This is part of a new series where we rediscover the overlooked gems in our sunny little island. Each article will focus on a culturally-rich place in Singapore, and we’ll show you what’s fun and exciting there!
An insider’s guide to Little India
When we think of Little India, Hindu temples, crowded streets, and value deals from Mustafa comes to mind for most of us. But beyond those things, there lies a great deal of beauty that we’ve yet to explore – here’s a list of gems that we’ve uncovered in Little India:
1. A giant walk-in wardrobe at Tekka Center
If you agree that you can’t ever have too many clothes, head over to Tekka Center, where a whole myriad of colourful sari shops lie hidden. Keep a lookout for Better Choices, which has been around for over 20 years, and carries not just the usual shimmery pastels and bright florals – they also have designs that no other stalls have, including velvet tops of dark rich shades.
They also import their clothes directly from Bombay every month, and has 3 types of fabric for you to choose from – cotton, chiffon, and silk. Prices start from as low as $6 for a blouse and go up to $150 for an intricately-designed long dress, which is actually a steal for 100% silk if you do the math!
Plus, not to worry if the clothes don’t fit nicely. They have exclusive discounts with a tailor that’s also in the same building, and you’ll be able to stitch on sleeves for a mere $4, or tighten the entire dress for just $15.
Address: #02-137, Tekka Center, 665 Buffalo Road, Singapore 210665
Opening Hours: 11AM – 9PM Daily
2. Quality leather goods that are custom-made
If you belong to camp “quality over quantity”, you’ll love Rugged Gentlemen Shoppe, an unexpected find in Little India where you can shop for handmade quality leather goods, whether it’s a classic gentleman-style briefcase, a rugged biker wallet, or a crocodile embossed handbag.
A wide range of leather is used, including premium and rare leathers, elegant Shell Cordovan leathers, and even durable Vegetable-Tanned leathers for those who have a soft spot for ageing and patina effects!
Those into leather crafting can also purchase leather crafting tools, and other services provided include repair and restoration of leather products, and them hemming of jeans.
Address: 8 Perak Road, Singapore 208129
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 12PM – 8PM
Telephone: 6396 4568
3. Henna haven at Selvi’s Beauty Salon
There’s something about henna art that we can’t get enough of, be it the intricate designs or the fact that it allows us to experience what it’s like to have a gorgeous tattoo. Choose from a range of designs at Selvi’s Beauty Salon, or draw your own to get one that is uniquely yours!
Small palm-sized designs cost just $5, and more elaborate ones will cost $10 – $20, depending on the size.
What’s more, Selvi’s take great pride in their henna art, and uses henna that’s specially ordered and imported all the way from India. The lady boss herself has over 18 years of experience in henna drawing, and makes sure to train all her staff personally too!
Address: #01-23, Little India Arcade, 48 Serangoon Road, Singapore 217959
Opening Hours: Mon – Sat: 9AM – 8.30PM | Sun: 9AM – 5PM
Telephone: 6297 5322
4. Traditional candy at Ganesan Villas Sweets & Savouries
For those of you who have a sweet tooth, you’ll love Ganesan Villas Sweets & Savouries, which sells an endless selection of traditional Indian sweets and bakes. Freshly made in-house according to age-old recipes, almost all their sweets are priced affordably at just $1.50 per piece.
Also available are Indian snacks like packets of Murukku and Masala peanuts!
Look out for classics like jalebi, coconut candy, and ghee balls.
Ghee and chickpea flour are ingredients commonly used in most Indian sweets, and local favourites you’ll want to try include the sweet and tangy Jalebi, which are chickpea flour deep-fried and soaked in sugar syrup.
Laddu on the left, jalebi on the right.
If you aren’t too fond of sweets, give the Laddu a try – it’s savoury and crumbly without being dry, and tastes almost like a mix between a muruku and a muffin.
Address: #01-08, Little India Arcade, 48 Serangoon Road, Singapore 217959
Opening Hours: 9AM – 9.30PM Daily
Telephone: 6297 5457
5. A rare and minty experience of a lifetime
If you’re an adventurous soul who loves to try all things exotic, give the paan a try – made by wrapping areca nut and slaked lime in betel leaf, it’s traditionally consumed as a mouth freshener and even as a digestive aid. Occasionally treated as a delicacy, this minty snack can almost only be bought from street vendors!
One such street vendor lies hidden in front of Boishakhi Restaurant, and sells paan for just $1. As we watched the owner prepare our first betel leaf ever, we found out that coconut cloves, honey rose petal spread, mint leaves, and hard candies were also added to enhance the flavour.
Chucking the whole leaf into our mouths as instructed, the taste needed some getting used to because of the incredibly minty punch it packs and peculiar bitter after-taste. Still, it is a once in a lifetime experience to have!
Address: 18 Desker Road, Singapore 209556
Opening Hours: Best to head down during the afternoon
6. A refreshing pit stop along Minora Centre
Quench your thirst with freshly squeezed fruit juices and coconuts from this fruit stall when the weather gets hot! Hidden underneath a sign that reads “MINORA CAFE”, the fruit stall imports new batches of fruits daily, and sells them at a steal – a basket of 5 – 6 apples goes for just $2, and you can buy them individually at only 40 cents too.
We recommend the Malaysian coconut – at just $3, it’s full of refreshing coconut juice and has plenty of tender coconut flesh! The staff will also gladly separate the flesh from the husk so that it’s easier for you to eat, so don’t be shy and just ask away!
Address: Side of Minora Centre, 202 Serangoon Rd, Singapore 218069
7. The vibrant beauty and photo-worthy walls of Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple
Not visiting the Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple when you’re in Little India is almost akin to a trip wasted – beautifully designed and filled with vibrant colours, detailed sculptures, and a whole orchestra of prayers, chants, and music, it’s the perfect place to immerse yourself in Singapore’s Indian culture.
If you’re interested, make sure to catch their daily prayer session at 5.30PM! Feel free to snap away with your camera, but make sure you do so politely and abide by their rules. Don’t worry if you aren’t dressed in long sleeves and pants as well, because saris and skirts are provided by the temple’s entrance.
Plus, it doesn’t hurt that the temple also has fantastic walls to take photos with – the bold red and white stripes makes for a perfect backdrop!
Address: 141 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218042
Opening Hours: 5.30AM – 9.30PM Daily
Telephone: 6293 4634
8. An unexpected hipster cafe at Desker Road
Cafe-hoppers, tucked away on Desker Road is CreatureS, a Peranakan-inspired cafe that serves experimental local-Western fusion dishes! Known for their decadent Chocolate Cake ($18/slice) and Signature Durian Cake ($12/slice) that’s made almost entirely with Mao Shan Wang durian flesh, it’s chic and urban-looking with relaxing vibes thanks to artfully placed pots of greenery.
Other signature dishes include the Baba Babi Pongteh ($24) and Miso Cod & Ulam Onigiri ($40), which is only available for a certain period of time because of the limited amount of Chilean codfish that they import daily to ensure its freshness. Apart from that, the seasonal menu switches every 3-4 months, so you can be sure that you’ll always be in for a surprise every time you head back!
As an added bonus, the cafe also has an alfresco dining area, which makes for perfect dinner dates!
Address: 120 Desker Road, Singapore 209639
Opening Hours: Tues – Thurs, Sun: 12PM – 10PM | Friday – Saturday: 12PM – 11PM
Telephone: 6291 6996
9. South Indian cuisine served old-school style
When you’re starting to feel a little peckish from all that walking, drop by Gandhi Restaurant for a meal. Having been around for more than 40 years, it’s a humble eatery that still serves South-Indian cuisine old-school style, with servers walking around carrying trays of food that are dished out onto banana leaves.
A popular haunt for many locals, the basic set meal starts with a generous helping of Thali rice, followed by 3 different kinds of vegetable dishes and a crispy papadum. You’ll then choose between fish curry or daal (lentil-based) curry, which will be literally scooped out from a bucket!
Give the mutton stomach and mutton liver a try as well – it’s a traditional delicacy that isn’t commonly served anymore!
Address: 31 Chander Road, Singapore 219538
Opening Hours: Mon – Fri: 11AM – 4PM, 6PM – 11PM | Sat – Sun: 11AM – 11PM
Telephone: 6299 5343
10. Authentic chapati from a 45-year old stall
For something a little less heavy, settle down at Azmi Restaurant, a no-frills eatery that’s the real deal for some authentic chapati, or unleavened flatbread. Baked fresh right in front of your eyes, the restaurant stays true to the traditional cooking method and uses only wheat and water, unlike most places that now add oil.
Perfectly grilled and slightly charred, each chapati ($0.90) is light and fluffy, and goes amazingly well with yet another of their signature dish, keema ($3.40). Fragrant and satisfyingly hearty, it consists of mutton curry, peas, minced meat, and a secret ingredient of their own – make sure to try it for yourself!
Address: 166 Serangoon Road, Singapore 218050
Opening Hours: 7.30AM – 10.15PM Daily
Telephone: 9428 0203