Between all the hustle and bustle of the Kiulap area, stands a new eatery trying to bring layers of flavours into their freshly-made, all day breakfast sandwiches. 

However, Yi’s Nation is not just your run-of-the-mill breakfast and brunch joint but is a food legacy to one of Brunei Darussalam’s most iconic coffee shops; Chop Jing Chiew. 

Han Yei Siew, the owner of Yi’s Nation had always been surrounded by food, having grown up at the family restaurant which was established in 1946 by his grandfather, Han King Juan.

“I have always admired and respected him, he taught me a lot before he passed away,” he shared with The Bruneian, reminiscing the days where he would watch attentively from the kitchen as kid, as his grandfather worked tirelessly to prepare food for customers. 

The 27-year-old then highlighted how his grandfather poured years of his heart and soul into the family business, working long days and nights, while teaching his family what he learned along the way.

Han would continue to spend his formative years watching his family run the restaurant, learning the ins and outs of the restaurant business while he himself worked the counters and waited tables. 

There was one part of his past that stood out to him and that was how his grandfather connected with his customers. 

Until this day, loyal customers of Chop Jing Chiew would recall the pioneer of Brunei’s ‘Roti Kuning’ with affection and reverence. 

“One thing I have learnt and experienced working at the restaurant (is that) no matter who we deal with, either family, friends, colleagues, or customers, good communication is always important,” Han continued. 

He attributed Yi’s Nation’s current success to good customer service, emphasising the importance on how to talk to customers, how to build relationships with them, to listen and understand their needs. 

No matter what, whether it is one of their regulars or a new customer, Han would greet anyone who comes through the doors, with warmth and a smile, because he believed that even the smallest gesture would make a world of difference.

“The friendly atmosphere is what makes customers return,” he added.

The birth of Yi’s Nation

After years of working for his family’s business, Han decided to open his own business, having always dreamt of owning his own sandwich shop. 

The dream however is now a reality, as Yi’s Nation had officially opened its doors this year at Unit 23, Block C, Hua Man Yong Complex in Kiulap.

Han noted the strategic location of his new shop, adding that the arterial area of Kiulap is characterised by retail, corporate  and residential area.

“We have gained a good breakfast crowd and also a very busy lunch crowd for all the people who worked around the Kiulap area,” he said.

Though Yi’s Nation had only opened this year, the idea of it was conceived when Han took a stroll in the streets of London in 2018 and tried some lobster rolls in one of the city’s many food joints. 

Before opening the brick-and-mortar location in August however, Han started off with selling his sandwiches on Instagram with his first creation being the Rolls-Royce Rolls, which became a popular hit among his family and friends.

Due to this reception the budding chef actually spent a few months in Taiwan taking introductory baking classes; learning about mixing, fermenting and shaping bread.

Now, Han manages the day-to-day operations at the Yi’s Nation with his sister, Han Jia Shin, tending to a packed place almost on a daily basis as they would receive around 150 to 180 sandwich orders per day. 

“Food has been in the family since day one,” said Han, who still spends him time working at the family restaurant. 

“My family and friends played a big part (in my journey), helping us to open up Yi’s Nation, and for that, I will always be thankful (for their support),” he added. 

When asked about future plans for Yi’s Nation, Han said that they are eyeing on adding more items to their menu to provide customers with more options, with the Phase 2 menu slated for September. 

“We will also be introducing our signature product that started it all, the Rolls-Royce Rolls also know as the Triple R’s,” he shared

All-day breakfast sandwich: a menu for early birds

The cozy and simple storefront, decorated with hand-drawn paintings framed on the walls serve a variety of hot and cold breakfast sandwiches all-day long that are tasty down to the last bite.

Han has a strong passion for experimenting with flavours and textures of the sandwiches. 

Not only does he create every meal with passion as his main ingredient, but each sandwich on the menu holds a personal story to him. 

From a simple idea that started out from late night visits to the fridge to his food adventures around the world, a lot of thought and love goes into every order. 

For every dish, customers are given a choice of bread which include burger bread, yellow bread or white bread. All of which are freshly made from Chop Jing Chew.

Understandably, their signature Jing Chew’s ‘Roti Kuning’ is a big draw, with it being a family recipe passed down for generations in the Han family. 

According to Han, the mild sweetness of the yellow-colored dough forms the foundation for Yi’s Nation sandwiches.

Furthermore, the sandwiches are drizzled with luscious homemade dressing that ties the layers of taste together into a harmony of flavours. 

The sauces on the other hand are made from scratch, which includes their notable black garlic sauce which is akin to a combination of soy sauce and balsamic vinegar.

The garlic, Han explained, is fermented for 60 days for that added roasted caramelised taste.

Despite starting off with a two-page breakfast menu, each dish at Yi’s Nation is a homerun that will sate any appetite. 

For the light-breakfast eater, their classic egg sandwich may be for you, made with soft scrambled eggs, caramelized onions and cheese that hits all the right notes.

For those seeking an indulgent meal instead, Le Fluffy Angus and the New York Sunrise which are both packed full of flavour that would make any meat lover weak at the knees. 

However, those looking for a healthier option, they could opt for salad to replace the bread.

Han like to put emphasis on the integrity of their dishes, by maintaining them  at a premium level.  

Han like to put emphasis on the integrity of their dishes, by maintaining them  at a premium level.  

“We want to keep it consistent and make sure that all our ingredients are of good quality,” he added.

This article was first published on August 15, 2020 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 103

The Bruneian | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN

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