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Singapore-based chefs tell us where they go when they have cravings for South Indian fare

When one mentions Singapore’s South Indian cuisine, they usually think of fiery fish head curry and boldly flavoured dishes served on banana leaves or thali (large metal plates). There is also a range of restaurants offering authentic Keralan and Malabar specialities as well as excellent vegetarian eateries. Here are some recommendations from chefs in Singapore.

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1. Gandhi Restaurant

Mano Thevar, Chef-Owner, Thevar

Mano Thevar enjoys going to Gandhi at Little India, which started as a small stall along Serangoon Road in the early 1970s. It eventually moved to a restaurant space at Chander Road and now takes over two shophouses. “I usually go here on Sundays with my staff and friends,” shares Thevar, whose favourites are the onion fried chicken, rasam (spicy South Indian soup) and mutton ribs curry. For a bigger feast, he orders it with vegetables cooked South Indian style.

When Thevar is not at Gandhi, you’d often find him savouring Malabar Cuisine at Premaas Cuisine at Dalhousie Lane. His top picks include meen polichathu (fish cooked in banana leaves), mutton jeera biryani and fish curry.

Gandhi Restaurant, 29/31 Chander Road, S(219538), 6299 5343

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2. Samy’s Curry

Vijay Shanmugam, Director of Culinary, Hilton Singapore Orchard

Chef Vijay Shanmugam was working at Waldorf Astoria Maldives for three years before returning to Singapore to helm the kitchens of the new Hilton Singapore Orchard. On his days off, Shanmugam likes to go to Samy’s Curry at Dempsey, an iconic spot for fish head curry and vegetarian accompaniments served on banana leaves. Shanmugam says, “I usually order masala chicken, Mysore mutton and cabbage with yellow dhal.”   

Samy’s Curry, 25 Dempsey Road, S(249670), 6472 2080

3. Gayatri Restaurant

Executive Chef Martí Carlos Martínez

“From time to time, I enjoy South Indian food. I go to Gayatri Restaurant when I’m craving for the cuisine. I always order cheese naan, chicken Chettinad (fried chicken cooked in dry masala), egg dosa served with chutney and sambar, appam, and pista kulfi (pistachio flavoured ice cream),” says Chef Marti. Gayatri is a well-established banana leaf eatery in Little India. Founded in 1996, today it serves both South and North Indian cuisines.

Gayatri Restaurant, 122 Race Course Road, S(218583), 6291 1011

4. Shami Banana Leaf Delights

Marvas Ng, Executive Chef, Path

“Before Path began operations, I would go to Shami Banana Leaf Delights, a casual Indian restaurant in Sembawang Park, every six weeks or so—just to eat their biryani with mutton curry. On the menu, they call it Bone Mutton Biryani Set. To be honest, one of the reasons I go there is because it’s quite close to my old home, so the location feels quite nostalgic,” says Ng.

“Of course, their briyani is also really good. The rice is fluffy and richly aromatic, and the mutton curry has a good bite with just the right amount of spice. There is a boneless version, but I prefer bone-in because meat cooked with the bone-in has more flavour.”

Shami Banana Leaf Delights, 349 Sembawang Road, S(758356),  6754 3898

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5. Madras New Woodlands Restaurant

Damian D’Silva, Chef-Partner, Rempapa

“For Indian food, I like Madras New Woodlands Restaurant on Upper Dickson Road.” This is a well-known South Indian vegetarian restaurant that has been around since the 1980s.

D’Silva says: “I like to go early in the morning for rava thosai (made with semolina), appam (south Indian rice pancake), and poori (deep-fried bread). Occasionally, when I'm there during lunch I always have the thali. The flavours from the different condiments are mind-boggling and it makes a very satisfying meal.”

Madras New Woodlands Restaurant, 14 Upper Dickson Road, S(207474), +65 6297 1594

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