Little India is to the Indian community what Chinatown is to the Chinese.
It is the place where many Indians, both local and from overseas, congregate especially over the weekends and on public holidays. It has also become a tourist attraction for foreign visitors as they attempt to catch a glimpse of that which is uniquely Indian. You can find Indian produce and eateries there. Speaking of food, here at Little India, there is an interesting mix of hawker fare and restaurants to cater to different preferences.
Address: 50 Dunlop Street
Opening hours: Daily: 11am - 10.30pm
Now, in Singapore, biryani is often called nasi briyani (“bri” instead of “bir”). Being an Indian dish, the Malay word, nasi shouldn't even be there. But this shows how briyani has evolved to become a Singaporean variation which incorporates the local Malay influence. So in recent years, some people have tried to differentiate their briyani by calling it "dum" briyani. The word "dum" means that the briyani is cooked by baking the rice with the meat and spices in a large pot.
According to Arif, the owner, the word "dum" is redundant since all Briyani is supposed to be dum briyani. The real dum briyani takes a lot of skill in order to get the temperature and cooking time right so that the meat is tender and the rice is not overcooked. A lot of dum briyani is prepared by cooking the rice and the curry separately and combining them together in a big pot. I am not a briyani expert, but I am happy to report that both my makan kakis who are briyani aficionados (fans) gave their thumbs up to this stall’s dum briyani. The briyani rice had absorbed the fragrant spices so well that it lingered in the mouth for a long time. I found the mutton to be excellent. It was tender and fragrant and did not have that gamey flavour as the meat had been blanched in hot water before it was marinated. Amazingly, the rice was quite light since they didn’t use a lot of oil or ghee in the cooking. They also did not douse the rice with curry so I could really taste the fragrance of the rice. It was evident that this was one briyani that was made with much passion and attention to detail.
Address: #01-297 Tekka Centre
Opening hours: 8am-3pm (Sometimes till 6pm depending on supply); dum briyani is only available in the morning
There’s always a long queue and so I guessed that the briyani here must be fantastic. After all, we Singaporeans select the food stalls based on the length of the queue; the longer the better!
Unlike the popular version of briyani, this briyani had only one colour. Not that it really makes a difference in taste, but I always thought the different colours of the briyani rice make it more appealing.
The rice was a little overcooked on the day of my visit such that some of the grains were mushy and broken. Otherwise, the taste of the briyani was excellent and the dhalchat and chicken curry complemented the rice really well. The dhalchat was sweet, which was to my liking. The popularity of this stall is undisputed, having been in business for over 40 years. Many who had grown up eating it would fiercely defend it. It was delicious taste wise but I felt the texture could be better.
Address: #01-26/27/28, 320 Serangoon Road
Tel: 62942232, 62936072
Opening hours: 8am-11pm
In my quest to find the ultimate briyani in Singapore, I was referred to this restaurant. But before I got to the briyani, let me just highlight some of the other really good stuff here. I really enjoyed the paneer tikka (cottage cheese). They used a very special cottage cheese imported from India and there was a marked difference in the texture.
You may be wondering why it had to be imported from India. Well, I was told that this cheese is made from fresh milk straight from the cow and there is a noticeable difference. The cheese was firm on the outside but soft, crumbly and creamy on the inside. One of the best version of paneer tikka I tasted (4.25/5).
So far, I had found that the butter chicken in Singapore tended to be very spicy. The butter chicken here was more like the ones I used to eat in Australia and according to the restaurant owner, this was how it would be served in India as well. The taste was rich and creamy. I loved the butter chicken here (4.5/5).
The naans here were also very good. Especially good was the cheese naan which was stuffed with a mixture of cottage and mozarella cheese (4.5/5). My only complaint was that it cost $5+ per cheese naan.
Now onto the biryani. It was very good but I think the bulk of the cost for the biryani came from the lamb which may be why the whole dish came up to $11+. This dum biryani was prepared by cooking the lamb together with the rice. The lamb was very tender as the meat was taken from the rib area (4/5). I would definitely be back for the naan, paneer tikka and butter chicken. Well, to be fair the place was an air-conditioned restaurant which may explain why the prices of the food were on the high side.
Address: #01-16, Blk 662, Buffalo Road (Tekka Market),
Opening hours: Daily: till 9.30pm
I was strongly encouraged to try Sri Kamala Vilas for their thosai and chicken masala. So there was I one fine day.
The thosai masala here was fantastic and even my mom loved it. The curry and the white and red coconut sides were fantastic. It tasted very fresh and had that extra kick.
As for the chicken masala, it’s a must try! I could only describe it in one word–“shiok”. Though it looked fiery, it was probably only 7/10 on the spicy scale, so I was able to handle it. Taste wise, it was very good and the dish seemed to be on almost every table at the restaurant, which was telling. The curry and the meat was a good combination. The teh tarik was good but I noticed it had already been pre-mixed and came from a dispenser instead of being tarik on the spot.
Dr Leslie Tay is the author of the popular food blog ieatishootipost.sg which chronicles his quest to eat, shoot and post Singapore's best eats