Food Picks: Thosai with a royal twist, fried Chinese snacks

(Clockwise from top left) Puttu mayam, plain appam, Princess Appam and Royal Thosai at Heavens. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Thosai with a royal twist

Heavens, an Indian food stall at 20 Ghim Moh Road Market & Food Centre, serves an unforgettable Royal Thosai ($5).

Despite sitting through a photo shoot, the thosai remains crispy and its filling of crunchy red onion, tender masala potato, melted cheddar cheese and butter retains heat. It makes for a satisfying meal.

The stall also offers a fancier version of appam - Princess Appam ($3.50 a piece), which comes with melted cheese and butter.

Madam Muthuletchmi Veerapan started the stall in 1996 selling vegetarian cooked food. She switched to thosai, appam and putu mayam the following year, using family heirloom recipes handed down from her mother.

A decade ago, she came up with the Princess Appam and Royal Thosai to add flair to her menu and attract younger customers.

The 59-year-old has since handed over the reins to her son Daniel Surendran, 35, but still helps out at the stall twice weekly.

The batter for the thosai and appam are prepared from scratch daily.

For the thosai, urad dal (black lentils) and ponni rice are soaked, then ground into a paste that is fermented for eight hours. The appam batter, made with ponni rice, contains coconut milk and is also fermented for eight hours. Both batters are seasoned with salt.

The resulting dishes are incredibly tasty on their own. But the accompanying chutneys, also prepared in-house, add new flavour dimensions.

The red tomato and chilli chutney packs a spicy punch, while the white coconut one is well-textured from fresh grated coconut.

Royal Thosai (left) and Princess Appam was added to the menu a decade ago to attract younger customers. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

I am infatuated with the plain appam ($3 for two pieces). I have always thought of appam as a sweet food that goes with red sugar and fresh grated coconut. Heavens' plain appam, served with red sugar and grated coconut by default, goes so well with the savoury chutneys too.

The appam is cooked in custom-made cast-iron pans, which are slightly larger and deeper than standard store-bought pans.

To best enjoy the appam, eat it right away. The sides of the flying saucer-like pancake are crispy when it is fresh out of the pan. But unlike the thosai, it loses its crispness as it cools. The soft spongy middle remains tender, though.

Fans of putu mayam can get their fix here at $2.50 for two pieces. The string hoppers, which are made from rice flour and are from a central kitchen, are tender.  I like the fresh taste of the grated coconut. The red sugar is also soft and dry.

Where: Heavens, 01-26, 20 Ghim Moh Road Market & Food Centre, 20 Ghim Moh Road
MRT: Buona Vista
Open: Tuesdays to Sundays, 6am to noon; closed on Mondays

Fried heritage snacks

Carrot finger, yam cubes, prawn cake and carrot cake at Dong Jin Yuan Dian Xin. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

I have never been a fan of carrot cake, but I could not stop munching on the carrot fingers ($3 for 15 pieces) from Dong Jin Yuan Dian Xin in Hougang.

A year ago, Mr Nicholas Neo, 46, took over the running of the hawker stall from his father, who started it some 40 years ago. But he has kept closely to his father's recipes. The older Mr Neo still helps out daily at the stall in the early morning.

The snacks are deep-fried in small batches, using customised cast-iron baskets, and do not taste as greasy as expected.

The exterior of each crinkle-cut carrot finger is extremely crispy, with a creamy melt-in-the-mouth interior. You can taste the radish in each piece.

If you want the full-on flavour of the radish, go for the whole carrot cake (80 cents a piece, with a minimum order of two pieces).

The snacks are deep-fried in small batches, using customised cast-iron baskets. ST PHOTO: HEDY KHOO

Early last month, Mr Nicholas Neo introduced a new item - yam cubes ($3 for 10 pieces), inspired by the yam cake his father used to sell 30 years ago.

The cubes are the size of mahjong tiles. The crispy exterior encases a soft tender interior - similar in texture to the carrot cake.

The stall also sells prawn cake ($1 a piece, with a minimum order of two pieces). Each comes with one or two small sea prawns. The prawn cake is chewy and slightly dense, with a pancake-like texture.

Where: Dong Jin Yuan Dian Xin, 02-04, Hougang 105 Hainanese Village Centre, 105 Hougang Avenue 1
MRT: Kovan
Open: Tuesdays to Fridays, 4 to 11am; weekends and public holidays, 4am to 12.30pm; closed on Mondays

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