Surya Pongal is THE highlight of the Pongal festival, and what better way to celebrate a bountiful harvest than food! Rice cooked in a traditional clay pot bubbles over to shouts of “pongalo pongal!”, symbolising overflowing goodness, prosperity, and abundance.
In the spirit of good-things-must-share, we dish out 6 delicious destinations where you and your loved ones can feast to your heart’s delight!
1. Madras New Woodlands
Sightings of PM Lee Hsien Loong and his wife have been reported at this veggie eatery. Its VIP Thali meal is, indeed, befitting of any dignitary. And full of surprises, too! You never know what you’ll get on the shiny platter; only the morning’s freshest grabs from Tekka market make the cut! The Masala Dosa also hits all the notes; crispy outside, chewy inside, and the potato fillings a perfect spicy pitch. And the Masala Tea’s a blast of freshness; spiced tea brewed with fresh milk – condensed milk be condemned! Alas, Pongal comes but once a year – a sacrilege not to carve a nook in your gut for their savoury pongal dish, a sticky rice-lentil amalgam slow-cooked in milk.
2. The Banana Leaf Apolo
Thanks to Apolo founder’s farsighted ingenuity to go green way back in 1974, Singapore has embraced the ancient South Indian tradition of eating off food on freshly-cut banana leaves. Goodness of the palm’s polyphenol aside, signature dishes here include the Fish Head Curry, Mutton Mysore, and Chicken Masala. Flavours here are big, strong and spicy; nothing’s in half measures when your name’s set to reach the moon. So celebrate Surya Pongal with a blast at Apolo! Go big, go OTT, go home feeling lofty and prosperous!
3. Ananda Bhavan
Established in 1924, this has got to be the country’s oldest Indian vegetarian restaurant. Ananda serves up ridiculously affordable and delish veg grub, yet staying honest to its historic policy of no artificial additives, MSG or reused cooking oil. A vegan haven too; Ananda is happy to satiate the dietary needs of the most devout vegan! The dosa and Thali sets are exceptional, so we heard through the greenie grapevine. And Pongal is a fixture on the menu! Soft, chewy raisin Pongal with milky sweet spices. Eat to your heart’s content, or till the belly’s bubbling over and bellowing Pongalo, Pongal!
4. Spice Junction
Ooh…ahh…Kerala! Rightly called God’s Own Country for its lush landscapes and glistening clear waters. And the mind-blowing spices and fresh produce here, they christened as God’s Own Kitchen! Spice Junction serves possibly the most legit Kerala coastal cuisine in Singapore. Plenty of coconut-infused curries, seafood and breads inspired by French, Malabari and Arab influences. Heavy hitters include the trinity of Keralan classics: Fish Pollichatu, Appam and Puttu. A culinary treat so blessedly good, greed should be forgiven! Go on, it’s Pongal fest; have a divine feast!
5. Komala Vilas
A restaurant that’s over 70 years old must have got a lot right! Garlanded many times over, the flagship Komala Vilas on Serangoon Road is quite possibly Singapore’s best known Indian vegetarian restaurant. It serves up Southern and Northern veg faves and classics, in no-frills style, like dosai, vadai, idly, chappati, poori and briyani. Savoury pongal is available as breakfast. Be prepared to roll up your sleeves and eat from banana leaves piled with rice smothered with curries. So acclaimed is this casual eatery that India’s Prime Minister Modi was brought here for a hearty bonding meal by his local counterpart Lee Hsien Loong!
6. Komala’s Restaurants
This is an offshoot of its celebrated granddaddy, Komala Vilas. The young’un was started in 1995 by the heir and today has nine outlets and two franchises! Komala’s is a fast food self-service concept serving not only South Indian veg classics; its western vibes now feature contemporary vegetarian takes on pizzas and burgers, Chindian dishes and local faves, targeting younger demographics of hashtaggers and uber vegans. Is this pivot a travesty of its exalted lineage? Not when it’s earning ecstatic exclamations for its scrumptious non-meat hacks! And despite the arrival of illustrious vegetarian chains from India in recent times, the Komala name continues to shine brighter. This Pongal, let our palates be blessed by the overflowing success of this local hero!
7. Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant
For a vegetarian restaurant named after the historic town in which the Hindu deity Krishna spent his childhood, finding Char Kway Teow and Nonya Laksa on the menu could well have vegilantes brandishing their ladles. Safe to say, the chef’s expert soy renditions of local faves have placated the garden gobblers. Housed in a 2-storey shophouse, Gokul offers hundreds of veg items, with Chinese, Malay and Western hits co-existing with Indian classics like Mysore Mutton. Gokul was started in 2003 on the conviction that vegetarians and vegans should not abjectly subsist on the bland or banal. With a kitchen so ridiculously inventive, even meat fascists will concede to love these tantalising faux iterations. So whatever your choice of sustenance for Pongal celebrations, Gokul can bring everyone together!
8. Junior Kuppanna Restaurant
Welcome to Kongu Nadu, a western part of Tamil Nadu. It is here, in the district of Erode (spelling checked), that the first Junior Kuppanna Restaurant originated in 1960. Today, there are 36 ‘Juniors’ all over Tamil Nadu, as well as several overseas outposts. Junior’s forte is its ability to take commonplace veg and non-veg fare from the region, and present them with modish panache. Chicken Pallipalayam, for one, is a working-class dry curry; the chef uses only the simplest of spices yet delivers a grand bustle of flavours. For the Veg Briyani, the use of Seeraga Sambha rice elevates the staple from humdrum to a festive treat. For families with disparate dietary demands, a Pongal festive feast at Junior Kuppanna will certainly have every belly overflowing with delight!
Hungry yet? – cause we certainly are! It always pays to make a reservation, so do call in early to book your seats at any of these establishments this Pongal. If you’re making a trip down this festive season, do remember to observe the appropriate social distancing and health safety measures.