I was watching a food show that featured putu mayam that immediately got me reminiscing about the good old days – this was the kind of food my mom used to buy home from the wet market when I was a lad. Putu mayam was still made fresh in Singapore then. However, that tradition disappeared by the ’90s.
These days putu mayam come in packets. This makes us wonder - why would you pay someone to take something out of a plastic bag, put it on the plate with sugar and coconut and charge you more for it? The same logic probably applies to buying Milo from the coffeeshop.
When I arrived at Heaven’s Indian Curry, I was disappointed they did not serve freshly-made putu mayam. But it turned out to be a blessing in disguise because I found something even better – appam (two for $2).
Both appam and putu mayam ($1.80) are made from rice flour and served with orange sugar and coconut. The middle bit of the appam is similar to that of the putu mayam, but the appam has the added advantage of having crispy edges and a slight tang that comes from the use of fermented milk.
Cast iron wok Laxmi brought from India for making appam
There are few hawker stalls that you can find fresh appam because it is not easy to make. The batter, which is made from rice flour and coconut milk – this stall uses fresh milk instead of coconut milk – has to be left to ferment for eight hours to develop flavour and texture. After which you cook it in rustic cast iron mini woks to get that extra crispiness. The owner, Laxmi, told me that she had to go to India to buy the woks because a non-stick wok just doesn't give the same effect as these crumbly surfaced made-in-India cast iron woks.
But I was yearning for putu mayam, so I had to order some of the ready-made ones from Heaven's. You can tell that it is factory-made: when the putu mayam is made by hand, the strands tend to be much shorter because each piece only consists of one circular squirt from the putu mayam mould. Nonetheless, this is still actually quite good.
Do also give their thosai ($1.20) a try. Made on small rustic hotplates – also sourced from India – these are not as smooth as what you might be used to. Laxmi told me that this is the way thosai is usually served at home. It is much softer than most thosai I’ve come across, and is served simply folded over the potato masala. The batter is different from the appam’s in that it has cooked rice and dhal in it, but it is also fermented so you get that nice tang and full mouth-feel. I would have liked the surface to be more crispy but I was told that that is how traditional thosai should be. The sauces are all very good, although the potato masala could have had a bit more omph.
Rating – Food: 4; Service: 3; Value: 4
Also check out: Two other recommendations by Dr Leslie Tay
A different type of carrot cake
Piping hot kueh tutu