For Restoran Siti Rabiah (RSR), that was Hjh Noormah Hj Abd Rahman, who had spent years perfecting the dishes of nasi lemak and rendang from her parents-in-law, one of them a
At 64-years-old, she thought the days of RSR were done. After opening RSR in Menglait in 1994 with her husband Hj Yaakob Hj Abd Rahman, RSR enjoyed a good run for the better half of a decade, but without a suitable back-up and challenges in recruiting staff, they eventually shut down in the 2000s.
Now 66-years-old, Hjh Normah finds herself back in the kitchen of RSR’s third and biggest branch yet in Kiulap, formerly occupied by the Korean fried chicken franchise
An unlikely duo
Muhd Faisal is the second eldest and Muhd Khairuddin the youngest of Hj Yaakob and Hjh Normah’s five children. Neither admits to being academically inclined; Faisal didn’t make it past
While Faisal went on to work odd-end jobs, Khairuddin spent his time at home in the kitchen learning from his mother and scouring for recipes on YouTube.
“I learned the (cooking) basics from my mother,” said Khairuddin. “But I also liked to see what was trending amongst Bruneians (overseas) that they couldn’t get here. It was a lot of trial and error.”
He began selling western pastries through Instagram @Lux.cakes_bn and shortly after saw his first real hit with his Nando’s inspired spicy grilled chicken @peri_perichickenbrunei. When @bruneifoodies gave him a shout out on their photo-sharing platform, Khairuddin went on to apologize to the public because all orders had to be picked up from their home in
“I didn’t have a driver’s license so I couldn’t do deliveries yet,” he said. “I was only 17-years-old.”
Siti Rabiah reopens in Menglait
Hj Yaakob’s father Hj Abd Rahman Hj Hussin is best remembered as being one of the first Bruneians farmers to build a large scale cattle farm, before branching out to property development and retail.
He was succeeded by his 13 children, and in the building he named after his family Menglait, his son Hj Yakoob decided that he would open up a restaurant in
“My father and mother (Siti Rabiah) were very much into cooking,” recalls Hj Yakoob. “They always made time (to cook) even if they were busy. My father also opened a restaurant back in the capital before selling it off. I wanted to continue that legacy, especially the recipes they left behind.”
After being unable to sustain RSR, the couple decided to rent out their lot in Menglait instead. After their tenant vacated four years ago, Khairuddin – who had been building up thousands of followers selling grilled chicken from home across three years – suggested they revive RSR with a more modern menu while maintaining the classics like nasi lemak, rendang and fried rice and noodles.
“My brother had a lot of new, creative ideas for the menu which hadn’t really been served in other restaurants in Brunei,” said Faisal. Together, the brothers financed RSR’s opening at the start of 2016 in the same lot that it first opened more than 20 years ago.
Viral posts of their three dishes:
“It started to become clear (based off the traffic after six months) that this (RSR) was a business we could potentially expand to more locations,” said Khairuddin.
RSR moves into prime retail
A second branch, lead by Faisal, opened in Serusop at the start of 2018. Khairuddin then cast his eye to Brunei’s prime retail areas in Gadong and Kiulap. In a bold move, he decided to take up the lot vacated by
While Setia Kenangan II is arguably one of the most happening spots in the Sultanate, many established eateries – both local and international – have failed to sustain operations at the space.
On the weekends, RSR is routinely at full capacity for lunch and dinner with many customers seen enjoying ‘shell out’ – a customizable, giant grazing platter of stir-fried seafood that only a handful of restaurants serve in the country. But Khairuddin will be measuring how RSR fares during quieter weekdays before he makes any future moves.
“Our Kiulap branch is currently the only (branch) that serves shell out, which is inspired
Watch: Siti Rabiah expands to three locations