There’s no preventing the pong of oil and fried dough clinging to your clothes the moment you step into this grungy shophouse unit. But it’s well worth the smell. Zam Zam has been serving up its briyani (from $6) and murtabak (from $5) for well over a century, so you can be pretty much assured of getting the legit stuff.
Zam Zam – its name refers to ‘holy water’ in Arabic – has been an institution in the Kampong Glam neighbourhood since the Kerala-born Abdul Kadir opened the restaurant there in 1908. The recipes have largely remained unchanged, and unhealthy, too. (You just can’t replace ghee, can you?)
So forget your diet and go for the mutton murtabak with a side of fish curry. It’s crispy on the edges and has more folds than an origami crane, within which you’ll find layers of onions, eggs and meat. If it’s briyani you’re after, Zam Zam makes its version Hyderabadi dum style: the meat is cooked together with the orange-flecked basmati, which makes the rice that much more fragrant.