Singapore Zam Zam
One thing Singapore is not lacking in it’s fine selection of gastronomical diversity. One of the most surprising Singapore facts is in the centre of the city even has 3 distinct regions where you can find a vast array of multicultural cuisine. There is Chinese food, in Chinatown, Indian Food in Little India, and Arabic food in Little Islam. They say you can ‘easily visit 3 very different countries in a day’ in Singapore, by visiting these 3 districts. This is perfect for someone who has a healthy appetite!
I found my way to the Sultan’s Mosque, which is iconic in Little Islam, as it towers over most of the surrounding buildings. After wandering around for a little while, I became quite famished, and noticed across the street that there was a little hole-in-the-wall Singapore restaurant named Zam Zam’s which seemed to be quite busy. I snuck over and decided to see what all the fuss was about.
Customer service is not the main focus of this little joint. I suppose with over 100 years street presence, their longevity alone is enough to drawl people in. Greeted by a short and stout old man with “what you want to order? just take a seat!” I quickly realized this place wasn’t busy because of his warm smile. Looking at the menu I recognized the traditional indian dish “Byriani”, a saffron stir-fried rice dish. This seemed to fill about half of this little Singapore restaurant’s menu. There was also a small curry buffet.
Then I noticed something I hadn’t tried before. Murtabak. This occupied the other half of the menu. It seemed most of the patrons of the restaurant had ordered the bread-based dish, and being completely unfamiliar with it, I figured this was the dish to try.
“Best Singapore Restaurant I’ve found”
– Ian Ord (Travel Blogger)
I quickly ordered a chicken murtabak, and in less than 5 mins inside this Singapore restaurant, a steaming plate was placed quickly in front of my face. From what I could tell, it was a bread similar to naan, that was cooked with egg and spices, and smothered in a shredded meat of choice (options included chicken, mutton, beef and deer), and then folded over on itself. It was sliced into smaller portions and served with a bowl of curry sauce for dipping. It was love at first sight. I began salivating almost immediately upon it’s arrival, as the aroma filled my nostrils.
I wafted for a moment, enjoying the anticipation. As my senses slowly went into overdrive, I couldn’t wait any longer. I pressed my fork into the steaming masterpiece, and prepared my pallet. I dipped the slice gently into the curry sauce , careful not to put too much on as to drown out the original flavours, and drew the fork to my mouth. The collage of flavours that followed can only be described as something that was orgasmic. From the buttery bread slowly easing my mouth into the motion, to the myriad of spices which rhythmically changed flavour in my mouth with every grind of my teeth, to the splash of curry bursting with flavour at the climax.
Being an Indian cuisine affectionado, discovering this new dish was a gastronomical delight. I would rank it amongst the top new dishes I’ve discovered while traveling in South East Asia. I was hooked! I knew for the next few days in the city, this Singapore restaurant was going to be my new watering hole.. as in Make-my-mouth-water, hole-in-the-wall.
I have to admit, over the next few days I definitely feel I was spolied a bit by the calliber of quality food the Singapore restaurant “Zam Zam” dishes out. I found another decent diner closer to Tree-in-Lodge, my hostel, which did not live up to par. In fact, upon arriving to Kuala Lumpur a week later, I found another restaurant which was recommended to me as being one of top quality by a colleague, and decided to try my luck with the Murtabak there. No dice. They just couldn’t master this dish with the same fine balance of spices, and textures that Zam Zam has been able to perfect to a science.
If ever in Singapore for a few days (or even just enough time for a meal) I would definitely suggest you stimulate your sense with one of these delicious dishes. Having tried several, I would say the chicken had to be my favourite in the way it accompanies the flavour of spices. But who am I to judge? Try a few for yourself from this Singapore restaurant and tell me what your favourite is!
There are many other ethnic neighbourhoods in Singapore as well, all full of incredible restaurants! From Chinatown, to Little India, and of course Little Arabia where Zam Zam is located. You can easily experience 3 different cultures all in the same day!
Have you ever tried a new dish while travelling that you hadn’t even heard of before, but blew your mind? What was it, and where did you try it? Share your experiences in the comments below!