After graduating with a degree in Islamic Theology some four years ago, Norhakimah Madali (pictured main R), like many unable to find full-time work, weighed the option of continuing on to take a master’s degree.
In 2013, she enrolled at Universiti Sultan Sharif Ali. But as months progressed, she found herself increasingly wrapped up in another pursuit: selling chicken wings.
“I came into the masters programme with the wrong intention,” says Norhakimah, who ended up dropping out. “I couldn’t get work after I graduated with my degree and I thought to myself, ‘Why not just continue on and get my Masters?’”
Wings & Drumettes, may still be a young, home-based takeout business, but a growing chorus of customers on social media are raving how it hits all the right notes when it comes to indulgent, western styled food that Bruneians have known and come to love.
“It’s in the sauce,” says 29-year-old Norhakimah, who sought to re-create chicken wings she enjoyed while on holiday in London. Their signature BBQ combines tomato, maple syrup, worcestershire sauce, cayenne and black peppers to name a few, for a more nuanced flavour compared to the store bought variety.
Her close friend Muizira Hj Awang Morsidi (pictured main L), who was now in the army, saw Norhakimah’s growing pursuit, and decided to invest a small amount.
“I’m very confident in Norhakimah’s cooking,” says Muizira, who met Norhakimah when they worked part-time at a bicycle shop after finishing secondary school almost a decade ago. “After trying her wings, I didn’t think twice about backing her.”
Following the route of most cottage businesses, Norhakimah set up social media accounts and joined pop-up events, but it was her determination to continuously improve the sauce that sets Wings & Drumettes apart from the hundreds of other businesses selling western inspired food.
“In the early days, I did it (trialing the sauce) all in my bedroom,” says Norhakimah with a laugh. “My mother works in catering and I didn’t want her to scold me for wasting food.”
In 2017, after a steady stream of requests from their signature sauce, Norhakimah decided to bottle them – and reached out to supermarkets to see if there would be any takers.
Formally registering their business as Foodmobbers Enterprise, they debuted their BBQ, Hot, and Sweet and Spicy at the Made in Brunei Market Fair earlier in May, selling hundreds of their 340ml bottles at $4 to $5, and last month brought their sauce overseas for the first time at the 14th China-ASEAN Expo in Nanning, China.
“We’ve since made it into seven small grocery stores,” says Norhakimah, which include Orbit in Salambigar, Saima Jaya in Lambak, TM Majeed in Kilanas, Gaya Abadi in Lumapas and Noor Fathima in Mentiri. She also added a new flavour – Sweet – a favourite recipe of her mother.
The 29-year-old’s main challenge however is manpower: she’s the only full-time staff within Wings & Drumettes, with her siblings, pooling in help when free.
“Right now everything is done by hand, from cooking, bottling and sealing which makes it hard to make more than 200 bottles of sauces a day,” said Hakimah. “Hopefully one day I can save up enough to buy machines so I can increase production as well as extend the shelf life (currently six months long).”
To learn more follow @wings_and_drumettes on Instagram and contact +6738379754 to place an order. Wings & Drumettes is open from 3pm to 9pm on weekdays and 8am to 9pm on weekends.