Folklore Singapore is all about storytelling through food. It celebrates Singapore heritage food and the role it plays in cultural harmony in our multi-ethnic nation. The brainchild of Chef Damian D’Silva, the restaurant menu constitutes a nostalgic homage to the food he grew up with as a child of Eurasian-Peranakan parentage. The restaurant presents exquisite heritage cuisines that reflect the major racial cuisines of Singapore and are made from scratch, without shortcuts or compromise.
When you dine at Folklore, you get the experience of being a guest at one of Chef Damian’s family dinners. Bottles of in-house-made sauces and mixes, along with giveaway recipe cards encourage home cooking, furthering Chef Damian’s ardent advocacy of preserving and propagating Singapore’s culinary heritage. He believes that every dish holds a meaning, some significance, to the culture it belongs to. Every dish tells a ‘story.’
Sharing Damian’s Family Food Tales
Folklore serves dishes from family recipes passed down for generations as well as those adopted from neighbours and friends of the family. The original names of the dishes still peer at us from the menu – some an odd patois of Malay, English and local slang. Each is cooked ‘the old way’: from scratch without shortcuts or compromise, but with lots of soul. Stocks are slow simmered, ingredients hand-cut and ‘rempah’ (spice mix) pounded in a mortar and pestle. The eye for propriety and the rhythms are of a bygone age.
Must-try’s include Singgang ($20), a long-lost Eurasian dish of wolf herring, deboned and cooked in a non-spicy paste. Although it possessed sweetness of meat, wolf herring had lost its traditional popularity with chefs, because its numerous fine bones made de-boning a terrible chore. Despite this, Chef Damian has ‘resurrected’ the use of wolf herring for this dish.
Another standout is Mulligatawny ($14), an Anglo-Indian dish of shredded chicken and spices in a chicken broth with a faint accent of tamarind. Chef Damian remembers this soupy stew as the ‘Sunday 5pm dish’ because his grandfather would prepare it in the late afternoon, in time for the Indian baker on his bicycle to come by at 5pm, peddling freshly baked bread and crusty ‘French-style baguette’ perfect for dipping in the tasty broth.
Also superb is Hati Babi Bungkus ($18), a Peranakan dish cooked during ancestor offerings, and popular in Malacca and Penang. ‘Hati babi’ refers to its resemblance to a pig’s heart; it is minced pork and liver marinated with coriander, tamarind, soya sauce and shallots, wrapped in caul fat then grilled and served with pickled mustard leaves.
Pork Leg with Salted Vegetables ($16) features pork trotters and salted vegetables slowly stewed till meltingly tender, with a hint of heat. This dish is Eurasian; though it has ‘equivalents’ in Peranakan cuisine – where duck replaces pork leg – and in Chinese cuisine as well. Then there’s Sambal Buah Keluak ($22), a laborious dish where the pulp of the Buah Keluak nut is extracted by hand one at a time, with the sambal and minced pork taking 2 hours to cook. Chef Damian also serves the Sambal Buah Keluak Fried Rice ($22), a signature dish he created in 2001.
Peranakan Chap Chye ($16) was a particularly tasty dish of the Chef’s Peranakan grandma, made with pork and prawn stock, and braised until the medley of ingredients has fully absorbed all the flavours of cooking.
Rounding off the list is Baked Custard with Gula Melaka ($12), inspired by a Spanish dessert called Koka. Chef’s creation sees the pudding made with coconut freshly squeezed by hand, and served with Gula Melaka.
Through Folklore, he hopes to inspire a new generation of chefs and home cooks whose palates are primed to appreciate the making of dishes from scratch. For beginners, a selection of freshly made sauces, bases and mixes has been made available as encouragement to create traditional dishes in one’s own home. Guests can leave with complimentary recipe cards that teach how to use them.
It’s all part of the unfolding story: one man sharing his passion and talent, inspiring the next generation to embrace and care about Singapore heritage food, and in their turn, work to produce moments of happiness and warmth, and cultural harmony through cooking. Chef Damian knows it’s as simple as sitting down to a meal at the family table. It’s not a pipe dream; it’s Folklore.
Folklore is located within Destination Singapore Beach Road, a new hotel managed by the Park Hotel Group. Accessible and stylish; with friendly, efficient service; the hotel appeals to a wide clientele from business traveller to tourist. Similarly inclusive in spirit, Folklore welcomes guests with genuine, friendly, attentive service. It feels like being invited to a friend’s house for dinner. Only with much better food!
Address: Singapore Beach Road 700 Beach Road, Level 2 Singapore 199598 | Opening Hours: 12pm – 2.30pm (Last lunch order 2.15pm) & 6pm – 9.30pm (Last dinner order 9.15pm)
Folklore seats up to 100, and is open daily for lunch and dinner. There are 80 seats inside the restaurant and 20 outdoors.