Subok’s own jewel Nasi Lemak Hijau: A hearty remedy of four generations

When people think about Subok’s food scene, the first thing that comes to mind is probably the Green Rice popularly known as “Nasi Hijau” or “Nasi Lemak Subok”.

Tucked away at Kg Subok, the family business grew from humble beginnings to becoming one of the most iconic nasi lemak hijau; going strong for more than 30 years now. 

The home-based business Green Rice boasts close to three decades of history since its founding in 1988. Before the pandemic, customers would queue up to have a taste of the signature green nasi lemak topped with their crispy fried chicken.

The green nasi lemak recipe has been in the family for four generations. Ong Nyuk King better known as Madam Ong, the founder of Green Rice, created the recipe in the 1980s.

From an early age, Madam Ong has been earning a living through her food business, often seen spending most of her time in the kitchen, experimenting new flavours and learning new recipes from the neighbours in Kampong Ayer.

While tradition is what has kept the business alive and popular today, it is Madam Ong’s passion for experimental flavours and cooking that has kept the dishes exciting which inspired the family to open up an eatery at their own home in 1988.

Her daughter, Goh Chai Li (CL) said that a lot of their family secret recipes were created by her mother through “research and experimentation in the kitchen”.

For Madam Ong, it is the simple classics that bring out the homely taste. Not only does she create every dish with love and passion as her main ingredient, but each dish also holds a personal story.

“Together with the family, we decided to open The Green Rice with a dream to continue to serve more generations and to conserve the taste,” CL said.

When first started selling nasi lemak from the windows of their home, the home business quickly gained recognition. Little did Madam Ong expect that the business would grow.

“The amount of orders were so great, we were busy non-stop, day and night but it also makes us happy that people love our nasi lemak hijau,” said CL.

In 2020, Green Rice opened its very own restaurant at Spg 470 at Kg Subok.

However, for Madam Ong, opening the business was less about the income and more about preserving a sense of family and community more than anything else.

She would spend every day at the new restaurant and can be spotted having conversations with her customers.

“She enjoys bonding with the customers. We would have customers from 30 years ago coming to tell us about their precious memories they share from enjoying our green nasi lemak,” she said.

CL noted that their loyal customers became a key aspect to the business’s success, emphasising on good customer service and building relationships with them.

Madam Ong is a strong believer of hospitality being the foundation of the business. She believes the family-friendly atmosphere is what keeps customers coming back time and time again.

For her ,“meals are better when we eat together,” which became the core and slogan of the business.

Madam Ong has expanded her operations, growing her menu to include a wider array of dishes, which have gained positive feedback from customers, old and new.

Every item at Green Rice is home-cooked with love and authenticity, featuring comfort food inspired by childhood memories and a myriad of vibrant local flavours.

“Our menu expanded from nasi lemak to a variety of simple local dishes such as kolo mee, fried chicken ball, boiled dumpling, wok-tossed noodles and more,” CL shared.

A new generation takes on tradition and challenges

In the decade that followed, CL would help out her mother with the 33-year-old business.

CL manages the day-to-day operations at Green Rice with her mother, kickstarting their day with cooking up the rice and slicing cucumbers.

However, according to CL, the food business did not come without its challenges. Like many other restaurants, business has been impacted during the pandemic.

“Our price increase as our old customers are used to old pricing. Especially with the pandemic, the raw materials are getting much more expensive. One of the main costs is from oil, since we use a lot of cooking oil per day,” she shared.

CL also revealed that the eatery now survives solely on takeaways and deliveries.

“Since our recent rebranding, we have received positive feedback on our branding and our interior design. Without being able to dine in, our customers would miss the opportunity to enjoy a good meal at our shophouse,” she said.

Through the second pandemic, the family had to think swiftly on their feet — from keeping up a regular post on Instagram to utilising food delivery services.

When asked about future plans for the business, CL said that they are eyeing on expanding Green Rice presence in Brunei through the opening of more branches in the future and also creating a local-born franchise brand.

“Our vision is to bring this taste and aroma to more people- even bigger beyond Brunei. There are already a few from Malaysia, Singapore and China that are asking for franchising opportunities. I believe that’s the right direction to scale up and transform ourselves to a neighbourhood fast food brand,” CL shared.

This article was first published on 30 October 2021 in our Weekly E-Paper issue 165 |  More stories here


Input your search keywords and press Enter.

You cannot copy the content of this page