Brunei’s biggest Gerai Ramadhan at the Hassanal Bolkiah (HB) National Stadium is back after a two-year hiatus in a downscaled format with 264 vendors.

The Gerai Ramadhan Belia features 175 youth vendors, who are given a discounted rental of $250 for the popular month-long sales event, which was suspended last year due to the COVID-19 outbreak. The remaining vendors, made up of more established businesses, are charged $350.

AIZ Event Planner & Management and SKMM, appointed as organisers by the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports, have introduced a more spacious layout, including larger tents spanning 20ft by 30ft and more spacing between vendors.

The public are also required to scan their BruHealth QR code upon entering the event, which in years before the pandemic routinely featured 400 to over 500 booths.

For the vendors – the majority who are fasting as they cook under the sweltering afternoon heat – the Gerai Ramadhan is an opportunity to make quick sales and draw long-term customers to their brands. Here’s a sample of what’s in store.

Smoked differently: Marvelous BBQ

The salai or smoking and grilling of proteins is a staple of food stalls across the country. To stand out, Marvelous BBQ owner Mohd Ameer Salleh prepares his with a twist: flavouring first with tom yam, before gently cooking by steaming, and finally placing them over the grill.

“This year, our hot seller has been the chicken wings, as there is a shortage of beef,” says the 33-year-old. “Over the grill we also have pais (fatty beef in a chilli marinade), sausages, bakso (beef balls), hati buyah (beef liver and lungs) and fish cakes.”

Marvelous began by sharing a relative’s booth at the Pasar Pelbagai Barangan Gadong in 2010, before moving to Sumbangsih Mulia in 2015, followed by a kiosk outlet at the Yayasan Food Street this year.

Ameer has been aggressive with Marvelous’ expansion as of late, and has employed 20 local youths – mostly family and friends – for Ramadhan to operate their stalls at the stadium, Yayasan Food Street, and Rimba Point.

24 years of grilling: Ada Mood Percik

Ada Mood Percik’s banner proudly declares their annual presence at the Gerai Ramadhan since 1997, where they’ve consistently served up seafood-based percik – a grilled dish with a blend of spices including turmeric, lemongrass, and coconut milk on top.

35-year-old Md Jul Rahimin Durahim wasn’t even a teen yet when he first joined his parents at their food stall, and retains his enthusiasm for the Gerai Ramadhan as an opportunity not just to make money but also bond with his family.

“The seafood we serve up is mostly from our family’s own boats,” said Md Jul, who only sets up the business during Ramadhan. “At the moment I am carrying it forward with my 12 siblings; we keep the same old recipe, but have adjusted it slightly over time to suit current tastes.”

Western and Mexican: Snackelicious

Some argue that the best way to learn about business is to work for one. 18-year-old Ak Md Nazrul Helmi Pg Lademan hopes to gain the best of both worlds, running Snackelicious with his sister while also studying for a HNTec in Business and Finance from the Institute of Brunei Technical Education (IBTE) Business Campus.

Snackelicious focuses on Western and Mexican cuisine that Nazrul’s father tried abroad, along with a few local dishes priced at a dollar. The family began to recreate their own versions of burgers and tortillas at the perayaan (His Majesty’s birthday celebrations) sales event in the capital in 2017, and have since opened a food stall at a small enclave of shops in Jalan Ong Sum Ping.

Reviving classics: Numan Ikat Siring

Ak Afandi Pg Hj Bakar’s business concept is based off nostalgia; he fondly recalls his childhood routine of buying drinks in drawstring plastic bags after reading the Al-Quran in the evening.

Numan Ikat Siring has six flavours, but three are considered the “classics”: Milo, milk tea, and milk coffee – which are prepared the traditional way in large pots (belanga) with an emphasis on creating a “kaw” or strong flavour.

Ak Afandi, who works full-time for a telco company, has been operating his business mostly through pop-up events, where he is often joined by his close friend’s business The Pancit, who specialize in onde-onde.