#SgMemory Nostalgia Tour, conducted by the Singapore Memory Project

Last Saturday, a multitude of tweets and instagram photos were uploaded with the #SgMemory hashtag, adding to the library of over 5000 photos (now 8,900 and counting). Five bloggers, armed with cameras, smartphones, and a ravenous appetite, set out on a Nostalgia Tour to some of the most enduring food establishments in Singapore with rich histories to boot. Even the gray skies and threats of thunderstorm could not dampen our high spirits.

The #SgMemory hashtag can be used on anything Singapore-related, and need not feature anything ‘retro’ or dated. The purpose of this hash tag is to establish a gallery of images for the future generations to look at, and for us to look back on.

Zam Zam

Our first stop was Zam Zam, one of Singapore’s best-known Muslim restaurants specialising in authentic Indian-Muslim dishes. It wasn’t an easy feat getting a seat, much less a table, for the crowd is overwhelming. Business is brisk every day of the week, even at off-peak hours. Wading through the hectic pace, the workers come across as arrogant, but nevertheless still efficient.

Established since 1908, this century-old eatery’s well-kept recipes have been passed down for three generations. Some may reflect that the taste differs from the past, but being a first-time visitor, I can only tell when I return in another decade or so, if the recipes continue evolving or remain the same. This series of pictures would represent the #SgMemory of my first experience at Zam Zam, to reminisce and look back on in future.

Chicken Briyani ($6)

I wonder how much it costed in the past, and how much it would cost in future.

Beef Murtabak ($5/$6/$7/$12)

I hardly remember eating Murtabak before in my life, because the unadventurous me always orders Roti Prata whenever at an Indian eatery. It was much later in life that I discovered that murtabak is essentially roti prata stuffed with onion, eggs and meat.

After much pondering, I might have eaten a Sardine Murtabak once, several years ago, but it was so unremarkable and pedestrian that it soon slipped my mind and I never ate Murtabak ever again. Now bringing that instance back to mind, I should have taken a picture or document my experience somewhere –but back then we didn’t have smartphones or instagram, or the #SgMemory hash tag.

Looking at this picture right at this moment transports me back into the eatery, dunking angular bite-sized segments of murtabak into a lightly spiced curry, and into my mouth it goes, inciting a revelation of deliciousness. Is this the best murtabak in Singapore? I’ll let you know after I’ve tried more.

Zam Zam
697 North Bridge Rd, Singapore 198675

Seow Choon Hua Restaurant

Also in the Arab Street precinct is this 70-year-old establishment, Seow Choon Hua Restaurant.

On a Saturday late afternoon, this establishment was a picture of calm, with empty seats aplenty.

Allow you eyes to wander about; you’ll notice walls and ceilings stained with age, and worn out tables and chairs still solid and functional despite its maturity.

I am an occasional passer-by, recognising this eatery by its mere appearance without having a clue of its name, always checking out its menu affixed on columns outside its shop, though never once stepped foot in.

Seow Choon Hua Restaurant’s specialties are Red Wine Chicken and Foo Chow fishballs. Apart from those, we also tried a homely and nostalgic stir-fry of rice cakes and a mishmash of other ingredients –which I do not know how to truly appreciate and merely sampled a morsel.

The fishballs and dumplings soup is a highlight.

Four types of fish – ikan parang, grouper, red fish and yellow eel – are minced and kneaded with flour to form a ball, and stuffed with minced meat. Judging by their irregular shapes, one can simply tell they are handmade.

The dumpling is a personal favourite. The wrapper, known as Yan Pi, is made from bashed pork meat that’s mixed with sweet potato flour, forming a thin sheet of skin that is then filled with meat.

Red Wine Chicken Mee Sua

I don’t recall having Red Wine Chicken Mee Sua before in my life, but that’s not surprising since it’s a staple food for women in confinement, and I’m far from getting pregnant. However, this dish is still widely enjoyed amongst men and women (whether in confinement or not). It takes time getting used to the wine-infused broth, but once you’re accustomed to it, you’ll not want to put the chopsticks down until the entire bowl is wiped out of its contents, into your stomach.

Seow Choon Hua Restaurant
33/35 Sultan Gate, Singapore 198481

Rich & Good Cake Shop

Rich & Good Cake Shop has been around for over 20 years –still considered a baby as compared to the decades-old establishments.

The packaging is simple, with merely bold strokes of wordings to tell you where and what. The highlight is the content within the box.

Mango Swiss Roll ($7.50)

Their fan base has grown dramatically ever since they shot to fame in a local food show. Specialising in Swiss Rolls, their superb products have earned them loyal returning customers.

Kaya Swiss Roll ($7.50)

The Kaya Swiss Roll is a personal favourite. A light and spongy layer of pandan-infused cake is slathered with rich creamy kaya before rolling it up. The ratio of cake to kaya is just right, with the kaya being not too sweet, and the cake not too dry.

Rich & Good Cake Shop
24 Kandahar Street
Singapore 198887

Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry

Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry stole our hearts with the timeless and expertly made pastries and nonya kuehs.

Their history dates back to 1975, where they first started out selling western confectioneries and cakes. They moved to Tiong Bahru 12 years ago, learning the ropes from an uncle’s Peranakan grandmother.

They pride themselves in using quality ingredients without compromising in portion sizes.

Kueh Dar Dar ($0.70 each)

The Kueh Dar Dar, for instance, is a spongy pandan-flavoured crepe filled with a generous amount of fresh grated coconut, providing an apparent juiciness in every ethereal bite.

Lemper Udang ($1.20)

Also noteworthy is the Lemper Udang. Sticky glutinous rice, stained blue by natural colouring derived from blue pea flower, is wrapped in banana leaf together with fragrant dried shrimp that provides saltiness and a hint of spice. This has got to be the best Lemper Udang I’ve ever had.

Having peranakan blood flowing in my veins, I am slightly embarrassed to say that I do not know much about nonya kuehs. Through the passing of time, traditions have slowly faded. I’m glad bakeries such as Tiong Bahru Galicier manage to uphold traditional Nonya recipes, purveying to the younger and unenlightened generations, and for older generations to reminisce on.

Assortment of muffins ($4 for a box of 4)

Tempted by the extensive array of pastries, I bought home some muffins and macaroons, both equally delectable.

Tiong Bahru Galicier Pastry
55 Tiong Bahru Road #01-39
Singapore 160055

“My Home, My Library” Exhibition

Queenstown Public Library marks the final destination for our tour.

Exhibitions are featured at Public Libraries island-wide, featuring memories from residents living in the neighbourhood. An initiative by the Singapore Memory Project, the exhibition brings visitors on a trip down memory lane with the showcase of precious memories Singaporeans have of their neighbourhoods, homes and libraries.

Visitors stand to win attractive prizes by simply posting pictures of the exhibits on twitter or instagram with the #SgMemory hash tag.

To take part in the Snap & Share contest, visitors need to:
1. Snap a photo(s) of anything related to the exhibition at the Public Libraries.
2. Post the image(s) on Instagram or Twitter with the #sgmemory hash tag.

Weekly giveaways include:
- Lucky draw of $200 in shopping vouchers
- Most retweeted tweet prize of $50 in shopping vouchers

Here’s a group photo with Ellena, Rey, Daniel, Catherine and Phillip, who were great company during the Nostalgia Tour.

Visitors can take a photo with the photowall as a backdrop, which shows an image of the neighbourhood in the past. By sharing the photos on Instagram or twitter with the #SgMemory hashtag, you stand a chance of winning up to $200 in shopping vouchers in their weekly draw.

The fun and interactive Kids’ Stamping Station allows kids to stamp their memory of Singapore using 6 rubber stamps of locally inspired designs.

Visitors can also contribute their memories by penning it on a specially designed postcard and depositing it into the tin resembling a carnation milk tin.

You can also submit your memories and view memories contributed by others via:
- The SingaporeMemory.SG web portal (singaporememory.sg)
- The free SG Memory iOS application from the iTunes app store.

Do check out the National Library Board’s current “My Home My Library” exhibition at public libraries island-wide, from now till 29 April 2013!

Visit the official Facebook community of the Singapore Memory Project, irememberSG, at: , their official blog at iremember.sg, and follow them on and at @irememberSG.