Little India is home to all types of cuisine including Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant — one of the most satisfying dim sum places in Singapore
Bollywood beats blare from record shops, spice vendors fill the streets with pungent fragrances and flower stalls add bursts of bright colour — adding to the main attraction to this culturally rich part of Singapore, the food. Both Indian and international treasures can be found in this buzzing part of town. We list seven places you must try, and end off with a handy map:
|The Vegetable Manchurian is a fine, dark dish|
Best Indian-influenced Chinese food
Indian Wok’s decor distinguishes it from the surrounding casual eateries — painted gold ceiling, embossed wallpaper, white tablecloths and dark-red leather chairs. The Vegetable Manchurian ($14), fried battered balls of chopped vegetables flavoured with red chilli oil, Sichuan pepper, garlic, ginger, scallion and green chili in soy sauce, along with chilli-smothered devil prawns ($22) are perfect for those who can handle the heat.
Indian Wok | Address: 79A Syed Alwi Rd | Tel: 62910047 | Opening hours: Daily 6–11pm
|Where kebabs, curries and lassi are served|
Kebabs ’n Curries
Best for post-shopping bites
We thought 24-hour Mustafa mega mall had it all — flat screen TVs, gold watches, camping gear or one of five types of mango — then they upped the ante and opened up a restaurant on the roof.
The 400-seater dining area is split between an indoor space under a glass-and-steel dome and bright neon lights, and an open-air wooden deck with dancing water fountains with views of the busy neighbourhood below. The menu covers a wide range of South Asian cuisine, including Northern and Southern India, and Pakistani delights. Stand-out dishes include the dal makhani (black lentils cooked overnight with butter and cream, $9.90), and the chicken tikkamasala ($12.90) served in lovely traditional brass bowls. The mango lassi ($3.90), perfectly tart and sprinkled with pieces of dried coconut, is top notch.
Kebabs ’n Curries | Address: Level 7 Mustafa Centre, 171 Syed Alwi Road | Tel: 64190749 | Opening hours: Daily 11.30am–12.45am
Khansama Tandoori Restaurant
Best clay oven in Little India
You will be hard-pressed to walk past this popular two-storey restaurant without having people persuade you to take a seat and try their North Indian specialties. Fortunately it’s top quality tandoor (clay oven) cuisine that they are selling, with friendly service and Hindu goddess statues that create a welcoming and propitious setting. We recommend the mixed tikka platter ($15) with brightly coloured skewered chicken served on a silver tray in four flavours: malai tikka (raw papaya, yogurt, and spices), achari tikka (hot and tangy marinate), reshmi tikka (cashew nut paste, cream and spices) and hariyali tikka (coriander, mint and spices). Careful when ordering as the servers often encourage more than you can eat, but do make sure a cheese naan ($5.50 each) is included on your list.
Khansama Tandoori Restaurant | Address: 166 Serangoon Road | Tel: 62990300| Opening hours: Daily 11am–12.30am
|The exterior of Mustard | Credit: Mustard's |
Best date night spot
Named after a common ingredient found in both Bengali and Punjabi fare, the mustard plant unites two regions of India that otherwise remain rather distinct. Low-hanging lights and wooden tables create an intimate atmosphere, setting it apart from some of its big-name restaurant neighbours. Chingri Maacher Malai Curry ($18.90), the signature dish, is served in a green coconut with prawns in a creamy curry with cinnamon, cloves and cardamom. Another stand-out dish is the Macher Paturi ($16.90), a boneless fish in banana leaf, marinated in mustard paste.
Mustard | Address: 32 Race Course Road | Tel: 62978422 | Opening hours: Mon–Fri 11.30am–3pm, 6–10.45pm; Sat & Sun: 11.30am–10.45pm
CRITIC’S PICK Saravanaa Bhavan
Best no-frills Indian vegetarian
Shades of green cover the walls and furniture of the brightly-lit branch of this international chain. The dosas are a must at this South Indian Vegetarian eatery. These seasoned crepes made from fermented rice and lentil flours are perfectly crisp, filled with lightly mashed and spiced potatoes ($3–$5). Thalis, round metal trays covered with a collection of small metal bowls, are the ultimate tool for indecisive diners.
Try the mini tiffin ($7.75), which includes small servings of the masala dosa and idlis (steamed rice and lentil patties floating in lentil soup), along with additional sides and rava kesari (roasted cream of wheat with sugar and nuts) for a sweet finish. Make sure to wash it all down with a cup of masala milk ($3.30), served piping hot with an extra silver cup so that you can pour between and cool down the drink.
Saravanaa Bhavan | Address: 84 Syed Alwi Road | Tel: 62977755 | Opening hours: Daily 9am-11.30pm
|The mee sua kueh at this late night dim sum |
Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant
Best late night (and pre-dawn) Chinese dumplings
The fluorescent lighting spotlight photographs of noteworthy dim sum diners from over the years and blown-up picture menus are on display to help visitors navigate the abundant choices. This bustling hole-in-the-wall has attracted a large following after over 50 years in service and is typically packed — both inside and in the back alley — long after the sun has set. A variety of Shanghai and Hong Kong favourites are available, with the stand-out dumplings like the xiao long bao ($4.30 for a basket of four) and Sichuan chilli oil wontons ($4.30 for a basket of four) not to be missed. The restaurant’s signature dish is the mee sua kueh ($2.20 for a plate of two), a perfectly crisp, deep-fried vermicelli cake.
Swee Choon Tim Sum Restaurant | Address: 191 Jalan Besar | Tel: 62257788 | Opening hours: Wed-Mon 6pm-6am
Zsofi Tapas Bar
Best rooftop bar
A welcome escape from the busy beat below is this chill roof deck at the back of a two-storey Dunlop Street shophouse. Inspiration for this joint was sparked during the owners’ backpacking trip through Spain years back, where they met a charismatic woman named Zsofi, guzzled sangria and devoured traditional tapas along the way.
The bohemian vibe transfers upstairs to the indoor seating with mural paintings on the wall and brightly-coloured oversized pillows on the floor. But the outdoor deck is our favourite place to sip a little sangria or grab a draft, each one served with your selection from their free tapas menu. Pick a small bowl of olives for a light nibble or croquetas de queso con jamón, fried ham and cheese croquettes, to help absorb the booze if you’re in it for the long haul.
Zsofi Tapas Bar | Address: 68 Dunlop Street | Tel: 62975875 | Opening hours Mon–Thu 5pm–1am; Fri & Sat 5pm–2am; Sun 5–11pm
Phillipa Gander is a writer and editor with a focus on food and travel. While not homegrown – having lived in five cities in three continents – Singapore has been home base for almost a decade. She has no intention to stop globetrotting, but for the moment discovering hidden treasures on the island is a top priority..