Brunei’s ice cream on the rise

Meet the four local businesses driving Brunei's ice cream industry at the MSME Festival

Meet the founders (L to R): Kevin from Project Ice Cream, Yadiy from, Kyna, Kong from Happy Cream and Mordeny from Rumah Gelato.

Traditionally, buying ice cream in Brunei means stopping by the freezers of your nearest supermarket or convenience store. Inside, sticks and tubs from Wall’s and Nestle – mostly imported from Malaysia – and Magnolia from the Philippines’ are the standard, alongside locally produced variety from the Sultanate’s only industrial ice cream factory, Kingston Beverage & Creamery.

Getting it freshly made from ice cream shops, fast food outlets or Mr. Softy – most likely Brunei’s the first food truck – was your other option. But the majority of these have typically been foreign franchises, leaving the door open for a new wave of F&B creatives to put their own stamp on Bruneian ice cream.

At the MSME Festival this March 28 to 31, four producers leading the new wave of Brunei’s ice cream scene will be setting up shop at Bridex. Although all four have graduated from home to a commercial space, this will be the first time you’ll be able to sample all under one roof. Here’s a primer on what you can expect.

Watch: Ice cream vendors preparing for the MSME Festival

Brunei’s first homegrown Gelato brand: Rumah Gelato

The first of the four to open at a commercial space is Rumah Gelato, Brunei’s only homegrown gelato brand. Its founder Mordeny Modihi says that they aren’t the first to serve gelato in the Sultanate, but they are the first local business to focus entirely on making it.

Gelato is an Italian variant on ice cream, favouring milk over cream, resulting in a lower fat content. It is also churned slower and served at a slightly higher temperature, resulting in a smoother, silkier texture than the average ice cream. Mordeny – previously an HR manager of an IT firm – began making gelato from home 2013 using a small homemade ice cream maker. After joining the DARe business bootcamp and securing his first investment, Mordeny has been aggressively expanding, opening Rumah Gelato’s fifth and sixth outlets in OneCity and Mentiri this month.

Price: Starts at $3.80 for a 4 oz (118 ml) cup – but it’s almost always served overflowing.

Flavours: Crunchy speeculos – named after the traditional cinnamon shortcrust biscuit – is their best-seller.

Reclaiming old-fashioned ice cream: Happy Cream & Co.

Happy Cream began from home around the same time as Rumah Gelato. A hobby enjoyed by married couple Kong Chung Ang and Daisy Han during their downtime from their main education business Kumon, Happy Cream has since set out to reclaim old-fashioned ice cream, made traditionally in small batches using wholesome, premium ingredients without preservatives or fillers.

Their approach has paid off. In the past two years Happy Cream has opened a scooping station at The Mall and Mabohai, a cafe at Kiarong and secured supply to Supa-Save branches in Mata-Mata and Seria.

Price: Starts at $3.50 for a single scoop with cone, $11 for a pint

Flavours: Happy Cream prides on serving local flavours including Horlicks, bandung and teh tarik, and they’ve also introduced a vegan range, substituting dairy for coconut.

A knack for unique flavours: Kyna’s Popsicles

Ahead of the curve in introducing new flavours, Kyna was the first in Brunei to pick up on the White Rabbit trend abroad. The nostalgic sweet milk candy has now been turned into frozen dessert by at least five vendors, but Kyna are already planning to roll out a host of new flavours over the coming months at their outlet at Krema and the soon-to-be opened Kontena Park.

Kyna’s Popsicles are made by former business teacher Hj Muhd Khairul Yadiy Hj Damit and his wife Dk Siti Nur Amalina Pg Junaidi. They describe their approach as artisanal – so instead of frozen water, sugar and artificial flavours that form the standard popsicle, Kyna’s uses fresh fruit and wholesome ingredients.

Price: From $2 a stick

Flavours: A constantly evolving range from ABC to teh c special to cheesecake. Best-sellers include seasalt and watermelon.

New kids on the block: Project Ice Cream

While Rumah Gelato and Kyna serve up a different take on frozen desserts, there’s no denying the similarities between Happy Cream and Project Ice Cream. Both focus on making premium ice cream in small batches with as little artificial ingredients as possible, so the fresh-faced duo behind Project Ice Cream Kevin Lim and Siti Norasyikin Hj Kariya make sure their flavours consistently have fillings, including their own biscuits and honeycombs.

Project Ice Cream is the newest business on this list – and their founders the youngest – having started at the end of 2017 after graduating. Production is still done at an extension outside Kevin’s home in Sengkurong, but inside their kitchen sits an $18,000 Emery Thompson CB-350, an iconic ice cream churning machine from the US whose earliest clients include Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry.

Project Ice cream opened their first outlet in Kiarong last October, and and have since positioned scooping stations at The Bloom Project in Citis Square and Expressini Cafe in Kuala Belait.

Price:  A scoop with a cone is $3, two scoops is $5.50, and a pint $10.

Flavours: Vanilla-based honey the boo and charcoal-based midnight crunch both have honeycombs. Other standard flavours are made more exciting with fillings including biscuits and brownies.