Brought to Singapore by generations of migrants, Indian cuisine has evolved over the years to suit local palates. The local Indian community, after interacting with Singapore’s deluge of ethnic groups, invented entirely new dishes such as Indian rojak.
Translated to mean a ‘mish-mash’, this tasty dish fuses an assortment of fritters, such as egg, tofu and shrimp, and comes with a sweet, bright orange sauce. Taste the many prized commodities of the Silk Road when you tuck into Singaporean Indian fare, which showcases many herbs and spices that are native to India, such as assam (tamarind), cumin, turmeric and saffron.
Bread and breakfast
Staple South Indian dishes that found their way to Singapore include chutney and prata (South Indian flatbread), while comfort foods like naan (leavened oven-baked flatbread), chapati (unleavened flatbread) and dhaal (lentil soup) hail from the North. A traditional Singaporean Indian breakfast includes thosai or the steamed rice cake iddly, which is eaten with dhaal. Enjoy this classic breakfast at Tekka Centre, which is just above Little India MRT station. Walk, dine and shop in the wet market and hawker centre on its ground floor, as well as stores selling Indian textiles, apparel and accessories on the second floor.
Tekka Centre. 665 Buffalo Road, Singapore 210665.
The rice of life
Besides dough items complemented by dipping dishes, South Indian restaurants also serve rice accompanied by side dishes like pepper prawns, crab, fish cutlet and masala (a pasty marinade of mixed Indian spices) meats, served on banana leaves.
North Indians enjoy rice with sides like tomato coriander soup and a spicy salad called chaat. These dishes can be found at Michelin-starred restaurant Song of India, which is also known for its lahsooni jhinga, a stuffed and tandoor-marinated giant shrimp delicacy.
Popular throughout India, the rice staple briyani (an Indian spiced rice dish with meat or vegetables) can be enjoyed at Bismillah Biryani, one of the first Indian restaurants in the world to have been recommended by Michelin’s Bib Gourmand, or at historic establishments like MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms) in Serangoon Road and A One Restaurant in Birch Road.
Song of India. 33 Scotts Road, Singapore 228226. +65 6836 0055.
Daily 12-3pm, 6-11pm.
Bismillah Biryani. 48 & 50 Dunlop Street, Singapore 209379. +65 6935 1326.
MTR (Mavalli Tiffin Rooms). 438 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218133. +65 6296 5800.
Tue-Sun 8.30am-3pm, 5.30-9.30pm.
A One Restaurant. 17 Birch Road, Singapore 219886. +65 6294 8590.
It’s in the gravy
Curries like vindaloo (a spicy red curry) and fish moolie (fish and coconut curry) exhibit how Portuguese dishes were adopted by South Asian chefs. Mulligatawny, a peppery soup, showcases England’s influence on Indian cuisine, and can be had at Tandoor in Orchard Road.
A prominent flagship dish of Singapore is local fish head curry, which is South Asian-style fish curry fine-tuned to appeal to local taste buds. Fish head curry can be enjoyed at Muthu’s Curry on Race Course Road or its similarly acclaimed neighbours like the Banana Leaf Apolo and Gayatri Restaurant.
Have a walk around the Little India neighbourhood and admire the many components of Indian culture, such as gleaming jewellery and traditional decorations. Seeing Serangoon by foot is highly recommended, as it teems with life and culture, especially during the period of Deepavali. Also check out Khansama along the main road, which serves what some call the best vindaloo in town.
Tandoor at Holiday Inn Singapore. 11 Cavenagh Road, Singapore 229616. +65 6733 8333.
Daily noon-2.30pm, 7-10.30pm.
Muthu’s Curry. 138 Race Course Rd #01-01, Singapore 218591. +65 6392 1722.
Banana Leaf Apolo. 54 Race Course Rd, Singapore 218564. +65 6293 8682.
Gayatri Restaurant. 122 Race Course Road #01-01, Singapore 218583. +65 6291 1011.
Khansama. 166 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218050. +65 6299 0300.
Made in Singapore
Order a plate of mee goreng, which directly translates to “fried noodles”, from R K Eating House or Srisun Express in the vibrant neighbourhood of Serangoon Gardens, to taste how Indian cooking styles have been influenced by other Singaporean ethnic groups like Chinese and Malay communities. The Local favourite, murtabak (fried flatbread with condiments like meat and onions) was adapted from the Middle East, and roti john, a local bread dish topped with eggs and onions, which as the story goes and its name hints, was made by Indian chefs for Western diners. Paneer, which is fresh cheese cubes, has been made into a wrap by modern Indian restaurants like the Anglo Indian Cafe & Bar in Singapore’s lively Central Business District.
R K Eating House. 1 Kensington Park Road, Singapore 557253. +65 6289 5379.
Daily, Open 24 hours.
Srisun Express. 56 Serangoon Garden Way, Singapore 555952. +65 6282 2325.
Daily, Open 24 hours.
Anglo Indian Cafe & Bar. 1 Shenton Way #01-08, Singapore 068803. +65 6636 9411.
Mon-Fri 11am-10pm; Sat-Sun 11am-9pm.
Wash your meal down with teh tarik (pulled milk tea) or teh masala (pulled milk tea with herbs like cardamom, cinnamon and ginger). The eateries in Kampong Gelam prepare teh masala using its full recipe of spices, while teh halia (pulled ginger tea) is handmade daily at Habib Family Restaurant.
Habib Family Restaurant. 374 Bukit Batok Street 31, Singapore 650374. +65 6561 6976.