Go on a culinary nostalgia trip at Folklore, a new Singapore heritage restaurant by Chef Damian D'Silva that showcases Chinese, Indian, Malay, Peranakan, and Eurasian dishes
There exists a disconnect between what we think is ‘Singaporean food’ and what we actually eat at home on a day-to-day basis. When Singapore’s culinary heritage comes up in conversation, it’s often chicken rice, prata, char kway teow, and other hawker food that come to mind. But what of the humble home-style cooking that we come home to – the laborious product of hours in the kitchen, made with recipes passed down through generations? This new Singapore heritage restaurant by Chef Damian D’Silva is a loving showcase of the food we grew up with.
Eurasian on his father’s side, and Peranakan on his mother’s, Chef Damian enjoyed a childhood rich in traditional home cooking. This ignited a passion for home-style cooking featuring timeless flavours, handpicked ingredients, and traditional techniques, and eventually, the inception of Folklore – a multi-cuisine restaurant that champions heritage cuisine with Indian, Eurasian, Malay, Chinese, and Peranakan inflections.
Like most domestic meals in Singapore, Folklore’s dishes are geared towards communal dining. Very quickly, I found my table filled with a spread of familiar dishes along with some rarities I hadn’t seen in a long time. The first dish I tried was the singgang, a Eurasian dish of deboned wolf herring cooked in a mildly spicy paste. The dish, is a particularly tedious one to cook, taking up to three hours to debone a large portion. The end result is an umami-laden flavoured dish that is excellent with rice.
While not strictly a traditional dish, Folklore’s sambal buah keluak fried rice utilises the Peranakan staple in a more contemporary dish. The fried rice features keluak meat (though actually a nutty paste) and minced pork, cooked until disintegrated into a mixture of homemade sambal and bruised lemongrass. Coconut milk is added and the dish simmered ’til dry to create a flavourful dish that’s modern yet familiar.
Our next dish makes a return to more traditional territories – the beef cheek rendang features 350g of New Zealand beef cheek braised for seven hours in a mixture of spices like coriander, fennel, cumin, and Chef Damian’s secret ‘garang masala’ recipe. As you’d imagine of any good rendang, the meat falls right apart when teased with a fork.
Chap chye is possibly the best example of a classic home-cooked Singaporean meal. A staple at many a Eurasian, Peranakan, and Chinese dinner table, the dish is one of vegetables stewed with fermented beans, pork belly, prawns, and pork broth. This rendition of the dish leans towards the Peranakan style, but is dry instead of wet.
While wholly unfamiliar to me, I’m told that my next dish, the hati babi bungkus, is a must-have dish for any special Peranakan spread. The dish consists of minced pork and liver marinated in coriander, tamarind, soya sauce, and shallots, then wrapped in caul fat. The wrapped balls, resembling a pig’s heart, is then grilled and served with pickled mustard leaves. This was without a doubt the highlight of my meal and my favourite dish at Folklore. My favourite savoury dish, at least…
The desserts at Folklore steer clear of any form of modernity, and are as true to its roots as can be. The kueh kosui (steamed tapioca cake) shines with its rich gula Melaka taste and soft, chewy consistency. But my favourite dessert was, hands down, the kueh bengkah (baked tapioca cake). If you’ve not tried kueh bengkah fresh from an oven, you’re in for a treat. Needless to say, we ordered a second serving of both.
The restaurants that champion Singaporean cuisine tend to lean towards ‘elaborate’ productions like chilli crab and popiah – but Folklore’s menu of nostalgic homely classics serves as a gentle, and much needed reminder, that the food we come home to is every bit as Singaporean as what you’d find in any guide book.
Folklore, Destination Singapore Beach Road, 700 Beach Road, Level 2, Singapore 199598, p. 6679 2900. Open daily 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-9.30pm.