Honest. Simple. Homely. Flavourful. These words came to mind when I tried Podi & Poriyal for the very first time. I’ve been back since and my view hasn’t changed. Just a few months old, Podi & Poriyal is unlike other South-Indian restaurants around Singapore in that it offers authentic, healthy, home-cooked South-Indian food instead of popular dishes like dosas and uttapams. Don’t get me wrong, I love dosas but authentic Tamil cuisine is a different experience altogether.
The restaurant is driven by the desire to share Tamil culture through food. The owners are passionate about their culture, and it reflects in the menu. The cuisine at Podi & Poriyal finds its root in heirloom foods from the small towns of Tamil Nadu, cooked using traditional methods. The space is warm and inviting with traditional South-Indian touches visible in the décor and furnishings.
The Menu at Podi & Poriyal
Before we talk about the menu, let’s talk about the name. Podi is a spiced powder that is made by grinding dry spices like chilli, sesame, lentils, chickpeas, etc. Tamilians traditionally use it as a condiment to be mixed with rice, along with a pouring of ghee or oil. Podi & Poriyal offers 2 different podis daily, with bottles of ghee and gingelly oil (a variety of sesame oil). Poriyal denotes a vegetable stir-fry, usually cooked with coconut and curry leaves. As P&P is a vegetarian restaurant, Poriyal is an absolutely essential part of the meal.
The menu at Podi & Poriyal changes daily. If you’ve never had authentic South Indian food before, you likely won’t understand the dishes on offer. I invited a Tamil friend to join me on my second visit so she could explain the dishes and walk me through the meal.
Going back to the menu, there are a few a-la-carte dishes available for ordering, on any day. Of these, one would be Dessert of the Day and another would be Vadai of the Day. Vadai is a savoury fried snack made from lentils and shaped like a small doughnut. Vadais at Podi & Poriyal are fried fresh for every order. Some of the other dishes that might be available from time to time by rotation are Idli Sambar, Millet Pongal, Millet Upma, Vegetable Rava Upma, Kanchipuram Idli and Millet Khichdi, to name a few. Millets have been a part of Tamil culture for the longest time, and Podi & Poriyal uses 6 different types of millets in their dishes.
Millet Upma is a take on the traditional Upma – which is a popular thick porridge like dish cooked from dry-roasted semolina – cooked with Kodo Millet and tempered with onion, roasted lentils and mustard seeds. I loved the upma, especially the rich coconut flavour. One of my favourite dishes here, the upma is served with Sambar and 2 chutneys.
Millet Pongal (S$10.50) and Millet Khichdi are somewhat similar but they’re made with different kinds of millets – both are like a porridge made with millet and lentils but Millet Khichdi, made using Barnyard Millet, is also loaded with vegetables like corn, peas, carrots and tomatoes.
We live in Singapore, so Idli & Sambar need no introduction. Podi & Poriyal serves Idli w/ Homestyle Sambar, the idlis are soft, fresh and spongy, and taste amazing, I couldn’t get enough!
Moving on, the Chef’s Plate (S$25) is a platter offering 7 dishes served with rice/millet and papadum. The dishes change daily and the plate is curated every day for experiential dining. You can expect some standard dishes in the meal – the platter always has a Rasam, which is a soup-like appetiser made with ingredients like tamarind, tomato, spices, lentils and vegetables. There will also always be a Sambar or another lentil dish, Vadai, a Poriyal, Curd aka yogurt and Dessert.
On my last visit there, my platter offered a special Sambar made with black eyed beans and eggplant. There was also Pidi Karunai Vadakkal – a dish of fried yams, and Keerai Kootu – a lentil stew with spinach. I really enjoyed the Sambar. It was different from any Sambar I’ve had before. The fried yams were also great and I remember that on a previous visit, I couldn’t get enough of the Fried Okra that was on the day’s platter. Dessert of the day was Rava Urundai, which is a dessert made with semolina.
The platter is served with rice or millet, as per your preference, and free refills are available for everything except the Vadai and Dessert.
As of now, there is only one drink served at Podi & Poriyal, South-Indian Filter Coffee – you won’t find colas or sugary drinks here, once again reminding you that Podi & Podiyal isn’t just about the taste of the food but also the health aspect of it. They don’t use artificial colours, preservatives, MSG, or any aluminium vessels. All preparations are fresh with no microwaving involved. They also do not use white salt, refined sugar, palm oil or refined oils; rock salt, coconut sugar, raw sugar and jaggery are used instead. Also worth noting is that Podi & Poriyal is a low-Gluten restaurant, several of their dishes are Gluten-Free.
Know Before you Go
Podi & Poriyal is an offering from Arpanam Pte Ltd, a social enterprise, started by the Nadathur Family in Singapore. Arpanam aims to provide enriching experiences that celebrate Indian culture, art, traditions and customs. The warm vibe of the place welcomes you with open arms and helps create beautiful memories. All profits at Arpanam are redirected back to society towards the welfare of migrant workers here. They also have an event space where they intend to host events that promote the south indian arts, support local artisans and cultural programs in the best way possible.
Before you make plans to head over, do note that as of now the restaurant only opens for lunch Wednesdays to Sundays and Public Holidays. They are closed Mondays and Tuesdays and do not open for dinner.
Verdict and Vegan-Friendly Factor
A great dining experience altogether! Healthy, authentic, tasty dishes using fresh, premier, ingredients – what more could you ask for? The staff are pleasant and friendly, they will give you a run-down on the dishes and guide you through the meal. Although Podi & Poriyal is a vegetarian restaurant, vegans should take note that ghee is used in several of the dishes. However, upon prior request, they can make most of the dishes without ghee. We highly recommend making a reservation a day or two prior to heading down here, please inform them of your dietary restrictions at the time. The Chef’s Plate always comes with yogurt and a dessert that would most likely contain dairy. Both dishes can be substituted with other dishes upon request.
Podi & Poriyal: 486, Serangoon Rd., Singapore 218151. P: 97112400. Website
Founder and Editor-in-Chief of EatRoamLive, Pooja’s enthusiasm for food and travelling is palpable from the variety and intensity with which she writes. A traveller at heart and a big-time foodie who is vegan, EatRoamLive was incepted with her desire to create a resource aimed at making dining out fun, and not restrictive, for veg(etari)ans. Not just (solely) veg(etari)an restaurants, she marks out places that serve sumptuous food with enough meat-free options. A hands-on mum to 3 young kids, the former architect and interior designer has her hands full juggling her love for writing, travelling and home.