Spice, And Everything Nice

Spice, And Everything Nice

A list that comprises of the unique flavours of Indian cuisine — the exotic-tasting meats and the different sorts of unique bread that they have.
Xing Wei Chua
Xing Wei Chua

Mention River Valley and one of the most prominent F&B establishments that is located there would likely include ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant — a mamak-style establishment that had been operating in the said neighbourhood for quite some time now at least. While they do have quite a following at that location especially towards the later part of the day. Considering the popularity it has gained over years, it seems that ZAMAS had gained some confidence in opening its second outlet — this time round at Boat Quay. Located at 83 Circular Road, ZAMAS Boat Quay takes over the former premises of the now-defunct Thaitanium Thai Restaurant — the shophouse unit being rather large and is one that is located near the junction where Lorong Telok meets Circular Road. ZAMAS Boat Quay is rather noticeable from afar — the well-lit ZAMAS signage on the floor outside of the restaurant being pretty much the most prominent landmark for the dining establishment. Inside, the space sees some parts of it walls painted with murals either with the restaurant’s name, or with the skyline of Marina Bay Sands — the tables coming with a Formica-esque pattern but featuring black background and white lines, while the entire establishment takes on an almost monochromatic look save for the dining chairs that features wooden accents. The menu at ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant does differ a little from ZAMAS Boat Quay — the ZAMAS Boat Quay menu features section such as Biryani, Set Meal, Roti John, Murtabak, Nasi Goreng, Noodles, Tandoori, Naan, Masala, Prawn, Cuttlefish, Chicken, Beef, Nasi Putih / Nasi Goreng Dengan Ayam / Daging / Sotong / Udang, Egg, Vegetables, Fish and Soup, Prata and Thosai. Beverages include the standard variety available at mamak-style establishments, which includes Kopi and Teh, as well as a variety of juices, milkshakes and blends, and beverages mixed from syrup.

ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant has been one of those places that we had been visiting on and off — dropping by the establishment quite a number of times on quite a random basis, we had given various items a try; this includes their Plain Prata as well as Cheese Prata, and their Bee Hoon Goreng Ikan Bilis which we found to be really satisfying. One thing that we hadn’t noticed after all these years even though it was an item listed on the menu was the Prata Tsunami — an item which we had actually been hunting high and low for uncommon Roti Prata offerings around the island. Based on the description on the menu, the Prata Tsunami is a dish that features two pieces of Plain Prata, Curry and two boiled eggs — there is also another variant named the Prata Tornado, which is an item that we did not recall seeing at ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant, features three pieces of Plain Prata, boneless mutton, curry, and two boiled eggs.

One thing noted about the Prata Tsunami when it turned up at the table was that it also comes with a dollop of sambal chili on the side. Basically unlike the usual Roti Prata, the Prata Tsunami comes with the curry drenched on top of the Roti Prata above the poached eggs even. Essentially, this means that the Roti Prata had become all soft, having absorbed all of the curry gravy all over. The curry that was drenched over our order of the Prata Tsunami is the fish curry; the curry being sufficiently rich and tangy without feeling anywhere near watered down. Poached eggs were done decently with molten yolk that eagerly bursts as one pokes through with a fork, though the egg whites probably hints that more cooking time is probably required to achieve the most desirable consistency. As one attempts to pair everything up with the sambal chili provided at the side, this is where things start to change a little — truth to be told, we really love our Roti Prata in Singapore to come with a little bit of sambal chili just like how one would expect their Roti Canai to be. Here, the sambal chili carried a deep savouriness that had an earthy undertone — one with an obvious hint of anchovies but also rather unforgiving in its level of spiciness that it quite nearly gets to the limited even for those tolerable to moderate levels of spiciness; definitely packed a fiery punch that tickled our tastebuds and caught us off-guard with the increased levels of spiciness as we dug in further. Overall, quite a decent offering though one that is albeit pricey at $6. Do note that not all staff at ZAMAS Boat Quay seem to understand English well — there were clear instances of miscommunications and confusion by the staff attending to us whom just have difficulty understanding simple questions; probably something that would get better over time. Still, a great addition to the neighbourhood for especially for those looking for supper considering how they seem to be opened from 11am to 5am the next day on a daily basis.

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With our hunt for anything remotely similar to the viral Bird’s Nest Prata that had originated from Malaysia having yielded at least three different places that serves the same in Singapore, we were actually pretty surprised to learn that there are still more places that we have yet to discover that serves the Roti Sarang Burung around the island. Was tipped off by an acquaintance whom have probably heard about Mihrimah Restaurant elsewhere. For those whom have not heard of Mihrimah Restaurant before, this would be a Muslim-run Halal eatery that is situated along North Bridge Road in the vicinity of Kampong Glam — the establishment having occupied the ground level of a corner shophouse unit that gives it quite a decent amount of space for an eatery of its time. As much as we would probably want to call it a mamak establishment for the sheer convenience of doing so, Mihrimah Restaraunt is not quite that sort of establishment; there is a clear emphasis on serving Muslim fare rather than Indian-Muslim fare here, with counter that is dedicated to Nasi Padang where one can pick the dishes which they desire to be served with white rice like the Chinese-run mixed economic rice stalls in coffeeshop stalls. As indie as the establishment looks to be, Mihrimah Restaurant is actually a brand by GISB Holdings Sdn Bhd; a Malaysian company that does has several ventures in Malaysia, as well as all over the world including Thailand, Indonesia and France. That being said, Mihrimah Restaurant is decked in way that seems to be as simple as possible; foldable tables, plastic chairs and white walls with fittings they come with a blue trim that reflects the branding — nothing that comes across as particularly aesthetic and is particularly stripped down even when compared to similar establishments of its type.

The name of the item that fully resembles that of the Bird’s Nest Prata at Mihrimah Restaurant is actually the “Roti Ikhwan”, which honestly remains a mystery for us considering how “Ikhwan” refers to “brotherhood” in Arabic; the other names that we had seen thus far associated with that of the Bird Nest Prata used elsewhere includes Roti Prata Sarang Burung (which literally translates into Bird’s Nest Roti Prata in English; served at An Nur Shenton Way Famous), the Bull’s Eye (from Prata Lahhh! at Kovan and Changi Village), and the Plaster Prata (from Cafe O). One thing that we also noticed is how Mihrimah Restaurant seemed to refer to its Roti Prata offerings as Roti Canai — essentially the Malaysian term for Roti Prata that is never quite used in Singapore (and the same can be said for the inverse as well). The Roti Ikhwan from Mihrimah Restaurant is also one of the most affordable Bird’s Nest Prata that we have come across so far – priced at $3 a piece. Made fresh upon order, there is some waiting time required for the Roti Ikhwan to be served at our table; it is noted that the Roti Ikhwan comes with two eggs in the middle, and comes with fish curry paired alongside. Just like how Roti Canai would be in Malaysia, they had also served their Roti Ikhwan with a bit of sambal chili on the side as well.

Digging into the Roti Ikhwan, we did feel that the Roti Prata dough is probably one that is the least dense that we have come across — it tears apart easily, but was still crisp on the exterior without being too tough especially when left for a period of time. The two egg yolks were runny; the yolk eagerly flowing with its golden goodness as one pokes it with the fork — great to mop all of it up with the Roti Prata itself. Between the fish curry and the sambal chili, our choice was actually to pair the Roti Ikhwan with the sambal chili — we really liked how the sambal chili had a deep and earthy sweetness that comes also with a mild kick of spiciness that should do ok for those whom have lower tolerance to the heat; this was a contrast against the fish curry which required a bit of build up over time. This is considering the fact that while the fish curry (which comes with bits of sardine) was rich, it did carry an inherently duller note compared to the fish curry which we had elsewhere — it gets more interesting with the deeper, tangier notes after a while, though there just isn’t enough dough in the Roti Ikhwan to really allow it to get there. Considering how Mihrimah Restaurant’s Roti Ikhwan is probably Singapore’s lowest-priced Bird’s Nest Prata out there at $3 and how they are probably the most conveniently-reached one of the lot in town, Mihrimah Restaurant’s Roti Ikhwan is one that those whom have wanted to try Bird’s Nest Prata should head to — not forgetting that they also do serve up that stellar sambal chili in their rendition as well!

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All the talk about Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema recently from An-Nur Shenton Way Famous had sort of reminded us of yet another stall in Singapore that is known to serve up dishes of such a nature. It is pretty much by coincidence that we recalled the fact just when Prata Lahhh! had opened their second outlet — this time within a newly-renovated food court named SG FOODCOURT located at Blk 5 Changi Village Road. Unlike their Kovan outlet, SG FOODCOURT is an food court that seems to be catered to the Muslim community — the stalls in the food court, which comprises of stalls serving up Prata, Rice, Barbecue, Chicken Rice, Western fare, Nasi Lemak and Kampung (seemingly a zichar stall), all do not serve up dishes with pork or lard here based on our observations. Much like what Prata Lahhh! at Kovan was eventually made into after their initial days of opening, Prata Lahhh! is all about serving their Prata with a twist; they have pretty much allowed patrons to DIY their own Prata where one can pick and choose from a fixed list of ingredients to add to their Prata to their own desires. Aside from DIY Prata, there are also a list of “Chef’s Innovations” — their very own interpretations of modernised Prata much in the way that Springleaf Prata Place and Casuarina Curry do carry on their menu. That aside, Prata Lahhh! Seems to serve up a wider variety of dishes at SG FOODCOURT at Changi Village, with the menu also consisting of categories such as Thosai, Appam (minimum order 2 pieces), Curry Fish Head, Briyani, Sides, Goreng, North Indian, White Rice Set and Dessert.

We had mentioned wanting to give the Bull’s Eye a try some other time after making our very first visit to Prata Lahhh! at Kovan previously — our order back then was the Egg’s Benedict which is being listed in the Chef’s Innovation section of the menu; itself being their very own iteration of a fusion of the Western Eggs Benedict with Roti Prata. It is noted that the Bull’s Eye (which also can be found in the Chef’s Innovation section of the menu) is pretty much their rendition of the Roti Sarang Burung — we actually quite liked the fact that the Mutton Keema is an optional add-on which is listed in the DIY Prata section. Price-wise, the Bull’s Eye with Mutton Keema would have cost the same as the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema that we have had at An-Nur Shenton Way Famous — the Bull’s Eye being priced at $4.50 and the Mutton Keema being priced at $2.

One significant different between the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema from An-Nur Shenton Way Famous and the Bull’s Eye at Prata Lahhh! is how thick the Roti Prata is by itself — we actually preferred the thinness of the Prata that came with the Bull’s Eye at Prata Lahhh!; made for a more crisp texture whilst also being pretty manageable to eat (the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema from An-Nur Shenton Way Famous verges on being quite filling). Prata Lahhh! does also seem to crack fresh black pepper atop their Bull’s Eye for a flavour contrast; the egg yolk was done on-point being all runny and molten as we poked it with our fork. The egg white itself was also part jiggly within, while the edges are crisp without being greasy — the sunny side-up also was void from any undesirable notes over-used oil. Since the Bull’s Eye does not come with any form of meat on its own by default, the curry which accompanied our order was a fish curry — really liked how flavoursome and tangy their curry was with a good hint of curry spices without being watered down; went with the Bull’s Eye pretty well. The Bull’s Eye is also available at their Kovan location as well — just a head’s up for those who find Changi Village a little too far to give something like that a go!

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The search for unique Roti Prata has never quite stopped for us here; after all, it does seem that we are lacking a few of the more unique interpretations of Roti Prata in Singapore when comparing against the varieties of Roti Canai in Malaysia. One variant that we had been searching pretty much high and low for apart from the Prata Tsunami is the Roti Canai Sarang Burung — a rendition that is also dubbed the “Bird Nest” Roti Canai which seemed to have become viral in Malaysia a while ago; and aptly named so as well, considering how the Roti Canai is shaped much like bird nest and holds two sunny side-ups in between. While finding this dish around Singapore has proven to be rather difficult, we finally chanced upon An-Nur Shenton Way Famous that actually serves up the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema whilst walking past the Broadway coffeeshop at Blk 19 Marsiling Lane — placed at the acrylic shield surrounding the prata-making areas was a poster indicating the availability of Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema and Prata Tsunami. Turns out, An-Nur Shenton Way Famous isn’t particularly an indie establishment; the brand is more of a chain that operates out of coffee shops with three locations in operation — the other two outlets being located at Blk 198 Punggol Field and 36 Chai Chee Avenue.

Some information worth noting about the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema from An-Nur Shenton Way Famous is that it is not available within a specific timeframe within the day; for the outlets at Marsiling and Punggol, the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema is unavailable between 12 noon to 4pm, while the item is unavailable at the Chai Chee outlet from 1pm to 4pm. It is priced at $6.50 per piece, and that the preparation time required for the item sits around thereabouts of 5mins if there is space for them to prepare it on the grill (this is especially given that the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema is sized larger than the usual-sized Roti Prata. Noticing how the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema is being prepared, the Prata is first shaped into a ring-like form with a hole in the middle; somewhere in between, the folks will crack the eggs that would eventually become the sunny side-up at the centre. Once done, the Mutton Keema will be plated on one side of the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema with green chillies that adds a tinge of spiciness and a visual contrast. The Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema also comes with a mutton curry that comes with a consistency almost similar to Dhal as well.

Digging into the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema, we really liked how they seemed to have aced the doneness of the sunny side-up just about right here; the egg yolks being all molten and flowy as one pokes them with a fork. The consistency of the Roti Prata is pretty similar to that of plain Roti Prata, though the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema comes with Roti Prata that is heftier than the usual plain ones out there; there is definitely some tension as one pulls the Roti Prata with the fork and spoon — all that with a slightly crisp texture especially around the edges and comes with a fragrance of the dough used. We had initially thought the Mutton Keema to be the most intimidating component here; we were impressed with how they have diced them into small cubes that are almost equally-sized providing a good, consistent bite which was surprisingly not too gamey. In fact, it was the mutton curry that was served on the side which upped the gaminess of the dish for us — perhaps something which was included for those whom would like a stronger note of mutton than what the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema originally comes with. Considering its price at $6.50, we reckon that it might have been more economical to travel into JB for it; this is especially considering that we had given their outlet at Marsiling Lane a go which is almost as near as to the checkpoint that one can get. That being said, if going overseas just isn’t quite your thing or if one resides around Bedok and Punggol and develops huge cravings for the Bird Nest Roti Canai, the Roti Sarang Burung Mutton Keema from An-Nur Shenton Way Famous is as close as it gets to the viral Roti Canai Sarang Burung here!

Hadn’t really been continuing on our hunt for mamak establishments all across the island but we did find ourselves stopping by Al-Afrose Restaurant on one fine day after going around Zion Road Food Centre only to realise there wasn’t anything much that we were craving for there. The initial train of thought was to swing by the always-reliable ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant, though little did we know that they were also at full capacity as well. Al-Afrose Restaurant has been around River Valley for the longest time; often seen as the establishment that is not quite as popular as the more well-patronised ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant that occupies the shophouse located right at the corner. If anything, Al-Afrose Restaurant has always looked slightly more tired than the other establishment that is situated along the same road; while the restaurant sports a blue signboard than attempts to attract the attention of passers-by, the interior decor does veer towards the more traditional mamak stalls that we know — wooden tables with plastic chairs that looked kinda worn out by now. Despite being well-lit, the yellowish lighting used by Al-Afrose Restaurant is also less eye-catching than that of the brighter lights that ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant uses. Al-Afrose Restaurant’s menu is pretty typical to that of any other mamak establishment around — the menu comprises of a large variety of dishes which includes Prata, Murtabak, Dosai & Vadai, Soup, Chops & Steaks, Goreng, Chappathi & Poori and North Indian Cuisine which includes Naan, rice, poultry, seafood and vegetable dishes that works best as communal dishes to be shared across the table. Beverages include the usual suspects; think cordial-based drinks, coffee, tea and fruit juices — just to name a few. Al-Afrose Restaurant does operate another outlet at Bishan, if those staying near the area does find some familiarity in the name.

Since it was our first visit to a mamak establishment after a really long time, we seemed to be really excited to go a little bit crazy with the choices of Prata that we were going to order. Truth to be told, the Prata offerings at Al-Afrose Restaurant aren’t too out of the ordinary like the ones that one can find at establishments such as Springleaf Prata Place, Casuarina Curry or Prata Lahhh! at Hougang; that being said, there are still quite a number of variations of Prata served up here including those that involve the use of cheese, butter and Milo. It wouldn’t be fair not to give their savoury prata a go when we usually would do so at other locations; our choice would be the Chili Onion Prata. It seems that Al-Afrose Restaurant does their filled Prata with a soft and fluffy Prata base that still comes with plenty of tension to tear apart. Filled with slices of green chili padi within, biting on the seeds would evoke a slightly spicier sensation that is likely to send one sweating, though it should not be particularly intimidating to those whom are accustomed to moderate levels of spiciness; the onions adding a zing amidst the crunch that they gave. The curry, despite being a little more watery than we thought, came with a good flavour — also carrying a level of spiciness that would do well with those whom are able to take moderate levels of spiciness. Meanwhile, the Cheese Milo Prata that we had went for came slightly savoury from the slice of processed cheese that was strewn all around the Prata — there was evident traces of mill powder sprinkled atop though the malty cocoa sweetness didn’t quite pull through here perhaps due to the lack of condensed milk; probably not too different from their rendition of the Cheese Prata here. All in all, perhaps we would still prefer ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant when it comes to the Prata — though to be fair, we hadn’t had the Plain version at Al-Afrose Restaurant, and that we were not too impressed by the filled Prata that ZAMAS River Valley Restaurant dishes out as well. No harm trying them out whilst in the neighbourhood nonetheless.

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Was actually in the area for Master Tang's but I had school and couldn't wait for the short but stagnant queue to go shorter (everyone in the queue was having at least one for dine-in and five to takeaway). Didn't know how long has this new Casuarina Curry outlet at Sixth Avenue been opened — it's situated along the stretch where Brazil Churrasco is at; possibly replacing one of the fine dining restaurants. Ordered my usual Plain and Garlic Cheese; the former really depends on how you like your Prata — it's significantly less crisp than the ones served at Springleaf but it's relatively thinner with a more stretchy texture. The Garlic Cheese however was thinner and more crisp than Springleaf's but the garlic and cheese were more concentrated in the middle rather than around the whole Prata — flavour-wise it's almost of the same deal as Springleaf's; stretchy, melted mozzarella cheese used here for ultimate shiokness. Curry was decent; better than most but not quite memorable. Dining environment here is quite different from Springleaf Prata at Rail Mall (which is the most appropriate comparison for this Sixth Avenue outlet) — more like your average prata house with aircon decked in bright shades of orange (their corporate colour), but the aircon is way stronger here and they do have phone reception here as compared to Springleaf's Rail Mall outlet which is non-existent. Food-wise, Casuarina feels like it would come just a little short of Springleaf for me, but I would probably pick Casuarina's Sixth Avenue for its environment any time.

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Hadn't been back to this spot in years — a haunt in my early polytechnic days for Roti Prata and now a convenient spot for a super casual dinner with friends. Hadn't had a single Naan to myself ever before, nor had I had ordered Masala Chicken by myself anyway (very very late boomer to Indian Cuisine here). The Naan closely resembled a Prata-version of a flatbread sitting in between both for texture, though I do think the Naan could have carried the buttery aroma all over rather than just being a puddle of melted oil over the Naan. Masala Chicken represented a thicker Chicken curry — heavier flavours of spices and less intimidating in terms of heat. One thing is for sure though; I am gonna kick off an adventure for more authentic Indian food soon now that I have had my first taste of it!

Up, down and everywhere around for food.

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