Breakfasts Around Borneo
Every morning, many Borneans are faced with a difficult decision to make: “What shall I have for breakfast?” This island is a hotbed of mind-boggling breakfast choices. If you’re ready for an early morning spicy kick, a dosai with its assortment of dipping condiments will hit the spot. Alternatively, slurp up a bowl of soupy soto or congee to warm up your belly just right. Those with a sweet tooth will no doubt happily munch on a steaming roti kahwin coupled with a cup of teh tarik. And if you can’t stay and chat, buy a meat-filled pau bun and enjoy it at your office desk. Whatever your gastronomical preference is in the morning, breakfast is an essential ritual – whether it’s enjoyed over a good conversation with a friend or reading a newspaper in a kopitiam or in your own home, it will get your gears going for the rest of the day.
In this issue of BiG, we do some snooping and tasting around to find out what are the popular breakfast dishes around Borneo.
A staple breakfast food that can be eaten with endless variations, this flaky Indian flatbread – prepared by a process of spinning and tossing a dough until the right consistency – is typically served with dhal or curry, but the versatility of the roti canai ensures that it can be paired with anything savoury or sweet, such as corned beef, sardines, onions, Nutella, kaya jam or sweet condensed milk. A perennial favourite in Southeast Asia, you can find roti canai anywhere: in your neighbourhood Indian restaurants and even five-star restaurants.
Literally translated into ‘mixed beef’, this noodle soup has a mixture of beef and innards, so vegetarians, stay away! A popular dish in Sabah, it is said that no trip to this place is complete without a taste of this beefy treat that is typically prepared in a beef broth soup with your choice of yellow noodles or mee hoon, and a dash of fiery hot chili.
A sign of a good plate of tuaran mee begins with its yellow egg noodles, which is handmade using only egg yolks and which should be springy to the bite. It is then topped with barbecued pork, leafy greens and egg rolls. Considered a ‘must-eat’ noodle dish in Sabah, tuaran mee originates from the town of Tuaran – a 45-minute drive from Kota Kinabalu – but can now be found in many restaurants around Sabah.
Literally translated to mean ‘marriage bread’, this simple breakfast features two thick slices of freshly-baked bread trapping a cold slab of butter and generous amounts of kaya jam. Chop Jing Chew, the most popular coffee shop in Brunei selling hot buns, prepares its bread at 5am each morning and their kaya jam is made in-house, ensuring that each roti kahwin that arrives at your table is a fresh fluffy treat.
This spicy noodle soup dish has hints of spices such as cumin, coriander and nutmeg as well fresh herbs like lemongrass, galangal and chili, blended together to make a paste which is then used as a base for the soup. Coconut milk is added when the stock is ready, and the broth is then ladled over a bowl of noodles and served with a wedge of lime and a dollop of sambal. A true Sarawakian delicacy!
Also known as chakoi, these crunchy fried dough strips are available all around Borneo and can be eaten with any filling – meat, peanut butter, fruit jam, cheese, even Nutella – but in Brunei the most popular way of enjoying your chakoi is to have it filled with kaya jam and butter. Delicious for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea!
While kolo mee (or kolok mee) can be found throughout Borneo, it is actually a signature dish from Sarawak. The key to this dish is its delicious simplicity: boiled egg noodles mixed with light soy sauce, oil, and topped with minced pork or other meat, chopped green onions and fried shallots, and it is served with a bowl of clear soup. A bowl of kolo mee will vary from place to place and you will find a slight difference in taste and presentation in Brunei’s version.
This dish hardly needs any introduction. A famous Malay dish, it is considered the national dish of Malaysia and is much loved throughout Borneo. Fragrant rice is cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves, and then served with condiments such as fried chicken or beef rendang, a boiled egg, little fried ikan bilis fish, peanuts and a spicy sambal. The result is an aromatic combination of tastes that will leave you satisfied throughout the morning (and possibly through lunch).
It is said that the mee jawa served in Sarawak is slightly different from the version served in the rest of Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia. Thick yellow egg noodles is served in a thick beefy broth and garnished with slices of chicken (or any meat you prefer), boiled egg and a sprinkling of coriander. The ‘special’ version available in Sarawak comes with a few sticks of satay doused in peanut sauce. Add a circle of dark soy sauce into the mixture and you’re ready to have a slurping good time.
Uniquely Sarawakian, you will be hard-pressed to find a restaurant outside Kuching that serves this dish. The soup base of this noodle is made with belachan (shrimp paste), and is served with bee hoon (rice vermicelli), garnished with shredded cucumbers, bean sprouts, sliced cuttlefish and century egg. The resulting taste is tangy, spicy and sweet. If you’re fan of belachan then you must try this dish!