Call it Diwali or Deepavali but the celebration known the world over as the Festival of Lights is a billion reasons to come together with friends and family. Mythologically and allegorically the triumph of good over evil and light over darkness, Diwali is enjoyed with colour, music and, last but certainly not least, glorious, glorious food!
Local celebrations have become progressively bigger and more creative. I remember when I was a kid that a Diwali dinner out would be delicious but rather predictable. Today, the sheer variety and scope of Indian cuisine continues to grow exponentially as younger chefs take bolder steps while retaining precious essential traditions.
With Diwali just around the corner (24 October 2022), here are 10 Diwali dinners to illuminate your life through your palate.
With a name that translates from Hindi as ‘hunt’, it’s quite appropriate that our hunt for the best Diwali dinner culminates in Shikar, an homage to the erstwhile royal Indian tradition. This lavishly appointed restaurant at Maxwell Reserve, Autograph Collection is the epitome of Indian luxury and class in Singapore, making it the ideal venue for a local celebration of the Festival of Lights.
Slaying the competition from the stately kitchen is none other than celebrated Indian chef and chef judge of MasterChef India, Surjan Singh. Known popularly as Chef Jolly, he is adept at conjuring the most exquisite examples of elevated Indian cuisine using his finely-honed combination of culinary artistry and a natural instinct for flavours and aromas.
This impeccable ambience and sublime talent culminate in heady celebrations during Diwali with Shikar’s Diwali Experience Set Menus.
The Diwali Experience Set Menu (Vegetarian) (S$158++) and Diwali Experience Set Menu (Non-Vegetarian) (S$158++) both start with a specially-crafted cocktail and Lotus Stem Chips & Makhana Pops.
Vegetarians are treated to the Roasted Sweet Potato Goats Cheese Tikki Chaat and Tender Stem Broccoli, followed by Curd Cheese, Kufte Pine Nuts. Shikar’s non-vegetarian menu branches off into Wild Caught, Tiger Prawns and Duck Seekh and then Tandoor Roasted Chicken, Makhani.
The Curd Cheese, Kufte Pine Nuts and Tandoor Roasted Chicken, Makhani are both served with Shikari Daal, Cucumber Mint Raita and your choice of whole wheat parantha or naan.
Dessert is the great unifier and both menus feature Caramelised Milk Cake “Jamun” and the Shikar house signature of Pistachio Rose Kulfi.
These special Diwali menus are available from 11 Oct 2022 to 24 Oct 2022. Shikar is usually closed on Mondays but will make an exception on 24 Oct 2022.
2. Rocking Rickshaw
Rocking Rickshaw rocks with a live band every evening. This is the place to go after all your Diwali rituals so you can let your hair down, sing along with the band and the crowd, dance at your table or on the floor. Basically, just party the night away with a crowd of people who want exactly the same thing.
Drinks are pretty affordable and the food is good. We began with the Happy Mogambo’s Tandoori Platter (S$55.90), which came with chicken seekh kebabs, mutton seekh kebabs, chicken tikkas and fish tikka. This is a fiery platter, especially because of the chicken kebabs.
We also had the Tandoori Prawns (S$18.90) and their signature Butter Chicken (S$15.90). The latter is especially delicious because the rich, creamy sauce is a wonder. The Lamb Shank Biryani (S$25.90) is huge and the dark lamb meat so readily slid off the bone that at first I thought it was just clumped rice.
Rocking Rickshaw does not have a special Diwali menu.
3. Muthu’s Curry
Over half a century old, Muthu’s Curry is one of the most iconic names in Singapore’s F&B scene. The restaurant made a name of itself for using the most aromatic spices to season the freshest ingredients.
Their Diwali Special Menu (S$18) gives you Briyani Rice and a choice of mains: Chicken Masala or Pepper Chicken; sides: Mysore Mutton or Sambal Prawns; vegetables: Tofu Sambal or Aloo Gobi; accompaniments: Raitha or Chicken Gravy; and dessert: Gulab Jamun or Payasam, all accompanied by refreshing Lime Juice.
You can turn your Diwali meal into a feast with their combination Add-On offers. These add-ons are priced by type with Chicken (S$4), Fish (S$4), Mutton (S$6), Prawn (S$6), Vegetables (S$2), Staples (S$2.50), Egg/Cutlets (S$2.50) and Desserts (S$2). All add-ons are available in 3 or 4 variations, for example, you can ask for Fried Chicken, Masala Chicken, Butter Chicken or Tandoori Chicken.
The Muthu’s Curry Diwali Special Menu is available from 19 Oct to 26 Oct 2022.
4. Rang Mahal
Another iconic Indian restaurant is the 51-year-old MICHELIN-recommended Rang Mahal located in Pan Pacific Hotel. It is one the pioneers of Indian fine dining and marries luxurious décor with authentic flavours from the length and breadth of the subcontinent.
Rang Mahal’s festive Diwali Celebration Set Menu (S$288++ per pax) is an exclusive 6-course fine dining experience. Available from 5 Oct to 31 Oct 2022 for both lunch and dinner, this carefully-created collection of mesmerising dishes create one of the best dining-out experiences for friends and family during the festivities.
Available as either a vegetarian or non-vegetarian set, it features Roasted Butternut Squash Soup and Rasgulla Chaat as starters for both. All diners also enjoy Crispy Vegetables, Garlic Naan & Whole Wheat Tandoori Roti. Paneer Tikka in Tomato Honey Sauce is the highlight of the vegetarian set while non-vegetarians enjoy Jodhpuri Laal Maas.
Rang Mahal is renowned for its highly-anticipated annual Diwali mithai collection. Named The Heirloom Collection from Rang Mahal this year, these sweets are a wondrous way to celebrate Diwali. If you cannot get a Diwali reservation at the restaurant, they are a very indulgent alternative and also make the perfect Diwali gift.
With three popular restaurants, this 25-year-old chain of Indian cuisine is a favourite among the expat crowd in Singapore. Step into any one and you will be transported to the famed sprawling havelis of Northern India that have remained largely unchanged for centuries.
The fare at Kinara, though, is a combination of traditional and contemporary. Vegetarians should try the Banarasi Seekh Kebab, which has a deceptively robust taste and alluring flavour. Reckon you have a high spice threshold? The Kozhi Chettinad chicken will separate the men from the boys. Resuscitate your tongue with the tried and tested Kulfi (Mango/Pistachio).
For Diwali, the menu highlights are Tandoori Pomfret (S$32) of pomfret marinated in fresh herbs, cooked in a tandoor, and Lasooni Palak ki Makki (S$19) of creamy spinach cooked with sweet corn, garlic and spices. Evergreen favourite, North-Indian carrot pudding Gajar ka Halwa (S$13.90) served with vanilla ice cream does the sweetness honours.
Kinara’s Diwali menu runs from 15 to 31 Oct 2022.
Make a reservation at Kinara outlets: Boat Quay | East Coast
One of the most well-regarded names in Indian cuisine in Singapore, Yantra is comparatively inaccessibly located inside Tanglin Mall. Expect plush décor, attentive service and a met-heavy menu that leans towards the pricey side. The reviews are in, though, and Yantra beats out almost all the competition.
The establishment recently underwent a complete renovation and reopened sporting entirely new decor.
From the Small Plates menu, I recommend the Achari Sabz Haldi Kebab (S$18) of melt-in-your-mouth pan-seared patties spiced with pickled turmeric and Nizam’s Kathi Kebabs (S$26) of grilled mutton skewers wrapped in a paratha. From the Large Plates, the Chingri Malaikari (S$40) of freshwater king prawns cooked in coconut cream curry is my pick.
Yantra’s Diwali menu had not been released at time of publishing.
Yearn for the eclectic flavours that are the hallmark of North Indian cuisine? There are few better restaurants in Singapore to sample that fare than Singapore’s only Lucknowi restaurant, Awadh. The chefs here pride themselves on their use of close to 120 different spices, all hand-pounded in-house, to create a menu that appeals to all the senses.
The name Awadh refers to the Indian province that is perhaps the best example of the union between native Indian culture and that of the Persians. Awadhi culture gave us the famed biryani, a dish that has become one of the highlights of Indian cuisine.
I would recommend the Zaffrani Paneer Tikka (S$21) of chargrilled saffron-flavoured cottage cheese and Awadhi Murg Biryani (S$25), where well-seasoned boneless chicken and fragrant rice is slow-cooked “dum” style. Come dessert time, go for the Apple Jalebi (S$12), which is exactly what the name describes!
Awadh will have a special Diwali menu but it has not been finalised at time of publication.
8. Spice Junction
Spice Junction brands itself ‘The Taste of Kerala’, an allusion to their South Indian roots and also the sea-oriented cuisine. Despite the name, the menu also features elements of the cuisine of Goa. The chefs at Spice Junction use spices to infuse tantalising flavour into their fresh ingredients.
Every dish is cooked in pure natural coconut oil. Spice Junction also uses no artificial colours and flavours, nor a single grain of MSG. A lot of emphasis is placed on the proportion in which spices are used and the refined palate will appreciate the nuances of the masterful creations served here.
Don’t miss their Egg Appam (S$3.20) and Thaali with Veg Curry (S$11.90), Thaali with Fish/Chicken Curry (S$12.90).
9. Kailash Parbat
Founded in the 1940s, Kailash Parbat is one of the oldest Indian restaurant brands in Singapore. It is also completely vegetarian, making it the perfect option if you are observing Diwali. Really, for a restaurant that completely eschews all meat, the food is almost unbelievably good.
Crowd favourites such as Samosa Chaat (S$10) and Bambaiya Pani Puri (S$9.50) are always on the menu and the perfectly picturesque start to your Indian meal. Their signature dishes of Chole Bhatura, Veg Biryani and Tandoor Platter are highly sought after.
Kailash Parbat has already launched its Diwali Sweets Menu and prices for each box range from S$20 to S$70.
10. Royal Taj
Part of the Village Hotel, Royal Taj is perhaps the best Indian restaurant on Sentosa Island. Given the stunning views and wide open spaces, it is the location of choice if you want to celebrate Diwali with a feast for the eyes as well as the palate.
Not only do you get a taste of elevated modern Indian cuisine but a sample of international flavours as well. Royal Taj caters to a variety of Indian-centric culinary requests, including vegetarian and Jain options.
Indians and visitors to India alike usually concur that one of the most delicious and exciting street foods of the subcontinent is gol gappa. Royal Taj’s Gol Gappa Shots (S$12) take the exotic concoction and elevate it to a premium starter. Their biryani served with Raita ranges from Vegetable Biryani (S$22) to Prawn Biryani (S$30) and Chicken Biryani (S$30).
There is no Diwali menu this year but Royal Taj has already launched its Diwali Sweet Boxes, which are available for purchase online. Note that reservations on and around Diwali are selling out fast.
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