The neighbourhood of Little India in Singapore has always been in a world of its own. It’s a beautiful part of the city-state that has its own distinct character – one that has charmed locals and foreigners with its refusal to bend to the whims of a constantly changing cityscape. Little India’s rich culinary traditions make it a popular foodie destination – here’s our pick of where to dine.
This restaurant, outside the celebrated Tekka Centre, is popular with Singaporean Indians and keen shoppers who come for a bite of the heavenly thosai (a huge, pancake-like dish that’s folded and eaten with various condiments). It comes in all sorts of variations, such as masala thosai, which is best served with chutney. The older generation in Singapore swears by thosai at Kamala Restaurant, so you know it’s the real deal.
This venue is one of the oldest restaurants in Little India, and its reputation has spread all the way back to its native India. It is known for serving some of the most authentic southern Indian cuisines around, specifically from the Thanjavur district of Tamil Nadu. They maintain absolute authenticity by serving their dishes on banana leaves, which is how meals are served back in the founder’s native state in India.
Banana Leaf Apolo, a household name among Singaporeans, has inspired many restaurants to set up shop elsewhere with similar names. The place is usually packed, so you may have to wait to get a seat. Its claim to fame lies in the curries, with many different meat and vegetable options. The most popular dish? The renowned fish-head curry, a savoury stew that is bursting with flavours.
Madras New Woodlands, an inconspicuous outlet, is the go-to spot in Singapore for hearty vegetarian dishes, offering a range of different choices with a menu that’s changed daily, so repeat visitors will discover a range of Indian cuisine. If you really want to get your fill, tuck into the buffet, where you’ll be spoilt for choice with possibly enough food in your belly to last you until the next day.
Bringing the very best of both south and north Indian cuisine, Lagnaa Barefoot Dining is a snug restaurant that invites you to kick off your shoes, sit back and relax while munching on some delicious food. If you’re attached to your footwear, the ground floor offers standard tables and seating. The food is prepared in a traditional manner using a thali, with different dishes placed together on one big plate for you to enjoy.
Muthu’s Curry, a long-established restaurant with a history in Little India, has maintained the vision set out in the early days, while expanding its menu to include a variety of other Indian dishes. Primarily influenced by the cuisine of Chettinadu, in Tamil Nadu, Muthu’s Curry is believed to be the place where the south Indian-style fish-head curry was created. This has sealed its reputation as one of the best places to go to sample the classic dish, still made just as it was generations ago.
Though essentially a Punjabi restaurant, Jaggi’s also has north Indian and other neighbouring cuisines on offer, giving you the chance to try a diverse range of flavours. The chefs here are skilled and knowledgeable about the wide range of food they prepare. The restaurant has maintained a distinctive reputation for serving high-quality and authentic fare, and is one of the friendliest services you will find in Little India.
Mustard’s owner clearly has a love affair with two contrasting tastes. It is is one of the few restaurants in Little India – or anywhere in Singapore – where you have the chance to try Bengali food from the Indian state of West Bengal, while you’ll also find delicious Punjabi food here. Mustard’s biryani (rice and meat) is among the best in Singapore.
This atmospheric restaurant sets the scene with an arched façade, intricately carved relief sculptures of Hindu gods adorning the walls and ornately patterned chairs. The menu is just as considered, with a variety of hand-decorated vegetarian and meat dishes. If you’re dining in a group, go for one of the special Diwali set menus for either five or 10 – which include dishes such as palak paneer, biryani rice and daal makhani, followed by gulab jamun from the delectable sweets menu. Want to immerse yourself in the hustle and bustle of Little India? Request one of the al-fresco kerbside tables.
This restaurant, on the rooftop of the Mustafa Centre Mall, offers a multi-cuisine experience but is best known for its extensive selection of Indian kebabs and curries. The talented chefs (known as khansamas) prepare succulent halal meat in the tandoor over a charcoal fire, giving it a distinctive flavour, and pair it with delicious house-made masalas (spice mixes); think Chettinad flower crab masala, mutton rogan josh and murgh tikka masala. For an unbeatable view over Little India, ask to be seated in the outdoor section.
This award-winning restaurant, founded in 1988 by a husband and wife team, proved so popular that more than three decades later, there are two locations in Little India. The restaurant is known for its mixed grill of tandoor-cooked meats marinated in masala (spice mix) and wine, as well as the dramatic show put on by the chefs preparing the signature romali roti (handkerchief bread) on an overturned wok. If you’re in the mood for seafood, try the chilli prawns in an onion and coriander sauce, or the tandoori pomfret fish marinated in a yoghurt sauce. Planning a special event? The restaurant also offers a special banquet menu and catering service.
Mandi Keighran contributed additional reporting to this article.
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