Sunday, 14 August 2011

Suriya Restaurant Pure Vegetarian

Little India is one place in Singapore that makes me feel like a tourist in my own country. I derive great pleasure walking down its streets and soaking in an ambiance that was nothing like the HDB heartland or the cosmopolitan CBD I am more familiar with. Reading Hungry Ang Mo's blog has given me another reason to pay Little India a visit. Littered with vegetarian eateries, Little India is like the Bugis of vegetarian Indian cuisines. To be fair, one can also call Bugis the Little India of Chinese vegetarian cuisines.



Out of all the vegetarian eateries available, picking Suriya Restaurant Pure Vegetarian was a random decision. Being strategically located opposite Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple has rendered this restaurant a convenient place for Hindus to grab a bite before going for a praying session. ‎From the absence of naan on its menu, I inferred that this was a South Indian Restaurant. Much to my disappointment, close to half of the menu was not available on that day, robbing me the chance of trying the dishes I had never heard of. Dosa and its variations might be a ubiquitous Indian dish in Singapore, but at least I had yet to sample it. More importantly, it was available.

The Food

Paper Masala Dosa, S$ 3.00

Normally what I see on the menu picture is an exaggeration of what I get in reality. As far as paper masala dosa was concerned, it was completely the other way round. At just the price of S$ 3.00, I was hardly prepared for what arrived eventually. Its sheer size and length (Approximately 60 cm) left me astounded, and I lamented my amateurish photography skills for failing to capture its larger than life appearance. Made of fermented rice and urad dal batter, dosa is India's answer to crepe. Since the ingredients are gluten free, they can be safely consumed by Celiac patients as an alternative to its French counterpart. Urad dal, a kind of black lentils, buffs up the nutritional profile of dosa with the much needed protein in a vegetarian diet.

Inside of Paper Masala Dosa

At Suriya, its paper dosa looked deceptively crispy and feathery light. Then again I was grateful to its softness as that made it easier for me to tear the dosa apart with fork and spoon. Like the potato chappati I had at Sam's Budget Food, things got better as I hit the center where the dense masala fillings were. Forming the bulk of the filling, the soft potato chunks could easily qualify as mash potato with spices. Chaperoned by carrot shreds, onion, yellow lentils and curry leaves, I enjoyed this creamy filling despite it having the typical Indian flavor.

From left: Tomato Chutney, Mixed Vegetable Curry, Coconut Chutney

Although the the flanking edges of the paper dosa were not totally plain and tasteless, it did not hurt to eat it with some dips. Ironically, the innocently white coconut chutney turned out to be the hottest. On the other hand, the mixed vegetable curry did not bite as fiercely as it looked. Taking the middle position both in color intensity and level of spiciness, the tomato chutney seemed to have a subtle canned tomato sardine flavor. Either that, or my tongue had been overwhelmed by the mish mash of pungent flavors.

Paper masala dosa had been a fulfilling dish for me and I had nothing to complain about. Thanks to the spices found in it, which were purported to help digestion, the richness of the dish did not leave a heavy and sick feeling after eating.

Tomato Uttapam, S$ 2.20

Like dosa, uttapam is born from the fermented rice and ural dal batter. This is pretty much where the similarity ends, otherwise it is pointless to have a different name. Uttapam is smaller in diameter but relatively thicker than dosa. Instead of being cooked by itself as in most Indian breads, uttapam has the ingredients cooked into the batter. The end result resembles a pizza. Without cheese, do not expect it to taste like one though. For me it is better off that way because I prefer uttapam having its individual flavor to being a copycat of another food.

Chewy on the inside and subtly crispy on the outside summarized the texture of tomato uttapam at Suriya. Due to the inclusion of tomatoes, I could detect some tartness that was easily overshadowed by the accompanying curry and chutney. Speaking of the dips, they were exactly the same as what was given for the dosa dishes.

While tomato uttapam lacked the robust flavor of paper masala dosa, it still made a decent and filling meal. Moreover, it had become increasingly rare to find reasonably tasty and interesting meal at a price of S$ 2.20. Thus I would still consider tomato uttapam as a pleasant dish overall.

Indian Sweet, S$ 0.80

In addition to cooked meals, Suriya also sells Indian snacks for takeaways. Out of curiosity, I bought one of the Indian sweets. Even though it was called a sweet, it felt more like a cookie that crumbled easily on biting. Its overly saccharine taste made it hard for me to tell what other ingredients aside from sugar was used. However I did notice that the so-called sweet was quite greasy. Fortunately the portion size was quite small.

Conclusion

Suriya calls itself a restaurant because of the way it serves its customer rather than the price of the food. Here the waiter walks up to your seat to take your order instead of you having to go personally to the counter area to request for what you need, ala coffee shops, hawker centres and food courts. Yet the cost of the food is cheaper than some of the food courts and they do not cheat by trimming the portion size.

When it comes to the standard of the food, reviews are mixed. I had been told by one lady on that day that she regularly patronized Suriya because the food reminded her of her grandmother's cooking. Another gentleman commented that the food was mediocre and suggested I went to Komala instead for my future reviews. Personally I had enjoyed the dishes I ordered. If ordinary Indian cooking is good enough to satisfy my palate, I wonder how phenomenal world class Indian cuisines can be.

Address:140 Serangoon Road, S(218041)
Opening Hours:Mon - Sun, 7.30 am - 10.30 pm
Bus Service:23, 64, 65, 66, 125, 147
MRT Station:Little India
Website:-

4 comments:

  1. Brilliant work as always Prefer Vege!

    It is a pleasure to watch you delving into the world of Indian cuisine and enjoying what you discover!

    I would love to hear your thoughts on North Indian cuisine, too!

    Keep up the good work.

    Luke

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  2. Wow, fantastic review that make me want to try too.
    Although I like spicy food and curry but the thought of the strong onion & garlic aftertaste quite put me off to be as adventurous to try Indian food.
    Hope to find some places of less mild usage of onion Indian food to try...

    Cheers,
    Sunny :-)

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  3. Hi

    Thank you all for your comments.

    Luke:

    I have thought about trying North Indian cuisine too. Hopefully I am doing the right thing by using keywords like naan and tandoori to distinguish between north and south indian food.

    Sunny:

    Like you I am also quite put off by strong garlic and onion flavor. However I notice that Indian cooking manage to mask them well. In fact the dominating flavor comes from the spices which are way more palatable IMO. So is garlic bread in Mediterranean cuisines, although herbs are used instead. I have nothing against Chinese (I am one myself) cooking, but the garlic taste is stronger here, should they be used. In the past I hated stir fried veges because of the garlics.

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  4. A tip for you both:-

    At the front of all Indian eateries (usually on the cashier table) there will be a small bowl with olive coloured small seeds. These are fennel seeds. Indians will chew on these after the meal as it eliminates these odors which you mention, and freshens the breath.

    They work remarkable well!

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