Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tutong night stop for the hungry and weary

By Abang Jit Manis

When you are cruising at night from Bandar Seri Begawan to Kuala Belait and in mid-journey, hungry pangs and thirst get to you, where just do you go? The answer is, "Pasar Malam Tutong"or the Tutong Night Stalls.

Pasar Malam Tutong is smack in the heart of Tutong town near the river bank. Since Tutong District is located mid-way from Bandar to KB or vice-versa, travellers always stop in Tutong town for food and fuel before driving on.

Pasar Malam Tutong was started in 1995. At that time it was located at the middle of Jalan Inche Awang in front of the two old shophouses overlooking the Tutong River. After a few years, it was relocated to one place or another places as the permanent building was not available at that time. The present location of Pasar Malam Tutong was first used in 2008. It was formerly the town's wet market with facilities such as electricity and water.

As a Tutong resident myself, the Pasar Malam Tutong is like my second home. Almost every night, I am there to buy food and chat with the vendors. I would say I am no stranger to the local delicacies and vendors.

One of the veteran vendors is my good friend Ah Chai. Ah Chai is popular for his "rojak" or spicy salad. Ah Chai's rojak recipe was inherited from his grandfather who resided in Kuala Belait nearly 100 years ago. It was passed on to his father, then to him in his childhood years.

The rojak is a mixture of cucumber, ubi sengkuang, squid, pineapple, chili, bean curd and mixed in shrimp paste. His famous rojak also attracts customers from as far as Muara, Rimba, Kuala Belait and Seria. During his grandfather and his father's time, the rojak had no particular name. But nowadays, he simply named his rojak "Rojak Ah Chai".

Ah Chai gave me a guided tour of the delicacies at Pasar Malam Tutong. Here, vendors sell Nasi Katok

with curious names like "Nasi Katok Berhembus Angin Malam" and "Nasi Katok Ujie" after its vendor Dayang Ujie who has been in the Pasar Malam business since her schooldays in 1995.

Then, she only helped her parents sell Begedil, Popiah and locally-made ice cream. Nowadays, the hardworking lass has become boss and mans her own stall with brother Mirul. During the school holidays, cousins Ifah, Tika and Wana help her out. Tonight, only Wana was there.

As business at Pasar Malam Tutong is booming, Dayang Ujie expanded her business to selling burgers, Keropok Lekor, Pulut Panggang and others. Dayang Ujie also sells ABC drink, cendol and the popular pop ice. "Dayang Ujie is certainly a good example to our young generation on how to operate business independently," said Ah Chai.

At another stall, the fragrant "Kuih Malaya" turned me on to how it is made. The girl vendor kindly showed me. First, she prepares the flour mixed with a fruit flavour. Then the flour is poured on a hot pan. The ground beans, sugar and sweet milk are added on top of it and cooked for seven minutes. And voila!

A lady vendor showed me her various foods, Ayam Kari, Ayam Khurma and Tempe. And Popiah Pisang is increasingly popular in Tutong town, mixed with Milo flavour which made it fantastic.

Smoke filled the building of Pasar Malam Tutong as two vendors grilled BBQ chicken wings, dripping with honey and chili sauce.

Colourful signage hung by vendors itemise food as low as $1.What made me proud is seeing teenagers and youths helping out their parents and even running stalls on their own. One was Eja busy preparing Nasi Katok.

Pasar Malam Tutong, though not as bustling as the night stalls in Bandar Seri Begawan, is certainly a gourmet stopover. With on occasions, bus-loads of tourists stopping by, and leaving star-struck with "Rojak Ah Chai" or "Nasi Katok Ujie" and the like.

Courtesy of Borneo Bulletin Sunday

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