One of the best things about working in a food publication is the never-ending learning process of my favourite subject—food. After getting an in-depth lesson on Malay cuisine from my trip to Selera Sumang, a meal at Swaadhisht educated me with knowledge on authentic Indian cooking.
Now I can proudly say I’ve surpassed the introductory stage of pratas and murtabaks, and have advanced into the intermediate stage of traditional Kerala cuisine.
What exactly is Kerala cuisine, you might ask? Enter, Google; according to my research, it’s a variety of Indian cuisine inspired by an amalgamation of Arabian, French, and Malabari influences enhanced with the state’s very own culture. Traditionally, Kerala food offers a multitude of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes prepared with rice, fish, and coconut used as its most common ingredients.
Nestled along Chander Road—a short five-minute walk from Little India MRT—Swaadhisht stands out from its neighbouring food stalls with its clean and homey appearance. Bright and welcoming, the entire space screamed comfort the moment I stepped in. For once, after months of rain, I was thankful for the air-conditioned space, for it rescued me from the scorching afternoon sun.
What I tried
The main courses here were massive and meaty. From their extensive list of briyanis and set meals, I settled with two of their signature rice dishes—the Bamboo Chicken Briyani and the Thallaseri Fish Briyani.
Whilst their à la carte selections seemed delightful, I decided to take the safer route since it was my first time visiting the restaurant. Of course, that too makes for a great excuse to visit again.
The Bamboo Chicken Briyani (S$12) came highly recommended so that naturally earned a place on my table. Served fresh from the bamboo it was steamed in, the dish exuded an intoxicating earthy fragrance the moment it was pushed out from its tube.
Prepared amongst heaps of long-grain basmati rice, the lightly spiced chicken pieces were juicy and tore apart with ease. What I particularly enjoyed here were the bits of fats that were left clinging for their life on the chunks of chicken. They added a nice greasiness and gelatinous texture that complemented the overwhelmingly herbaceous taste of cumin and star anise in which the rice was cooked with.
With rice, fish, and coconut being the main ingredients used in Kerala cuisine, Swaadhisht’s Thallaseri Fish Briyani (S$14.50) was, needless to say, another must-try item. Here, tender fillets of kingfish were pelted with spice and fried in hot oil to lock in the fragrance of the ruthless chilli mixture.
One bite into the fish and you will get a whisper of sweetness alongside a fresh squeak of brininess from the seafood before the sudden punch of the chilli hits. Now, this is the kind of torture which I thoroughly enjoy; the kind that slowly eats into you, leaving you sweating buckets even before the forgiveness of cool air-conditioned air blesses you.
At Swaadhisht, their Appam With Coconut Milk (S$4 for two) and Vegetable Ishtoo (S$6.50) are welcome treats that will help you cope with any discomfort from the spiciness.
Prepared using fermented rice flour together with creamy coconut milk, the mildly sourish appam exuded a soft nutty perfume with every bite. When consumed with the vegetable ishtoo (a Kerala-style potato stew), the outrageously rich stew felt like the kind of dish the appam was made for.
Shovelling into it with bite-sized pieces of appam started as a compulsion, but by the end of my meal, it felt a little too sweet and cloying. Thinking back, a savoury vegetable curry would probably have been a better option.
Swaadhisht’s menu lists a whole lot of unique dishes that would encourage me to walk through its doors again. Intimidating names and unfamiliar ingredients used to compel me from dining at Indian restaurants, but I’m thankful to have taken the first step into Swaadhisht.
My two-hour dining experience took me on a gastronomic journey, one that I’ve never embarked on before. It not only opened my palate to a brand new realm of taste and flavour but more importantly, it was a lesson on a cuisine which I’ve never tried before.
This might be my first time at a Kerala restaurant, but it will surely not be my last.
Expected Damage: S$12 – S$20 per pax
Our Rating: 4 / 5
47 Chander Road, Singapore 219546
47 Chander Road, Singapore 219546