Curried cabbage, Muthu's Curry in Singapore.

Cabbage and other dishes, served in individual dishes depending on your order.
Photo © JE Nilsson and Cheryl M. Cordeiro-Nilsson for CMC 2010

In this highly competitive culinary atmosphere that is Singapore and worse still, if the dishes in question belong to one of the country’s core ethnic groups of Chinese, Malay (even Nonya food), Indian or Eurasian, it isn’t easy to make it to the top recommendations list of places to eat of Singaporeans.

Muthu’s Curry along Race Course Road with its approximate 40 year long history came highly recommended as a place for good Indian food. What today is a restaurant chain, began in 1968 as a one-man hawker stall serving staple south Indian food on banana leaves. It was already famous during the 1970s for its full flavoured and generous servings of fish-head curry, and its signature dish has grown in popularity and reputation in its 40 years of development.

Just a quick tangent on Singapore eating…To get a feel for the local culinary scene, I would personally recommend that anyone visiting Singapore first hit a hawker center for their meals to try any, if not all authentic local food. Places such as the East Coast Hawker Center or the hawker center that is completely out of the city center that lies in the corner of Bedok in the East of Singapore (Bedok corner hawker center as I know it) serve pretty good inexpensive local fare. Other more familiar places that most visitors to Singapore might learn of from brochures obtained from their respective hotels or tour guides would be the East Coast beach (skip the seafood outlets, go for the hawker center), Chinatown for Chinese cuisine, Little India of Indian cuisine and Geylang for Malay cuisine that all have ethnic specific local cuisine.

Hawker centers are also known to charge a little less per dish / meal for no less tasty meals compared to their indoor air-conditioned counterparts of food courts and restaurants that you find along Orchard Road or in the heart of the city for example.

A naan basket, with a variety of naan types, Muthu's Curry, Singapore.

A basket filled with naan in a variety of flavours.

But alright, if you want out of the tropical heat after a long walkabout in Little India and you’ve heard about Indian food served on banana leaves, then Muthu’s Curry is a recommended experience for well-cooked authentic (mainly) south Indian food. The prices are mid-ranged, though definitely pricier than the coffeeshop and market stalls that you can find all around the area itself.

Tandoori chicken with a fish cutlet, served on a banana leaf, Muthu's Curry, Race Course Rd, Sinagpore.

Food on banana leaf. On the plate, a tandoori chicken piece and a fish cutlet.

It was a somewhat languid early evening when I visited the Race Course Road outlet just at the edge of Little India of Singapore, so the service was just a little lacking in speed. The orders didn’t arrive on time with several waitresses getting confused as to what to bring to the table. And with the restaurant about only a third full (with mostly Chinese families actually – a delightful observation testament to the multicultural fabric of Singapore) I couldn’t help but smile in amusement that the orders even got mixed up and food for our table got served at another. I attributed this to a sort of siesta period for the restaurant and continued to enjoy the place with its warm golden red hangings on the walls and dark wooden beams and floors that made a cozy backdrop to the dining experience.

Muthu's Curry, front, Race Course Road, Singapore.

The front of the restaurant.

On our table were 2 vegetable dishes of cabbage and curried aubergine (one of my favourites for the evening), fish cutlets with mashed potato on the inside, tandoori chicken that was freshly baked in a tandoor, a basket of naans and crispy papadoms.

The restaurant had 2 cylindrical clay ovens, at which a working chef was standing in the middle of it all, skewering lengths of dripping and marinated tandoori chicken readying them for the baking process. The restaurant’s island kitchen is a feature at this outlet, the rounded and large tandoor ovens stand from the ground up and are fired to a high heat, used also in the baking of the leavened breads or naans.

Muthu's Curry menu cover, Race Course Road, Little India, Singapore.

Menu cover at Muthu’s Curry.

All in all, despite the mix-ups and the lethargic service, they do indeed serve good food. This place was actually recommended to me 2 years back, but due to the vast dining opportunities in Singapore, I’ve only just managed to make it to this restaurant, though happily so.

A recommended place to dine be it lunch or dinner. And if you do visit, sit back and take time reading through the menu for its variety of meat dishes and vegetable curries, its different breads from chapatti to naan, its variations of fragrant basmati rice and even lassi, a yoghurt drink that I’m personally quite fond of. I had a plain lassi when there, not to everyone’s liking as I understand from the faces made at the table, but good, nonetheless.

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