Image: Azrina Zin

Spreads elegantly across the wall in big, golden wordings, the quote “Never Forget Your Roots” gives a sentimental feeling to every visitor entering the latest grab-and-go eatery in town, Roots.

As build-your-own-bowl restaurants continue to grow in the sultanate, the home-grown establishment stands out with its fresh-from-home approach.

For eatery owner Dilys Chai, Roots’ food menu was designed based on familiar ingredients that her family loves and uses at home.

Image: Azrina Zin

“We wanted to bring in something different,” she said.

Dilys’ search for fresh and healthy lunch alternatives led her to open up the business as an extension to her family’s boutique restaurant Rack and Brew located in the heart of Gadong.

In just a short time since its debut in September last year, Roots has become a local favourite among lunch-goers for its flavourful and value for money for options.

Image: Azrina Zin

“We wanted to offer the same atmosphere as Rack and Brew and open up an eatery that provides a more efficient and fast service,” she said.

It has always been her dream to own a grab-and-go concept that emphasises on healthy, home-cooked food with convenience.

It’s a family affair

Image: Azrina Zin

The Chai family has been in the food industry for about 10 years. For them, cooking is not just a profession but rather an expression of their love for food. 

Every item at Roots is home-cooked with care and authenticity. “Home-cooked food is always delicious as it reminds us of flavours that are close to our hearts,” said Dilys.

Dilys who also found success in her other businesses providing food grazing catering for events said that it is in their blood. 

Image: Azrina Zin

“Our heritage and family play a big role in shaping who and what we are,” she said.

“We are always reminded by our mother to never forget our roots which (words) inspired the motto for Roots,” added the young entrepreneur.

Dilys, who is not a chef by trade, said that she learned how to eat before she learned how to cook. Her love for food goes back to her childhood of watching her mother prepare dinner for her family. 

Image: Azrina Zin

Her mother would always experiment with fresh herbs and vegetables that she grows from their garden and they would always be the first to try them out.

“My mum is an amazing cook. She is always feeding us with her heart-warming, delicious home-cooked food,” she said, adding that her mom’s creations became the signature dish and recipe for Roots.

Root to one’s heart 

Image: Azrina Zin

The cozy and compact storefront, decorated with signature pastel green colour serves grab-and-go sandwiches and meals which ingredients you can choose from a variety of options. 

Just like at any other build-your-own-bowl joint, Roots provides six main steps; pick your protein, then your base, and add a bunch of sides for a fulfilling meal.

You will be spoilt for choices; choose either salmon, grilled chicken thighs, their signature pulled beef and meatballs for your protein or tempeh and tofu for a vegetarian option.

Image: Azrina Zin

Whereas, for the base, customers will get to choose from healthy yet hearty options such as cauliflower rice, super greens, coconut brown rice and gluten-free pasta, among others. 

Dilys said options such as their home-style Strawberry Feta Cheese veggies – a combination of sweet strawberries, salty feta cheese and Chinese long beans are proving very popular among customers.

Other original side option includes her mother’s signature Thai style black fungus, Brussel sprouts and Apple coleslaw.

Image: Azrina Zin

Customers are given a wide selection of homemade sauce that includes blueberry vinaigrette, special ‘Asian gravy’, miso dressing, beetroot hummus and wasabi mayo.

Not only are the sauce made from scratch but some of the ingredients are freshly sourced from her mother’s own home garden.

While Roots is currently offering an array of meals to choose from, it also has sandwiches such as their popular salmon sandwiches, mushroom melts and cheese ciabatta.

Image: Azrina Zin

In addition to the savoury delights, the eatery also serves a variety of sweet treats that are also vegan/vegetarian-friendly such as their banana loaf bread, vegan poppy seed bread, sticky dates caramel cake and more.

In the near future, Dilys expressed Roots plans for delivery and the possibility of expansion, further increasing accessibility to healthy and hearty meal options.

Roots recently joined the Healthy Dining Programme that was implemented by the Health Ministry’s Health Promotion Centre aimed at improving healthy eating initiatives in the country.

Image: Azrina Zin

This article was first published on February 08, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 75

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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