Indian food is one my favourite cuisines. Whether you’re vegetarian or a die-hard meat lover, Indian fare ticks all the right boxes with its amazing flavours and (often) affordable price point. This time, we’re shining the spotlight on vegetarian South Indian food at a popular restaurant in Singapore. Think delicious dosas, vadas and rice cakes paired with freshly made chutneys and curries – what’s not to love?
Multi award-winning restaurant MTR Singapore has its roots in Bangalore, India, where it opened in 1924. That’s almost a century in the business! The Singapore outpost has a simple goal: to serve fresh and authentic South Indian vegetarian food of the same taste and quality as the flagship restaurant in Bangalore. The kitchen uses only the freshest and finest ingredients sourced from India, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Mallavi in Sri Lanka. There are no artificial enhancers, MSG, preservatives or additives used here; and the traditional desserts feature natural sugars only. You get the drift!
Located along the busy, culture-rich Serangoon Road, MTR Singapore offers a bright and spacious dining area that’s simple and without frills. A stickler for hygiene, the diner is closed every Monday for a full day of thorough washing and sanitisation. This is reflected in its clean and well-kept space, which I noticed was near spotless during my visit. In fact, MTR Singapore was one of the first few restaurants in Singapore to be given the SG Clean certification, a quality mark given to approved establishments that fulfil strict sanitation and hygiene standards. The ambience is clearly not the highlight here – it’s the food that steals the show.
South Indian food at MTR Singapore
On the menu you’ll find popular snacks like vada (a South Indian fritter), idly (steamed rice cake) and dosa (rice pancake), alongside a small selection of traditional Indian sweets and drinks. For first-timers who aren’t familiar with South Indian cuisine, the options may seem a little overwhelming. Thankfully, there are full-page photos on the menu to guide and give you a better idea of what you’re getting. Otherwise, just ask one of the friendly waiters for recommendations! Speaking of the staff, you’ll be impressed by how fast and efficient they work, in between taking orders, clearing tables and serving food.
If you love spice, start with a serving of Pudi Idly ($5), mini rice cakes flavoured with spicy chutney, ghee, spices and coriander. An idly is a savoury snack of steamed rice cakes made with a batter of fermented black lentils and rice. A popular breakfast food, the bite-sized morsels served here were super tasty and great for sharing as an appetiser. Another must-try is the Uddin Vada ($2.50), a savoury donut that’s also made from lentils. Served with sambar and chutney, the fritter was surprisingly light, despite being deep-fried. It’s the perfect snack for any time of the day. I think it would be a hit with kids, too!
A unanimous favourite at our table was the Pudi Masala Dosa ($7), a generously sized, fluffy pancake with spicy chutney powder, lightly smeared with ghee and a potato-onion filling. This restaurant signature can be spotted at nearly every table across the board. The combination of the lightly fermented batter, fragrant spices and flavourful chutneys was simply sublime. After scoffing it down within minutes, we swore to return to the restaurant in future if only for another bite of it.
Wash it all down with a cup of Mango Lassi ($5), the perfect accompaniment to a flavoursome meal. I’m a big fan of lassis, and this version sure didn’t disappoint. Made with Alphonso mangoes, the lusciously creamy drink had a strong mango flavour and wasn’t too sweet. One of the best I’ve ever had!
Based on past experiences dining at Indian restaurants, I was expecting to feel uncomfortably full and bloated at the end of the meal, but this wasn’t the case here. I loved that we were happily satiated but not stuffed to the point of discomfort. Although everything on the menu was vegetarian, I didn’t find myself craving meat dishes, either. Whoever says vegetarian food is always bland has to try this spot!
Note: I’ve walked past the restaurant several times and always noticed a queue outside, which lengthens during meal times. You can beat the crowd by placing a takeaway order, then returning 20 minutes later to collect your food!
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