Folklore: Inside Chef Damian D’Silva’s newly expanded menu of deep, heartfelt heritage dishes

Sotong Masak Sambal Belado. Photo: Folklore
Sotong Masak Sambal Belado. Photo: Folklore

Folklore, the in-house restaurant of the hotel Destination Singapore Beach Road, is known for its heritage cuisine — and to mark the restaurant’s first anniversary, Folklore’s executive chef (and MasterChef Singapore judge) Damian D’Silva has updated the menu with an even wider repertoire of dishes.

“The launch menu was a fraction of the repertoire that I have consolidated throughout the years, and there is so much more to share,” the 61-year-old chef declared. “For this updated menu, I am very happy to present some of my favorite dishes from my grandparents and a close family friend.”

Photo: Folklore
Photo: Folklore

If we look beyond “heritage” as an industry buzzword, then it gives us a deeper understanding of what sets Folklore apart from other restaurants making traditional local dishes. It’s that vital set of inherited traditions, monuments, language, and knowledge accumulated from the past, packaged in a way that can be passed on to following generations.

We’re told that Chef Damian insists on using the time-intensive techniques practiced in the past, with everything made from scratch — if only to yield deeper flavors to drive in the home-cooked taste and feel. Alongside the usual array of heritage dishes from the Peranakan, Eurasian, Malay, and Chinese kitchens, there’s the addition of Indonesian recipes inherited from a dear family friend, Aunty Zainab.

The fiery relish of Indonesian cuisine is clear in the Sotong Masak Sambal Belado (market price), a spicy squid platter made with tomatoes stewing in slow-cooked ground chili. The rich and satisfying Opor Ayam ($22) is a little-known Indonesian classic, and Folklore does it right — kampong chicken cooked to tenderness in a blend of gingers, garlic, shallots, ground cumin, coriander and coconut milk. No, it’s not spicy, in case you were wondering.

Sotong Masak Sambal Belado. Photo: Coconuts Media
Sotong Masak Sambal Belado. Photo: Coconuts Media
Opor Ayam. Photo: Folklore
Opor Ayam. Photo: Folklore

Sambal petai is a Malay dish (adapted by the Chinese, Peranakans, and Eurasians) that some people trying it for the first time may find off-putting. That’s thanks to its pungent main ingredient Parkia speciosa — or more popularly known as the stink bean. There’s no need for an acquired taste here though, as Folklore’s prawn sambal with petai (market price), brings all the flavor with little to no side stench, thanks to the complex blend of spices and ingredients.

Prawn Sambal with Petai. Photo: Folklore
Prawn Sambal with Petai. Photo: Folklore

The Ambiler Kacang with pork belly ($16) is a mildly spicy curry-like Eurasian dish with Malay influences. Where beef is usually stewed with Eurasian spice paste (made of shallots, ginger, fresh turmeric, galangal, lemongrass, garlic, chilies, candlenuts, coriander, and cumin), the version here involves pork belly and long beans for a different taste.

And of course, there’s fried chicken. Here, Chef Damian’s take on traditional Ayam Goreng ($24 for half) is a flavor-bursting recipe handed down by his own grandfather.

Photo: Coconuts Media
Ambiler Kacang with Pork Belly. Photo: Coconuts Media
Photo: Coconuts Media
Ayam Goreng. Photo: Coconuts Media

Perhaps the dish that requires the utmost attention to the old-school approach is the Ikan Assam Surani (market price) — baby Threadfin cooked in a grounded paste consisting of garlic, shallots, and chilies meticulously sliced to specific sizes, as well as fresh turmeric and shrimp paste. The result is a supple, flavorful fish that’s nicely balanced between sweet and sour.

“Not all preparations can be replaced with modern kitchen tools, especially for this dish — only with manual precise slicing, then are we able to coax out the intricate nuances from the ingredients,” said Chef Damian.

#heritage.

Photo: Coconuts Media
Ikan Assam Surani. Photo: Coconuts Media
Photo: Folklore
Chef Damian D’Silva. Photo: Folklore

FIND IT:
Folklore is at 700 Beach Road, Destination Singapore Beach Road, Level 2
Open daily 12pm-2:30pm; 6pm-9:30pm
MRT: Nicoll Highway

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