Oldest Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Singapore closes after 64 years

Gabriel Choo
Contributor
‘Zen Fut Sai Kai’ located at 147 Kitchener Road. (Photo: Luke Otter / Hungry Ang Mo)

Along a row of shophouses on Kitchener Road lies Zen Fut Sai Kai, said to be the oldest Chinese vegetarian restaurant in Singapore. The restaurant is known to serve up a wide variety of Cantonese food such as Yong Chow fried rice, fried wantons and sugarcane flower soup.

But sadly, it has closed its doors after 64 years.

From left to right, clockwise: Sap Kum sugarcane flower soup, fried wantons, vegetarian egg puffs with asparagus, Yong Chow fried rice. (Photos: Luke Otter / Hungry Ang Mo)

Durian-seller Luke Otter, 30, who is behind the Facebook page Hungry Ang Mo, first broke the news on his page last Friday (25 August). England-born Otter lives in Singapore with his Singaporean wife and regularly goes to vegetarian eateries around the island to review them on his website in his free time.

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle Singapore over the phone on Tuesday (29 August), Otter shared that the stall was first started way back in 1953 by Mdm Ko Oie Tim. Before she died, Mdm Ko passed the business on to her son. However, her son passed away earlier this year, in his 80s.

The restaurant was then closed until further notice. In the end, a notice was recently put up saying that it would be permanently shut. Otter let on that the decision to close the restaurant was because there was no one suitable to take over the running of the restaurant in terms of cooking since Mdm Ko’s son died.

Luke Otter (2nd from left), with Mdm Ko’s son (middle), and other relatives working at the restaurant. (Photo: Luke Otter / Hungry Ang Mo)

Otter has visited the restaurant several times and was “lucky enough to meet the chef and staff on several occasions”. Zen Fut Sai Kai is also famous for bringing customers “back to the past”, as its interior design remains almost entirely unchanged since its opening other than the installation of air conditioners.

“Everything about the restaurant is so traditional and every single dish on the menu is exactly the same as those from the 1950s and 1960s”, Otter shared. “They even have a grandfather’s clock and still use an abacus to count their money”.

Thai Goldmine by King and Tommy will soon take over the lease of the shop. It is set to serve up a Thai vegetarian menu with delicacies from the street of Thailand.

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