For someone who enjoys her fair share of Indian food, I was duly educated on what authentic South Indian vegetarian cuisine is really like. Enter, MTR Singapore along Serangoon Road, which is an award-winning restaurant offering authentic South Indian cuisine.
From achieving a Certificate of Excellence from TripAdvisor from 2015 to 2019—including being inducted into their ‘Hall of Fame’ for consistently maintaining exceptional food and service standards for consecutive years—and also being featured in local newspapers, this gem is one place you have to check out if you’re in the area.
Given the current pandemic and safe-distancing measures, you can be assured of strict hygiene standards practised by staff, having met SG Clean programme requirements, thus making you feel safe in their premises.
Till today, it has retained its legacy of great vegetarian dishes. Although there are familiar names on the menu, there were definitely some new South Indian dishes I’d never had the privilege of tasting before.
Before my meal, I was fortunate enough to take a peek into the (literal) sweat and hard work that goes into all their dishes. Everything here is made from scratch—from making and rolling their own dough, pulling every cup of coffee, and continuously stirring the vats of chutney and gravies—all with no MSG added.
They ensure the spices they use are fresh and work hard to extract every flavour and fragrance from their high-quality produce.
Needless to say, I was really excited to tuck into the spread that I had before me, starting with the Uddhina Vada (S$2.50 each), a savoury doughnut made from lentils and served with sambar (lentil-based vegetable stew) and chutney. They resemble the common vadai you can find at our local pasar malam, only plain.
Don’t let the lack of added ingredients fool you into thinking this is a boring snack; the fried shell of the doughnut was still warm and crisp when I bit into it. The satisfying bite gave way to a pillowy dough within, and the contrasting textures made for a remarkable introduction to the meal.
I dipped the doughnut into both the chutney and sambar to enjoy the best of both worlds—which I did for all the dishes, to be honest—and there was absolutely no going back to the common vadai I’d grown so used to. The culmination of sweet and tangy-savoury flavours in every bite made this dish easily my favourite of the afternoon.
I was then introduced to the Rava Idly (S$4 each), a steamed semolina cake mixed with yoghurt, coriander, cashew nuts, curry leaves, mustard seeds, and clarified butter. To accompany it was potato saagu, a coconut-based vegetable curry. To eat, the clarified butter was poured all over first, before it was cut up into small pieces and eaten with the potato saagu.
I could immediately taste the silkiness of butter before it dissolved to reveal a spongey, nutty pancake-esque mouthfeel. It was an odd experience, as this was a new dish to my knowledge, yet the flavours were somehow familiar and comforting.
So far, I was enjoying this South Indian journey, and what I was enjoying the most were the smaller portions, as that will certainly aid you in trying out more of this exquisite menu!
Your eye will definitely be drawn to this bright red-orange creation, the Pudi Masala Dosa (S$7). It’s a large fluffy pancake peppered with spicy chutney powder and smeared with ghee, topped with a small scoop of potato-onion filling.
I suppose you can choose to smash the ball of potato-onion and spread it across the pancake like butter, or cut dainty pieces of the pancake and enjoy each one with a tiny scoop.
Either way, your palate will be instantly hit with a smoky pepperiness the moment you eat this. I felt a mild fire growing on my tongue the more I ate my way through the pancake, so go gentle with this if you’re sensitive to spicy food.
Admittedly, it took me a while to grow fond of this dish, so it might not be my first choice the next time I return. However, for fans of fiery foods, you’ll absolutely lap this up.
Can we take a moment to appreciate the spherical beauty of this Poori Sagu (S$5)? Looking very similar to my all-time favourite batthura, this poori is deep-fried unleavened Indian bread that’s served with spiced potato curry and chutney. I inquired about the difference between batthura and this, and it turns out this is paper-thin compared to the former.
It was an effortless task to not only tear apart the poori so gratifyingly, but I fell in love with it so quickly. Although I was already starting to feel satiated, I wolfed down an entire poori within minutes. The bread was, yes, thin, but also carried a hint of sweetness, which brought out the robust flavours of the complementary spiced potato curry and chutney.
10 out of 10, I would highly recommend you to order this.
This next one’s straightforward crowd favourite and one of their many signatures. The Set Dosa (S$6 for three pieces) is a popular dosa from Karnataka that’s cooked on only one side, and topped with ghee and served with vegetable saagu and chutney.
The dosa itself was quite mild, with only a subtle milky flavour emanating from it. What really made the dish shine had to be the marriage of vegetable saagu and chutney, which created a unique medley of savoury (from the chutney) and sweetness (from the vegetables). While simple, it also serves as an ideal introduction to South Indian cuisine without the intimidation.
Even as I was feeling rather full from my wonderful meal, I knew I had to make room for Badam Kesari Bhath (S$5). It’s a bright yellow dessert, no larger than my palm, and it’s a dessert made with saffron, almonds, semolina, vermicelli, raisins, and clarified butter. I understand that South Indian sweets are notoriously saccharine, so I was pleasantly surprised by how adequately sweet this was.
I could point out almost every element in the dish from the aroma of saffron to the nuttiness of almonds and even the bright tartness of raisins. It also helped that the almonds were still crunchy when served and since this dessert was still warm, the amalgamation of flavours was only amplified.
I needn’t say it explicitly, but I’m sure by the end of this meal, you could easily tell that my belly was not only full but also thankful for all the deliciousness that I’d just been served. I can’t believe I’d never heard of this place before.
The wonderful thing about MTR Singapore’s menu is that even if you’re a beginner in appreciating South Indian cuisine, there’s definitely something on the menu for you. On the flip side, if you consider yourself a connoisseur of this cuisine, you’ll find yourself more than delighted by the authentic spread awaiting you.
Expected Damage: S$5 – S$10 per person
*This post was brought to you in partnership with MTR Singapore.
Our Rating: 5 / 5
440 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218134
440 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218134