Hello Everyone! We’re pushing on with more Bruneian favourites, and this month wouldn’t be complete without tackling the famous Nasi Katok, which in English literally means ‘knock rice’. It is a simple combination of white rice, sambal (a condiment made out of blended chillies and other spices), and a piece of fried chicken, traditionally served wrapped in a piece of waxed brown paper. A variety of secondary ingredients including but not limited to shrimp paste, garlic, ginger, shallot, scallion, palm sugar, lime juice, vinegar, and anchovies can also be served together with the fried chicken.
Nasi Katok is as quintessentially a Bruneian version of fast food, with many vendors running around the clock 24 hours a day selling this classic favourite. The roots of the term originated from the act of katok (knocking), on the window of this small flat in the country’s capital, to buy nasi (rice); the unofficial first Nasi Katok establishment since the 1980s. Naturally, the name stuck and today the dish is among the best national dishes.
Nasi Katok is one of Brunei’s most affordable staples that is priced at only BND$1.00. That’s right, one dollar for a piece of fried chicken, sambal, and steamed white rice. Over the decades the Nasi Katok has evolved into many versions – my favourite being the fusion of chicken and buttermilk.
Bruneians love their buttermilk chicken, so when word got out that there was a place in Brunei that combines two of the country’s most loved foods, it caused a sensation! As of the majority of the dishes found in Brunei, the origins of buttermilk chicken is actually a Malaysian dish known as Lai Yao Kei 奶油鸡, or Malaysian Butter Chicken. It is about a million miles away from what most of us imagine when we think of Butter Chicken (and I’m talking about the Indian variety).
Other than chicken being the main source of protein for the dish, other meat varieties such as pork, fish, and prawns can be found too. I decided to keep mine pescatarian friendly for this recipe and so I used salmon belly for this dish. The buttermilk sauce is infused with the aroma of fresh curry leaves, and spiked with the heat from fresh chillies. It is actually very simple to make and comes together in just minutes. Though you’d think the butter would be the star of the show here, it is actually the evaporated milk that steals the limelight!
PREP TIME 30 MINS | COOKING TIME 30 MINS | SERVES 6
For the salmon
- 6 pcs salmon belly strip, scaled and cleaned
- 3 garlic cloves, finely minced
- 2 pcs calamansi, juiced
- 2 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- All-purpose flour
For the buttermilk sauce
- 1 can (300ml) evaporated milk
- 1 bunch (8-10 pcs) curry leaves
- 2 pcs red bird’s eye chillies, chopped
- 1 tbsp unsalted butter
- 2 tsp white granulated sugar
- Salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the sambal
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 2 small red onions, peeled and quartered
- 1 medium-sized brown onion, quartered
- 1 long green chilli, chopped
- 1/2 + 1/2 cup water
- 3 tbsp blended red chillies
- 1 tbsp white granulated sugar
- Salt, to taste
- Cooking oil
- Salmon Belly: Add all the ingredients into a medium-sized bowl and mix well. Set aside to marinate for at least 30 minutes before cooking.
- Lightly coat the salmon belly strips in flour and shallow fry until golden brown and crispy. Fry in batches if needed and once done, set aside. You can fry the salmon bellies just before serving so that they are hot and remain crispy.
- Sambal: Add the onions, garlic, green chilli, and half a cup of water into a food processor or blender. Blend until the ingredients are finely chopped.
- Add about 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Add the onion mixture and cook until soft and fragrant, about 5 minutes.
- Add the blended red chillies and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt, add the sugar, and the remaining half cup of water. Give it a good mix and continue to cook until thickened. Once done, set aside.
- Buttermilk Sauce: Melt the butter to a medium-sized pan over medium heat. Once melted, add the red chillies together with the curry leaves and cook to infuse the flavours and aromas into the butter. Set aside a few curry leaves and chillies for decoration later.
- Turn the heat down to medium-low and add the evaporated milk. Add the sugar and season with a touch of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Taste and adjust to your liking. Cook until the sauce thickens, about 8 to 10 minutes altogether.
At this point, you can either add the fried salmon bellies to the sauce and simmer for a couple of minutes before serving, or top the bellies with the sauce. It’s completely up to you.
- Serve with rice and vegetables of choice, together with sambal. Enjoy!
Before I end tonight’s post, there’s something I want to share with everyone. So about two weeks ago I came across a post on Instagram regarding the price of Nasi Katok – should it be increased from BND$1.00 to BND$1.50? From a survey of almost 2000 people, 58% said that it should stay at BND$1.00. Small business owners usually sell Nasi Katok just to get through the day; it was never about profit for some. In fact, vendors would only make a profit of 20 cents per serving of Nasi Katok sold. In my honest opinion, if it’s just for a 50 cents price increase to help small businesses, I wouldn’t mind paying extra especially if I’m getting more in return. Think about it, you’re getting a serving of rice, a decent-sized piece of chicken and a spicy relish to bring it altogether. I think we can spare a little more out of our pockets to help them out.
– Ally xx