Singapore Zam Zam (697 North Bridge Road)

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The signage for Singapore Zam Zam, the oldest Indian Muslim restaurant in Singapore. Photo from Coconuts.

Singapore Zam Zam is reportedly the oldest Indian Muslim restaurant in Singapore. Established in 1908,[1] the popular restaurant is situated opposite Sultan Mosque along North Bridge Road and is famous for its murtabak. The restaurant is situated in a two-floor building in which the first floor consists of a kitchen and a small open-air seating area while the second floor has a larger air-conditioned seating area. The name Zam Zam refers to the holy water from Mecca, a historical pilgrimage site for Muslims around the world.

History[edit | edit source]

The Indian-Muslim restaurant was established in Singapore in 1908. A man by the name of Haji Mahmud set up Zam Zam Restaurant after travelling to Singapore from Kerala, India.[2] He came to Singapore with two childhood friends, Abdul Raheman who opened Victory Restaurant in 1910 and Abdul Kadir who opened Singapore Restaurant in 1911.[3] Due to their good relations, they opened their restaurants next to one another.[4]


In 1985, Singapore restaurant and Zam Zam restaurant merged and was renamed as Singapore Zam Zam.[5] Zam Zam restaurant has been passed down through generations of Haji Mahmud's family. Due to changes in ownership and increasing competition, Singapore Zam Zam and the neighbouring Victory Restaurant developed a rivalry over the years.

Menu[edit | edit source]

Singapore Zam Zam's Chicken Murtabak. Photo from Singapore Zam Zam's Facebook page.

Singapore Zam Zam is well known for its murtabak and nasi briyani.[6] Unlike the murtabak from other Indian-Muslim stalls, the murtabak is placed above an additional base layer of fried prata kosong and a generous amount of egg and minced meat is placed on the murtabak.


In an interview with The Straits Times in 2008, Zam Zam Restaurant’s then Public Relations Manager Mr Zack Talib revealed that the popularity of their Nasi Briyani could be attributed to the gravy used.[7] The gravy had been a family recipe comprising of a variety of authentic Indian spices that had been localised to suit the taste buds of Singaporeans.

Notable events[edit | edit source]

The staff of Zam Zam in Mecca pictured with their restaurant banner. Photo from The Straits Times.

On 20 March 2008, the restaurant conducted a giveaway to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the restaurant and Prophet Muhammad’s birthday.[8] All 61 staff were mobilised to give away 1,500 packets of mutton briyani in the afternoon. In the same year, Singapore Zam Zam had been awarded the title of ‘Most popular nasi briyani’ from The Straits Times.[9] In 2019, they won the title of ‘Best Murtabak’ in local radio station's Class95’s Foodie’s Choice awards.[10]


In 2017, the then owner of Singapore Zam Zam took 27 of his staff to Mecca for their first minor pilgrimage as a form of gratitude for their service.[11] He had reportedly saved for three years and covered a large amount of expenses for his staff including their travel visas, plane tickets and nine days of hotel accommodation.[12] They had sacrificed 10 days of lucrative business during the month of Ramadan in order to attend the special prayers.

Controversies[edit | edit source]

Cleanliness issues[edit | edit source]

In 1989, the restaurant faced hygiene issues on two separate occasions.[13] In May, the restaurant did not meet cleanliness requirements and was fined S$200. In October, the cucumber salad in their storage cabinets was found to have been contaminated which resulted in the suspension of services for 2 weeks.[14] As a result of both incidents, Singapore Zam Zam was heavily penalised on the Environment Ministry’s Points Demerit System and received a total of 12 demerit points.[15] The restaurant responded to this incident with a S$50,000 renovation and by engaging the service of a pest control company.

Singapore Zam Zam and Victory restaurant rivalry[edit | edit source]

In 2016, the then owner of Singapore Zam Zam, Zackeer Abbass Khan allegedly hired a slasher for S$2,000 to cut the face of Victory Restaurant supervisor Liakath Ali Ibrahim.[16] It was claimed that this dispute between the two restaurants was over a touting incident. The Victory restaurant supervisor ended up with a permanent scar of the cut made on his lip and cheek. The slasher, Joshua Navindran Surainthiran, who had also committed other secret-society related crimes was sentenced to 6 1/2 years imprisonment and 6 strokes of the cane.[17]


In 2017, Singapore Zam Zam uploaded 2 CCTV footages on Facebook which allegedly revealed a staff member from Victory Restaurant scattering a mysterious powder outside the two restaurants.[18] Singapore Zam Zam claimed that this was an act of black magic. Victory Restaurant later clarified on Facebook that the powder was in fact, insect repellent powder and that it had only been scattered outside their own restaurant.[19]

References / Citations[edit | edit source]

  1. ‘Home’. Zam Zam Singapore. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://zamzamsingapore.com/
  2. ‘Restaurant row’. The Straits Times. April 30, 1987. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19870430-1.2.65.3?ST=1&AT=search&k=zam%20zam%20restaurant&QT=zam,zam,restaurant&oref=article
  3. ‘Restaurant row’. The Straits Times. April 30, 1987. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19870430-1.2.65.3?ST=1&AT=search&k=zam%20zam%20restaurant&QT=zam,zam,restaurant&oref=article
  4. ‘Restaurant row’. The Straits Times. April 30, 1987. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19870430-1.2.65.3?ST=1&AT=search&k=zam%20zam%20restaurant&QT=zam,zam,restaurant&oref=article
  5. ‘Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant’. Slow Food Singapore. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.slowfood.sg/heritage-hero-restaurants/singapore-zam-zam-restaurant/
  6. ‘Singapore Zam Zam Restaurant’. Slow Food Singapore. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.slowfood.sg/heritage-hero-restaurants/singapore-zam-zam-restaurant/
  7. Tan, Cheryl. ‘Certified Delicious’. The Straits Times. October 21, 2008. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
  8. Chia, Adeline. "Zam Zam’s free briyani". The Straits Times. March 9, 2008. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
  9. Tan, Cheryl. "Certified Delicious". The Straits Times. October 21, 2008. Retrieved from Newspaper SG.
  10. Class 95. Facebook. April 3, 2019. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.facebook.com/Class95FM/posts/10156036528186641?comment_id=10156037365716641&comment_tracking=%7B%22tn%22%3A%22R%22%7D
  11. Lam, Lydia. ‘Zam Zam boss saved for 3 years to take 27 employees to Mecca for minor pilgrimage.’ The Straits Times. Updated July 1, 2017.  Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/zam-zam-boss-saved-for-3-years-to-take-27-employees-to-mecca-for-minor-pilgrimage
  12. Lam, Lydia. "Zam Zam boss saved for 3 years to take 27 employees to Mecca for minor pilgrimage". The Straits Times. Updated July 1, 2017.  Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from: https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/zam-zam-boss-saved-for-3-years-to-take-27-employees-to-mecca-for-minor-pilgrimage
  13. Branson, Olivia. "Fortnight’s suspension for dirty restaurant". The Straits Times. September 28, 1989. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19890928-1.2.30.7?ST=1&AT=filter&K=zam+zam+restaurant&KA=zam+zam+restaurant&DF=&DT=&Display=0&AO=false&NPT=&L=&CTA=&NID=straitstimes&CT=ARTICLE%7CILLUSTRATION&WC=&YR=&QT=zam,zam,restaurant&oref=article
  14. "Zam Zam to stay closed for 2 weeks". New Paper. October 24, 1989. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
  15. Branson, Olivia. ‘Fortnight’s suspension for dirty restaurant’. The Straits Times. September 28, 1989. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from NewspaperSG: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19890928-1.2.30.7?ST=1&AT=filter&K=zam+zam+restaurant&KA=zam+zam+restaurant&DF=&DT=&Display=0&AO=false&NPT=&L=&CTA=&NID=straitstimes&CT=ARTICLE%7CILLUSTRATION&WC=&YR=&QT=zam,zam,restaurant&oref=article
  16. Amir Hussain. "Zam Zam v Victory dispute: Gangster hired to slash murtabak restaurant worker's face gets 6½ years' jail, caning". The Straits Times. Updated December 1, 2016. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/gangster-hired-to-slash-murtabak-restaurant-workers-face-gets-612-years-jail
  17. Amir Hussain. "Zam Zam v Victory dispute: Gangster hired to slash murtabak restaurant worker's face gets 6½ years' jail, caning". The Straits Times. Updated December 1, 2016. Accessed on 2 May 2019. Retrieved from:  https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/courts-crime/gangster-hired-to-slash-murtabak-restaurant-workers-face-gets-612-years-jail
  18. Hariz Baharudin. ‘ “Black magic” spat spices up rivalry between murtabak restaurants’. The New Paper. November 22, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/black-magic-spat-spices-rivalry-between-murtabak-restaurants
  19. Hariz Baharudin. "“Black magic” spat spices up rivalry between murtabak restaurants". The New Paper. November 22, 2017. Retrieved from: https://www.tnp.sg/news/singapore/black-magic-spat-spices-rivalry-between-murtabak-restaurants