An attempt at Kofta turned into a business

Dewi’s earnest desire to replicate her Morrocan husband’s cuisine four years ago has grown into a fledgling takeout business

For its 15,000 fans, the name Kofta Diva is synonymous with a bowl of short, thick cut fries covered in piping hot sauce and bags of refreshing milk tea to beat the day’s heat.

Or perhaps it’s their outrageous giant platter that combines pasta, chicken, garlic bread, mashed potatoes and fries. But the beginning of Kofta – and the namesake it’s derived from – comes from something entirely more intimate.

It is Hari Raya Aidil Adha in 2013, in one government teacher’s home kitchen in Kg Beribi.

Hoping to give her husband a familiar taste of home, Hjh Dewi Hairani Hj Thani (pictured main 2nd R) tried to replicate her Moroccan husband’s (pictured main R) favourite dish – hand rolled meatballs soaked in a salsa sauce and topped with half cooked eggs, known as kofta (pictured below), and served with a side of khobz, a round Arabic styled bread.

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“Issam (my husband) had to leave his family and homeland behind to come and live in Brunei,” said Dewi, who married Issam in 2010 after a chance meeting online just a few years prior. “I wanted to surprise him the recipe that I learned from his mother.”

Dewi, much like any other Bruneian, posted the result of her trial kofta online. She was flooded with comments and words of encouragement to try and sell the dish to the public. One friend went above and beyond and begged Dewi to sell the kofta to her.

“I wasn’t confident, but she was persistent,” recalls the 39-year-old with a laugh. “Her mother was Egyptian and was familiar with the dish, she kept telling me that it would make her mother so happy if she could try the dish.”

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Issam, flattered that Bruneians were willing to try Kofta, helped Dewi as they create their first orders for sale. By 2014, Kofta had edged its way onto the Instagram accounts of thousands of Bruneians, as customers as far as Tutong and Belait would travel to Dewi’s home for their first kofta takeaway.

With the savings from about two years of selling kofta, the couple looked to open their first takeaway outlet. But the dish kofta requires considerable preparation, and they needed to develop a range of items that were more instant.

“The concept we had in mind was like the small takeaway chip and kebab shops in the UK,” said Dewi, who had begun to introduce fries in seven flavours: bolognese, honey mustard, black pepper, barbeque, chilli beef, shawarma and salted egg. Customers could also choose between beef, tuna, parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese as an additional topping.

The fries are priced between $3 to $4, with additional topping costing 50 cents.
The fries are priced between $3 to $4, with additional topping costing 50 cents.

They opened her first takeaway stall along the roadside of Spg 216 along Jalan Pasir Berakas in December 2015, and another in November, which sported two tables, the following year at half a shop unit at the Bangunan Radin Complex in Rimba.

Last May they opened their biggest branch to date, a modest trailer styled unit able to seat 25 at No. 11, Jln Durian, Kg Jaya Bakti, Perpindahan Berakas.

Gross sales now sit between BND$10,000 to $15,000 with a workforce of 13, nine who are local. While grateful for the progress over a few short years, Dewi does not want to stop there.

“The next step is to see what the potential is for Kofta is outside Brunei,” said Dewi, who is now participating in Sabah’s first International Food & Beverage Fair at Suria Sabah Shopping Mall.

It could be a foreign branch, but exportable products like bottled sauces, are also on Dewi and her husband’s mind. Judging from the steady lines throughout the day at the fair for Kofta’s fries, the move isn’t as far fetched as they first thought.

“We were really taken by surprise by the response and positive feedback from the Sabah customers,” said Dewi. “It’s our first expo outside Brunei and we have learned a lot about the foreign market. We are excited to see what new products and opportunities we can develop from this expo and hopefully others in the future.”

For more information, follow @kofta.diva on Instagram or contact +6738893422 to get in touch. You can visit their Lambak branch at Spg 261, Jalan Pasir Berakas, Kg Lambak, their Rimba branch at No 4, Spg 8 Ground Floor, Bangunan Radin Complex, Rimba and their Jalan Durian branch at No. 11, Jln Durian, Kg Jaya Bakti, Perpindahan Berakas.

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