is a crucial factor in determining a good cakoi,” said founder, Wafaa Wajihah Muhammad Rosmadini as she sat down with The Bruneian recently, sharing the tales of their bread and butter.
It all started in 1973 when her grandmother opened a stall in Tamu Tutong selling cakoi in two flavours; original and Kaya.
The original home-made recipe attracted loyal customers over the years from various backgrounds, mainly from the Chinese community.
“We believe they liked her cakoi as it resembles a similar snack Youtiao which is also known as a Chinese cruller, fried churro or breadstick,” said the 21-year-old.
“Whenever they came back, they’d say ‘bari rindu jua cakoi kamu ani’ which translates to customers reminiscing or ‘rindu’ (missing) the cakoi – and that’s how we got the name, Chakoi Rindu.”
Tribute with love
After her grandmother retires from running the business due to old age and health reasons, Chakoi Rindu went on hiatus until 2016 during an Islamic expo.
“My father and I thought it was the perfect time to bring back the business and we came prepared. We had an official logo, a tweaked recipe and introduced the first few flavours such as Kaya, Durian, Spicy Sardine, Butterscotch and Beef.”
The one-week event gaged positive responses from customers which motivated the father-daughter duo to turn Chakoi Rindu into a full-fledged business.
“People came to us asking if it was Chakoi Rindu from before and that fueled our spirits even further to pay tribute to my grandmother,” she said with joy.
The first branch finally opened sometime in July 2017 in Mulaut with the motto ‘Clean, Fresh and Halal’ and the hashtag #BruneiAuthenticChakoi.
This was followed by the opening of the second branch in Lumut not long after but took several relocations before landing a suitable spot.
In September 2019, the business expanded to Kontena Park in Anggerek Desa – their third branch.
“We have always thought it was a perfect location and we’re glad that we got the spot. Our previous branches were always situated around residential areas and now we can cater to corporate customers,” said Wafaa.
Quality dough, flavourful fillings
Every morning, the breadsticks are made from scratch including the flavours, said the founder, adding, “it is to ensure customers will get fresh, quality products.”
The dough is fried beforehand in order to reduce waiting time however freshly fried cakoi is available upon request.
“The fried cakoi are placed inside a food heater that keeps them crispy and warm however we understand some customers prefer to have it fresh.”
According to Wafaa, the texture of their snack is crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.
“The moment you eat it there should be that crunchy sound and when you bite into it, it should be soft – which is what we believe makes a great cakoi.”
With her grandmother’s blessings, the original recipe was tweaked to produce a thicker breadstick to hold more fillings.
Chakoi Rindu offers more than 20 sweet and savoury combinations that cater to the Bruneian taste.
Introduced in phases, these flavours include Oreo, Cheese, Milo, Nutella, Butterscotch, Beef, Chicken, Cornbeef, Spicy Sardine and seasonal flavours such as Teh Tarik and Durian.
“We also wanted to develop flavours to follow ongoing trends such as Salted Egg.”
As words spread about the mouth-watering delectables, Chakoi Rindu received demands to open up more branches in the country, particularly in the Tutong district.
“The response has been amazing and because of that we have extended our delivery services to the Tutong district,” said Wafaa, with existing delivery options to the Brunei-Muara and Belait districts.
She said the new service was introduced after the overwhelming response of their Rindu Ramadhan campaign where customers take orders for the intention of sedekah (giving alms) to mosques around the country.
“We are happy to expand our Ramadhan campaign to encourage people to share and give to the community.”
The positive outpour also resulted in an increase of cakoi production daily that ranges from 15kg to 20kg of flour.
“In Ramadhan, it can reach up to 30kg, which is a lot of cakoi sticks,” said Wafaa.
By the locals, for the locals
With less than 10 local staff altogether, the establishment not only emphasises on the importance of quality products but skillful workers.
“Our staff rotates tasks every few months – this is to ensure that everyone is all-rounded and are able to take over in certain cases.”
“We are happy to provide employment opportunities to the locals no matter how old they are – our products are made by the locals for the locals,” she added.
With no experience, investors and a strong foundation in starting the business, the journey wasn’t easy for the father-daughter duo.
“We had to learn things ourselves, to keep things in order, manage the team while maintaining good quality products.”
After much trial and errors, perseverance and hard work, the duo eventually figured out a system and have implemented it ever since.
She encourages prospective entrepreneurs to have a steady business plan, conduct research, be truthful and treat their customers well.
“We’re always aiming to improve ourselves and hope to continue learning for years to come under Allah SWT’s guidance and blessings.”
“My family and I are happy to continue my grandmother’s legacy and we hope others will follow suit in promoting culinary heritage,” added Wafaa.
The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN