Must eat Singapore: Indian food at Banana Leaf Apolo
Sampling delicious Indian food at the iconic Banana Leaf Apolo was top of my list of ‘must-eat’s on my recent trip to Singapore. Authentic and fresh meals, packed full of flavour. The Banana Leaf Apolo did not disappoint.
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After watching youtuber and food blogger Mark Wiens post about his experience eating fish head curry at Banana Leaf Apolo, and seeing how insanely good he found it, I knew that this was somewhere that I had to eat at and experience for myself.
The restaurant is right in the heart of Little India in Singapore, surrounded by local markets and busy businesses, that demand that the food served here be exceptional. As the market for food is so competitive in Singapore, only the strongest and best survive. I’ve always judged a restaurant on two things – how many people are there, and what ethnicity those people are. For example if I see Japanese people eating at Japanese restaurant in Japan then I’ll know that the food is up to standard. What delighted me about Banana Leaf Apolo was that during its lunch hour it was packed with locals and members of the Indian community all tucking in to the food. That was the signal that this was going to be excellent!!
The menu offers a range of Indian dishes that are bound to please hungry eaters- with seafood, vegetarian, curries, sambals and roti all being well represented on the menu. Banana Leaf Apolo has been open since 1974, and has stuck with it’s original premise that all foods as served on a banana leaf instead of plates. Many diners tuck in with their hands in the traditional way of eating curries. What I appreciated about this restaurant was that the kitchens were all on display. You could walk up and watch the chefs prepare your meals. There was also separate kitchens for meat products, so vegetarians are assured that there meals haven’t come into contact with any meat products.
Banana Leaf Apolo is most famous for their fish head curry. A local delicacy that packs together flavours from cuisines such as Malaysian, Chinese, Peranakan and Indian. The head of a red snapper is cooked in a thick curry. It’s very popular, and supposedly delicious! This was the dish I was planning to eat at the Banana Leaf Apolo, but unfortunately on that particular day I wasn’t feeling particularly hungry and as my fella doesn’t eat seafood I would have had to eat the entire dish myself. Usually not a problem, but on that day I felt like I couldn’t, and the thought of wasting such an incredible dish wasn’t an option. Luckily there are plenty of other delicious options that I could try and share with the fella, so not all was lost.
We ordered a few dishes to share, and boy did we choose well!
First thing to arrive was the ceremonial placing of the banana leaf, or plate, which was then topped with a serve of rice that had been lightly fragranced with saffron, and two vegetarian curries. A tomato based one which was spotted with mustard seeds, and a coconut base, again with mustard seeds and large chunks of red chilli. Both were well balanced and very flavourful without being overly spicy. There was also a bowl of chicken curry sauce, which had big chunks of eggplant and chilli in it. This curry sauce is best liberally served over the saffron rice.
The chicken masala was a dry type of curry, as it wasn’t as liquid based as the other curry sauce. The chicken was thickly coated with this moist curry, packed with curry leaves, onions and other spices. The chicken itself was fall apart tender, and was still very juicy. I found the perfect combo when I would eat the chicken pieces, then chase it down with a spoonfull of the curry drenched rice. Delicious!
Tandori chicken is a personal favourite of mine. My dad use to work in an Indian restaurant during his uni days, and the flavours have always stuck with him. I was pretty solidly raised on Indian curries and marinated meats as a major element in my diet. My dad does make a mean tandoori chicken, and it’s my absolute favourite. The big draw card for me to the tandoori chicken at Banana Leaf Apolo is that they have a tandoor oven which helps produce the unique smokey flavour.
The chicken tandoori here was insanely good. The meat was succulent and juicy, but still retained it authentic spice factor, notably of of garam masala, ginger, garlic, cayenne pepper, cumin and other spices. I loved that the chicken had some crispy burnt bits on the side, from the high direct heat of the tandoor oven, which gave it incredible flavour. Served along with lime for a zing of citrus freshness and some pickled vegestables. This was a winning combo!
Eating at Banana Leaf Apolo was one of the food highlights of my trips to Singapore. The food was exceptional- brilliant, strong, authentic flavours. It’s clearly a popular place with tourists and locals alike, and it’s absolutely worth the hype. An absolute must-eat in Singapore!