Trace your roots through these time honoured dishes that are still loved today
Cover Photo: Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
If Singapore is a foodie haven, then what better way to trace our roots than by visiting and eating at heritage restaurants? These five storied establishments are among the oldest eateries here, with authentic fare and innovative new dishes that continue to draw loyal diners day after day.
Fatty Weng Restaurant
The Deep Fried Soon Hock still retains the succulence of steamed flesh within. (Photo: Fatty Weng Restaurant)
Affectionately nicknamed “Fatty Weng”, founder Lai Foo Weng first started Fatty Weng Restaurant as a modest roadside stall on Albert Street in 1967.
Fast-forward today, the iconic restaurant is known for its reasonably priced Cantonese cuisine among families and corporate gatherings.
Its current home on Smith Street continues to serve authentic and affordable Cantonese cuisine, with signature dishes like the Deep Fried Soon Hock headlining the menu. This freshwater fish is deep fried to crisp perfection but it still retains the succulence of steamed flesh within.
Another popular dish among diners is the melt-in-your-mouth Honey Pork Ribs. Tender pork ribs are pan-fried before being gently simmered in a special homemade sauce.
While the cooking methods in Cantonese cuisine centres around convenience and speed, quality isn’t compromised at the time-honoured restaurant.
Chef Fatty Weng constantly upgrades his culinary skills by participating in international culinary competitions as well as improvising old favourites.
39 Smith Street.
At the mention of Islamic Restaurant, talk of its legendary beryani arises. (Photo: Islamic Restaurant)
At the mention of Islamic Restaurant, talk of its legendary beryani arises. It’s no surprise then, to discover that the restaurant’s founder Mr Abdul Rahiman had been the head chef for the Alsagoffs and used to serve this Turkish-Indian inspired beryani to foreign guests as a special dish.
Opened in 1921, the restaurant has welcomed many VIPs through its doors. Over 95 years, they’ve served dignitaries like the late President Yusoff Ishak, former President SR Nathan and even foreign politicians like Malaysian PM Najib Razak.
Its famous beryani is made from the same recipe that had been passed down through the generations. A plate of the Mutton Beryani comes with a heap of fragrant saffron basmati rice, topped with a sprinkling of fried onions, spices and parsley.
While the rice makes a satisfying meal on its own, the tender and flavourful chunks of tender mutton steal the show. The curry is equally interesting, with a tinge of sourness to balance out the spice.
If cravings for a plate of beryani strike while you’re at home, there’s always the option of Dial-A-Beryani. The delivery service brings the restaurant’s specialty dishes to your doorstep, wherever you are.
745 North Bridge Road.
Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant
Be sure to order the succulent Shredded Scallops with Fish and Egg White. (Photo: Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant)
Established in 1977, Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant holds fond memories for many Singaporeans. Perched on top of a former flourmill, the restaurant offers scenic panoramic views of Sentosa island as well as the Singapore skyline.
Apart from the spectacular view — provided it’s not hazy when you visit — the highlight of the restaurant is its authentic Beijing fare.
Recently, the iconic restaurant introduced nine new dishes to its dim sum menu, including the Hakka Preserved Vegetable & Roast Pork Roll, which features thickly sliced roasted pork and preserved mustard greens enveloped in a fluffy steamed bun.
Another must-try is The Chinese Sausage and Black-Eyed Peas Rice Cup Cake, a lightly steamed cake studded with sweet Chinese sausage and black-eyed peas.
For a taste of tradition, be sure to order their signature Peking Duck, which continues to impress diners with its impeccably crisp skin. If a moreish treat is what you’re in for, be sure to order the succulent Shredded Scallops with Fish and Egg White.
201 Keppel Road.
Moi Lum Restaurant
The Majestic Roast Chicken is simply sprinkled with honey and deep-fried. (Photo: Moi Lum Restaurant)
Founded in 1920s by Mr Khong Yu Lum, Moi Lum Restaurant is synonymous with dishes like Crispy Fried Chicken and Golden Coin Beancurd, and they’ve been selling these for the past 80 years.
Its humble beginnings as a rented shop space selling wanton noodles along Tanjong Pagar Road took a fortunate turn when the owners of Cheong Hou Coffee Shop offered to sell its premises to Mr Khong. Thereafter, he and his peers from Guangdong expanded the business rapidly.
While some dishes have been altered to suit changing modern tastes, Moi Lum continues to preserve its traditional flavours with timeless favourites like in its signature Golden Coin Beancurd.
Cut into circles to resemble golden coins — a symbol of wealth and prosperity — the bean curds are lightly fried till golden brown and paired with lashings of crabmeat for a tasty finish.
Another favourite among diners is the Majestic Roast Chicken, which is simply sprinkled with honey and deep-fried. Its tender and moist flesh, coated with a thin layer of crispy skin, is best complemented with a squeeze of fresh lime and crunchy prawn crackers on the side.
38 Maxwell Road.
Ananda Bhavan Restaurant
Tucked into the delicious and delicate paper-thin Masala Thosai. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Started by a Brahmin family in 1924, Ananda Bhavan Restaurant is the oldest Indian vegetarian restaurant in Singapore. Its first restaurant is situated along Selegie Road in Little India, an area with a rich historical background.
From its humble beginnings, the restaurant has since expanded to a few branches, although their flagship store located across Mustafa department store remains the best known.
Its menu selection spans North Indian, South Indian and even Indian Chinese cuisine, with quality and authentic flavours at the heart of it. Eschewing the stereotype that Indian foods tend to be heavier on the palate, their dishes are created with wellness in mind — without MSG, preservatives and additives.
Perennial favourites include their Biryani Set Meal, the paper-thin Masala Thosai and South Indian Thali. The skilful use of spices and flavourful homemade curries are what keeps customers returning time and again.
95 Syed Alwi Road.
Note: Fatty Weng Restaurant, Moi Lum Restaurant, Islamic Restaurant and Prima Tower Revolving Restaurant are all part of Singapore Food Festival 2016. This year’s theme “Savour the Past, Taste the Future” revisits Singapore’s food heritage to rediscover culinary traditions.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of Weekender, Issue 156, July 22 – August 4, 2016, with the headline ‘Tracing our roots through food’.