South Asian Food and Singapore (So Far)

We rarely go out for South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Bangladeshi, Sri Lankan, etc.) food. One, because we’ve been spoiled by decades of stellar home cooking by family and friends. There is nothing in the world that is better than my mother’s egg curry or her biryani or my mother-in-law’s appam or her dosa. And two, it’s much tastier, cheaper, and healthier to whip a simple South Asian meal at home. We use the freshest ingredients and the best spices when we cook in our own kitchen.

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Having said that, every once in a while, we’re too busy or lazy to make a meal at home. Our recommendations (so far) for South Asian food on the Little Red Dot:

Kailash Parbat. My mother often visited this restaurant’s flagship outlet in South Bombay when she was a child. While Kailash Parbat serves a variety of different cuisines, including “Indian Chinese” (a post for another time), it’s the only restaurant we know of, here or elsewhere, to serve authentic Sindhi delicacies. I trace my ancestry to Sindh, in present-day Pakistan, and grew up eating Sindhi curry (a gram flour-based vegetable curry), sai bhaji (yellow split peas, split green gram, and a combination of green vegetables), and loli/koki (a thick flatbread made with ghee). Kailash Parbat is comfort food for me. Don’t forget to sample the samosa chaat and the paani puri, hollow puris filled with water, tamarind, chili, chaat masala, potato, onion, and chickpeas, if you go.

Murugan’s Idli Shop. The idlis, South Indian steamed rice cakes, here are divine and perhaps some of the best I have ever tasted, save for my mother-in-law’s, of course. Go for breakfast—it opens at 9AM—and make sure you order the ghee onion uttapam, a thick rice pancake, and the filter coffee.

Annalakshmi. This “restaurant” is run by volunteers and has a pay as you wish policy. We went one Sunday morning for an all-you-can-eat buffet, shared a table with two lovely, older, chatty gentlemen, and ate and ate and ate. FYI, your donation helps fund the activities of the Temple of Fine Arts.

Bismillah Biryani Restaurant. OK, so I said that nothing is better than my mother’s biryani, but the dum biryani at Bismillah’s is pretty darn close. The rice alone is perfect. Vegetarians, order the egg biryani to get your carb-and-protein fix; omnivores, opt for the mutton over the chicken, so says my infinitely better half.

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Singapore-based friends, where else should we go for fresh, authentic, homestyle South Asian food? For better or worse, we have high standards for South Asian food, but we know there is a lot of good Subcontinental food to be had on this tiny island.

BTW, if you ever find yourself in New York City, make time for a meal at Sigiri, Devi, Tamarind, Tiffin Wallah, Ayurveda Cafe, Bhojan, Saravanaas, Brick Lane, and Graffiti (Manhattan); Skyway Diner (Brooklyn); Bownie and Southern Spice (Queens); and New Asha and Sanrasa (Staten Island), among others.

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Oh, my thoughts on Indian-Singaporean cuisine to come. So many dishes we’ve discovered here—briyani (spelled differently), fish head curry, roti John, murtabak, prata—are so unique to this part of the world. We’ve just begun to understand their histories and flavors.

8 responses

  1. As I was browsing my WordPress subscriptions, the gorgeous photo of the curry powder enticed me and drew me here.

    Thanks for the recommendations as I often crave for recommendations from someone who knows her Indian cuisine.

    Must bring my mum to Murugan’s one day as her pick is always onion uttapam and that’s one place we haven’t tried.

  2. head to north bridge road’s zamzam opp haji lane area for awesome murtabak!

    and nearer to bugis in a coffee shop with yellow chairs across the road from the mos burger in bugis junction, there’s a little store that sells the indonesian ayam penyet (smashed chicken… its really fried chicken, not quite sure why it’s called smashed chicken) which is much better than any of the food court ones for only $4.50!

    on wednesday afternoons head to Coral Bistro (it’s a restaurant more than a bistro) at Beach Road/Bussorah Street and order their Curry Chicken lunch set – its quite different from your usual curry chicken, and their fish head curry there’s pretty good too

    i used to work around those areas, so i know the food pretty well =) i really miss the food there! i hope all these things are still there…

  3. @Jac, thanks for the Indian-Singaporean foodie suggestions. You may find your list in a forthcoming post! However, do you have any Indian/Pakistani/Bangladeshi/Sri Lankan foodie recommendations?

  4. We love Annalakshmi and Bismillah.

    Try Khansama Tandoori Restaurant/Village/Castle (at 166 Serangoon Rd or 87 Science Park Drive), Raj (at Syed Alwi Rd or Biopolis, Centros Block), Saravana Bhavan (84 Syed Alwi Rd), Abak Dum Biryani (10 Jalan Pisang), Yakader Biryani (very local version at Tekka Market).

    For something more upmarket, we head to Gajalee, Shahi Maharani and Song of India.

    Touristy = Vintage India, Rang Mahal, Yantra and Vansh.

    For a British influence, the Indian buffet at Tiffin Room Raffles Hotel is pretty decent.

    I’m not even going to go into the ones doing fish-head curry. Too mind-boggling.

  5. I love Murugan Idli Shop. You should also go to Madras New Woodlands on Race Course road, I think (opposite Komala’s). They have the best sambar (outside of my mother’s kitchen) in Singapore, IMHO. Also try the spinach vadai (keerai vadai in Tamil) at this same place. So good.

  6. Great post again, Pooja :). I’ve never heard about a “pay as you wish” restaurant in Singapore so you bet that I will be checking out Annalakshmi sometime soon! Love all the haunts that you have introduced to us.

    By the way, I love Khmer food so you might like to consider making a trip down to Khmer Delights for authentic Khmer cuisine! Mouth-watering. :)

  7. Gajalee in Cuppage for gorgeous coastal Indian cuisine. Not as good as the Gajalee in Bombay (I prefer Highway Gomantak in Bombay anyway), but when they opened I thanked the heavens someone finally heard my prayer: I absolutely adore all kinds of coastal Indian food.

    For fresh breads at all times of the day and night I’m partial to Usman in Desker Road, where I know I can always get all kinds of Pakistani/North Indian breads fresh off the tandoor or tawa.

    When I am back in town I’d like to bring you to my secret Nepali place. I used to really like a few Bangladesh-run coffeeshops (sandesh! misti dahi!) but they have since closed.