Veteran steward of Singapore’s heritage recipes Damian D’Silva has also taken this opportunity to feature fast-disappearing Malay classics from his childhood

Few things are as satisfying as the opportunity to savour a favourite dish from the past and in particular, Singapore heritage dishes that getting harder to find. That is why a visit to restaurant Kin is like coming home for dinner—even for those dining on the likes of the daging sambal hijau or the cuttlefish kangkong for the first time, such comforting fare done well is hard to beat. The former is one of several dishes that chef Damian D’Silva’s Eurasian grandfather—a exceptional cook himself—used to make often, and which now make up what is best described as a treasured menu of heirloom recipes cooked with time-honoured methods and authentic local ingredients.

Following a recipe that is over 100 years old, the dish features thinly sliced beef that is first marinated for more than 24 hours with a aromatic blend of cumin, coriander and fennel, then stir-fried with a green chilli sambal and a good hit of lime juice for delectably piquant finish.  

The latter is a vanishing hawker dish that was well-loved by his father; a medley of cuttlefish, kangkong, beautifully sweet pineapple and crisp deep-fried dough fritters doused in a familiar sauce made with fermented shrimp paste, plum sauce and calamansi.

“Singaporeans haven’t lost their identity per se; but rather we’ve forgotten who we are,” laments D’Silva, whose expertise in recreating forgotten dishes that made up Singapore’s budding culinary culture the 1960s has earned him the title of “grandfather of local heritage cuisine”.

(Related: Singaporean Chef Damian D’Silva Ups His Game With New Restaurant Kin at Straits Clan)

Here at Kin, the menu is a consummate celebration of this nation’s ethnic cuisines—Chinese, Malay, Indian, Eurasian, Peranakan and their combined legacy—that one would expect from such a veteran. To boot, a closer look at new additions to make their way onto the recently updated menu, reveals evidence of D’Silva’s desire to feature more Malay fare, dishes he loves but are noticeably harder to find.

Fans from his days at the now-defunct casual restaurant Soul Kitchen will remember dishes such as the age-old Malay dish of Indonesian heritage consisting of fresh king prawns fried with a rich and piquant sambal made with stone-ground dried chilli finished with assam that is again in the spotlight.

(Related: Restaurant Cure’s Chef-Owner Andrew Walsh Revisits His Irish Roots)

Also making a comeback is the ayam Kalasan—one of the many recipes from Aunty Zainab, whose husband was best friends with his father, that the 65-year-old chef has presented over the years. This family recipe is a sort of Chicken Maryland that is simmered in coconut water with aromatics until the liquid is absorbed, then deep-fried before serving. Some of the concentrated simmering liquid is added to a sambal of chilli, onions and candlenut that is served with the chicken.

(Related: Try Manolo Blahnik's Family Recipes for a Delicious Feast at Home)

A new and complementary vegetable dish to have with is the nangka rendang, which use jackfruit in place of the typical meats that is slow-cooked for seven hours in that recognisably flavourful and fragrant coconut gravy that boast a masala of 15 spices.

But be sure to make room for the main highlight, the quintessential curry debal. This rendition is a D’Silva household classic that boasts fork-tender smoked pork knuckle, roast pork belly and potatoes in an addictive gravy (made with a rempah of shallots, Bombay onions, ginger, and dried chilli) that balances a mild fiery kick with a delicious tang from the use of just the right amount of vinegar and English mustard.

Kin has also launched new cocktails starring classic ingredients found in local heritage cuisine, elevated with modern bartending techniques by the Straits Clan beverage team. 

© 2022 Tatler Asia Limited. All rights reserved.