My search for the best dahl & garlic naan came about totally by accident.
My first night in Singapore, I decided to go to Little India for dinner as it is only a short 130 bus ride away. The only point in Little India I knew of was the Mustafa Centre, (thanks to both Marg & Sean)
The bus driver was fantastic because I had no idea where the Mustafa Centre was nor even what it looked like and consequently had no idea where to get off. However when it came to my stop, he stopped the bus and turned around in his seat to find me and gestured to me that this was my stop! I was so impressed as I have never had so much help from any bus driver in Australia. However I realised once I had hit the ground, that I had no idea where to go from that point! So I just headed off to see if I could wing it. I had fun walking around looking at the buildings and the people. Eventually I realised that I was hopelessly lost and had lost my sense of direction. I asked a lady walking past for some help and all she said to me was, “Follow me!”, so I did. However after a while she started asking questions & guess what the first one was! “Are you by yourself?” I smothered a smile as I told her I was traveling alone. We wound our way through the back streets of LIttle India and just as it began to rain, we came upon the intersection where the Mustafa Centre is situated. She turned and said to me, “Here it is. Goodbye.” and then vanished into the crowd! I have no idea if that was where she was heading or if she had taken a detour just for me!
It was Sunday evening and the Mustafa Centre was so crowded I could barely squeeze through the aisles. There were people of all nationalities, both locals & tourists. Apparently their souvenirs are well priced! After exploring the Mustafa Centre, I headed out onto the street again at what I thought was the same entrance I had entered from however soon realised it was a totally different exit. The idea of reentering the melee was totally unappealing, so I thought I would just follow the building around until I reached a familiar point.
While in theory this sounded like a good plan, I had no idea before I began, just how far the Mustafa Centre sprawled. After a while, I found a major street and feeling hungry decided to find somewhere to eat. I stumbled upon an outdoor Indian hawker place which smelled absolutely delicious, so headed inside to see what was on offer. A young girl approached me and asked me what I would like. I ordered rice and vegetables which arrived with a small polystyrene dish of dahl all served on a brown piece of paper covering a plastic tray.
The vegetables were okay but the clear winner was the dahl. It was so delicious. I returned to the hotel planning to return to Little India again just for the dahl!
The following day, I was still determined to return to Little India for the dahl, so once again, I hopped on the 130 bus and asked the bus driver for a ticket to the Mustafa Centre. Once again, as we got closer to the stop I needed, the bus driver helped me. This driver was even more helpful than the previous driver. He called me to the front of the bus and this time, he pointed to the street I needed to find the Mustafa Centre! So with no trouble at all, I was able to retrace my steps to the Mustafa Centre. However once there, it became obvious that I had no idea where to go next to retrace my steps to the place I’d eaten the delicious dahl the previous day. So, as it was early, I decided that not only would I search for the dahl, but would also enjoy the sights of Little India.
Off I went and walked around and around Little India,
past Hindu temples,
until it was after 6pm, By this time I was worried that it would get dark and I would have trouble finding my way back to the hotel, so decided to stop at the next place I found.
I soon came across a hawker area that had several chairs and tables both inside and out with about 4 seller areas inside. Each seller had a kitchen area behind a glass cabinet full of food available to buy. The whole set up was very familiar to a Masakan Padang style warung in Indonesia. As soon as I started walking past each of the sellers, I was bombarded with questions about what food I was looking for and what suggestions they had. One of the sellers offered me a garlic naan for $1.50. I asked for dahl and before I knew it, I was told to sit down and wait. I chose a seat outside as it was mainly young Indian men inside socialising over a cup of milk coffee/tea. While waiting I watched the pigeons. They were happy to finish off any left overs! I was soon served with my naan and dahl. The dahl was served in a plastic bowl and the naan on a paper plate. I was starving hungry and that dahl and freshly cooked naan was even more delicious than the dahl from the previous day. It was just the right consistency, just the right amount of spice and just the right amount too for one naan. The naan too was amazing. Crisp on the bottom, soft with enormous air bubbles on the top and covered in a salty garlic topping. It was so delicious and totally replaced the first dahl from the previous days meal as the best dahl I’d ever eaten. Again I returned to the hotel reliving that delicious meal, determined to return again and this time with my camera.
All the next day, I thought and thought about that delicious meal and by dinner time, I couldn’t wait to get another bus to Little India to have it all over again except this time I was going to order 2 garlic naan. I headed out early Tuesday, knowing that it wasn’t going to be easy. I combed the streets with no luck. I passed shops selling saris,
I eventually realised that I should just stop any where and see if I could find somewhere else. This time though, being 5pm, several of the places I went into said they didn’t start cooking naan until after 6pm. Was that to do with the start of Ramadan? I didn’t want to wait till 6pm, so I persevered until I finally found somewhere that made naan. As I put my order in, I sat down and carefully took stock of my surroundings.
The dahl was delicious, but very runny. The naan was delicious too, but wasn’t as crisp as the previous night. All up, I gave it 7/10 and thus began my search for the best dahl and garlic naan.
The next night, Wednesday, I repeated the now nightly ritual and headed to Little India to either rediscover the 10/10 dahl & garlic naan or find a new place. I started later than usual, after a fantastic walking tour, retracing the fall of Singapore during WW2. By 7pm, the mosque steps were so full of shoes that the footpath too was covered. On the streets, as usual in Little India, there were many more men than women. I found it difficult to find somewhere that had a spare table. Again, there were many groups of men socialising over coffee or tea. I eventually found a place just across the road from the mosque on Seranggoon Road. I put my order in for 2 garlic naan and dahl and found a seat where I could watch the people seated on the lawned area next to the mosque and the hoards of both tourists and locals passing by on the footpath. My naan and dahl arrived.
It too got 7/10. The dahl lacked spice and the naan while delicious, wasn’t garlicky enough! I was disappointed because time was running out.
It looked as though I would return to Indonesia without being able to eat again the most delicious dahl & garlic naan. I headed back to the bus stop on Kitchener Street. Instead of cutting through the back streets as I usually did, I stuck to Seranggon Rd and walked along it until I came to where it intersected with Kitchener Street. I turned the corner and headed up towards my bus stop. I hadn’t gone far when out of habit, glanced up a side street and couldn’t believe my eyes! There was the actual place I had been searching for over the last few days! I was full, otherwise I would have sat right down there and then and ordered some more naan and dahl! So instead, I promised myself I would come back for lunch the next day. I couldn’t wait!
Guess what! It was so worth it! I had started to wonder if I had built it all up in my mind and that it was no better or worse than the others I’d eaten. I eagerly set out at lunch time today and it was amazing being able to head straight there and not spend hours searching! I put my order in and then again sat outside to wait for it.
It was just as delicious as I’d remembered it to be. The dahl was just the right amount of spiciness and consistency while the naan was crispy on the bottom with just the right amount of salt and garlic on the top. 10/10 and worth the search!
Here are my last photos from Little India to rememeber the best dahl & garlic naan I have ever eaten there: