Thanis Lim

All Rounder Chef and Food Journalist

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Pondok Sari Wangi: What’s the story?

Pondok Sari Wangi has been serving authentic Indonesian cuisine in Brunei since 1990. For over 20 years, the restaurant has enjoyed an endearing reputation for serving up authentic Indonesian food from Java, Padang and Sulawesi. They had been famous for sparking the Ayam Penyet trend in Brunei, being the first restaurant to introduce the scrumptious ‘smashed’ fried chicken – crispy skin and tender flesh, served with a rich blend of sambal chili. This dish was such a big hit that numerous restaurants jumped on the bandwagon and started introducing their own versions of Ayam Penyet but none came close to the original. The restaurant is also the only restaurant in Brunei to be awarded the New Millennium award in the Year 2002 by the International Award for Tourist, Hotel and Catering Industry, Madrid, Spain.
Owner, Mijanti Della Rahardja, or Mrs Ho by the locals, has experience managing restaurants in Hong Kong, Singapore and Indonesia but finally moved to Brunei to be closer the her two sons, who were doing business in Brunei. She started Pondok Sari Wangi, a small Indonesian fast food restaurant in Brunei in 1990. Today, the restaurant has mushroomed into 7 outlets in Brunei! The main branch in Gadong itself seats up to a 100 and VIP rooms which seats up to 40. The main branch focuses on Javanese, Betawi and Sudanese food, combined with a mixture of other classic Asian cuisines.
Currently, the manager, Mijanti’s son Pak Ridwan, is overseeing the updating and modernizing Indonesian cuisine. He has vast experience in the food industry, ranging from Hong Kong, Indonesia and Brunei, has great passion for food and conjures up creative delicious dishes from his home as well. The recent additions to the menu had attracted a cult following in Brunei and I myself am a fan of these dishes especially the Iga Penyet, thinly sliced beef ribs which are marinated with a special blend of spices, grilled and served with kremes (a crispy topping made from mixing the marinade with eggs and flour, then deep fried to give a fragrant crunch to the dish).
Pondok Sari Wangi’s Gado Gado Lontong, which is an Indonesian salad, consisting of vegetables, rice cakes, eggs, tempeh goreng and served with a hot spicy peanut sauce is only available during lunch time. Unlike others’ Gado Gado, they insist of making Gado Gado Uleg and not Gado Gado Siram, which will make the gado gado more evenly tasteful. They also have a range of lunch sets, which are quick and affordable yet delicious! I especially like their Nasi Timbul, which is a set consisting of rice wrapped in banana leaf, served with beef or chicken, with sambal, tempeh goreng and soup sayur asam as sides.
Other than that I absolutely love their beef satays, which makes use of high quality beef, marinated with fragrant spices and grilled to produce one of the most tender and juicy satays you can imagine. Their Beef Rendang deserves a mention as well as they use a lot of ingredients to make! Pak Ridwan is proud to say that for every 1kg of beef, they can use up to 1.5kg in the ingredients to cook their Beef Rendang! Their Tauhu Telor is also a masterpiece; tofu that is dipped in eggs and deep fried till crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, is served with peanut and soy sauce! If seafood is your thing, they also have live mud crabs at the restaurant! I especially like their Claypot Crab Rice Vermicelli and their Fried Crabs in Padang Sauce is a must try!
Pondok Sari Wangi has several signature drinks to offer. Their durian juice is more like a durian smoothie for me and packs a real durian punch! I also recommend their Avocado juice which has a slight hint of coffee! They also make very good in house Cendol, which is served with Gula Melaka and coconut milk!
I personally list Pondok Sari Wangi as the restaurant one must dine in when visiting Brunei. I had brought several friends from overseas and they all had an enjoyable gastronomic experience! Be sure to include this restaurant in your itinerary when you’re stopping by Brunei.
Note: This article has also appeared in the November Edition of Breeze Magazine Sabah!

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