• Wednesday, Apr 14, 2021
  • Last Update : 12:22 am

Singapore’s century-old biryani war

  • Published at 08:52 pm December 4th, 2020
Side by side restaurant ZAM ZAM AND VICTORY Collected from Vice

Two restaurants still not on speaking terms, one owner has served jail time for masterminding attack on the rival

Greed is a powerful motivator and business rivalries can sometimes be extremely intense as a result, with competitors resorting to ruthless, underhanded, and even illegal means to gain an advantage over the other. Such is the case for two of Singapore’s most prominent biryani restaurants – Zam Zam and Victory.

Zam Zam opened near Singapore’s North Bridge Road in 1908, and serves dishes such as meat murtabak, dhal and fish curries in addition to mutton biryani. Arch-rival Victory is Zam Zam’s next-door neighbour and the two have been competing for over 100 years, reports Vice.

The intense competition between the restaurants, with staff still rushing to potential customers despite police warnings about tout tactics, boiled over in 2015. Zam Zam owner Zackeer Abbass Khan, a wealthy Singaporean, was charged with conspiring with business associates to hire an enforcer to attack Liakath Ali Mohamed Ibrahim, owner of Victory.

Allegations of supernatural activities emerged when Zackeer revealed CCTV footage of masked men scattering a white powder outside Zam Zam. Workers of Victory have denied any involvement in the incident.

“In the case of Victory and Zam Zam, both are household names with a rivalry spanning almost 100 years, but there is no place in our society for gratuitous violence,” said Judge Mathew Joseph, who presided over the case, as quoted by Vice. 

“Zackeer may be rich and influential but his case is a reminder that one should not allow one’s anger to cloud judgement as the resulting consequences can be severe,” the judge added.

Zackeer also faced criticism in the media for an apparent lack of remorse, inconsistent evidence and maintaining that he was wrongfully accused. The Zam Zam owner was sentenced to six years of imprisonment, six strokes of the cane and a restraining order that prevented him from going near the restaurants.

However, Zackeer entered the limelight for the wrong reasons again in November, when he was charged with threatening one of Liakath’s employees with violence.

A representative from Victory told Vice the situation was now “peaceful,” while Zam Zam workers declined to comment.

Rashid, a worker at a nearby restaurant named Al-Tasneem, said: “Zam Zam and Victory are no longer on talking terms. Business was always competitive, from the beginning. There has always been tension in the area, but Covid-19 made everything worse. 

“Even with the lockdown lifted, business remained bad - there are so few customers and competition has only gotten stronger. It all adds to the pressure we feel. The violence has scared customers away,” he added.

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