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Entertainment, Food & Beverage

Malay fare, spiced with culture

Eatery takes on mission to promote Malay heritage
The Straits Times - April 7, 2012
By: Ng Kai Ling
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Malay fare, spiced with culture Come July, Gedung Kuning will house a new Malay restaurant run by The Expansion Group. -- PHOTO: BERITA HARIAN

A NEW Malay restaurant in Kampong Glam will use the food it serves to help promote Malay culture and heritage.

To be located at Gedung Kuning (Yellow Mansion), next to a former palace, the restaurant is slated to open in July.

'We will work with other partners to help promote the Malay culture and heritage through food. For example, we will tell you why the kueh is colourful,' said Madam Masmunah Abdullah, who will run the business. Kueh is Malay for cakes.

The Expansion Group, founded by prominent businessman Zulkarnine Hafiz, won the tender last month.

The Malay Heritage Foundation owns Yellow Mansion.

The Expansion Group is known for its Fig and Olive chain of halal Mediterranean restaurants. It also owns sandwich store Figo Express and Table Spread, a catering business.

Madam Masmunah, who is also chief executive of Fig and Olive, declined to say more about the new restaurant's concept or name as a press conference has been planned for next Friday.

Other popular eateries such as the Hjh Maimunah Restaurant and Bushra Cafe also submitted tenders.

The Straits Times understands that the Malay Heritage Foundation did not want just another restaurant at the heritage building.

Among the tender requirements was that the tenant had to devote 25 per cent of its operations to the promotion of Malay culture.

Ms Mastura Didih, Hjh Maimunah's general manager, said the tender also specified that the restaurant should be mid-range in price and serve Malay cuisines from Malaysia and Indonesia.

The previous tenant was restaurant Tepak Sireh, which closed last December after its lease ran out. It was a popular venue for weddings and corporate functions.

Renovation work at Yellow Mansion is set to start next week. It will include fitting out the interior and giving the exterior a fresh coat of yellow paint. The colour signifies Malay royalty.

The building and the adjacent Istana Kampong Glam now form part of the Malay Heritage Centre. Constructed around 1860, Yellow Mansion was then home to the bendahara, the sultan's chief minister.

Businesses in Kampong Glam have welcomed the move to spruce up the conserved building and help create a new cultural legacy. They are not worried about more competition.

Madam Sahara Sulong, who runs the Sabar Menanti eatery just across the street from Yellow Mansion, said: 'We just concentrate on our own business. The previous restaurant didn't affect us. We have our own customers.'

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