September 3, 2011

BRUNEI: Palace visitors enjoy food fit for a king

BRUNEI, Borneo / Borneo Bulletin / Weekend / September 3, 2011

By Siti Hajar

Being the only Muslim nation that allows its public to get up close and personal with members of the royal family, the month of Syawal brings abundant joy to those who make the time to drive down to the Istana Nurul Iman during the second to fourth day of Hari Raya.

A visitor to the royal palace receives food provided at one of the 20 food stations positioned side-by-side.  Syafiq Affendy

Apart from the opportunity to get a first-hand glimpse into the abode of His Majesty the Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, the festivity also provides hearty meals to visitors as they await their turn to extend their greetings to the elusive royal entourage.

Every year, thousands venture into the vast space of the arrival hall within the palace and once they have cleared security checks that are stationed at every point of entrance, individuals are greeted by the aroma of freshly prepared cuisines that are tantalising enough to beckon even the most particular of eaters.

During the three days that the palace opens its doors, chefs who have been designated to their food stations warmly greet the extended porcelain plates and generously distribute dishes that are on the menu with many visitors piling their platters as a testament to the quality that is being served.

Apportioned food is a mix of familiar local names with a hint of modernised cooking that is ensured to attract the taste buds of meat as well as seafood enthusiasts whilst the vegetables tie the entire pallet into a well-balanced meal.

As a staple to the Asian diet, the rice station, whose contents are cooked with lemongrass ghee, is the first in a line of other meticulously prepared items and this is followed by 'rendang' (prepared beef), spicy grilled chicken, Mahkota lamb, sautéed prawn, nuggets and spaghetti, which is more appealing to the younger visitors, pickled vegetables and much more including Hari Raya cakes and cookies for dessert.

About 20 stations positioned side-by-side and housing at least two chefs are placed in a row of four to ease the congestion of hungry patrons and another six are placed at the edge of the hall where visitors are able to get their hands on freshly baked sweets.

Dozens of chairs and tables are laid out on the halls' floor as a convenient means for guests who considerately leave their seats once they've finished either their late breakfast or late lunch to make room for other incoming guests, whilst staff are constantly on hand to immediately clear away empty plates and clear table tops.

Apart from the evenly spaced overhead fans that aim to cool on a hot Bruneian day, water dispensers and soft drinks stations are within reach whilst staff do their utmost best to ensure that visitors constantly remain hydrated through the topping up of empty stations and resupplying allocated tables with plastic cups.

A senior citizens section located to the left just after the palace's visitor's entrance is also available for the elderly and this part of the meal hall is also equipped with soft foods such as corn porridge and the local favourite known popularly as 'keropok lekor'.

In comparison to the section for the able-bodied, the section for the elderly is spaced much more closely to make certain that they do not tire before the once-a-year day has ended.

Copyright © 2011 Brunei Press Sdn Bhd.
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