Have you ever recommended Muthu’s Curry to friends visiting from abroad? A local legend in Singapore’s food scene, the creator of our famous Fish Head Curry is celebrating its 46th anniversary this year with a Heritage Menu that pays homage to the founder’s birthplace in South India.
I spent my childhood years living in Little India and it goes without saying that curries and Indian food would often find their way to my grandma’s dinner table. My whole family loves spicy food. My mum would not start a meal unless there is a small dish of chilli padi on the table. Whenever I travel, the thing I miss most about home is always chilli padi and chilli sauce. Even after we moved away, spicy food continues to be a family favourite.
Recently, I was invited to Muthu’s Curry for a tasting of their limited-edition, heritage menu. I accepted without hesitation for the nostalgia’s sake. Nope, they are not celebrating SG50. Rather, the restaurant is celebrating its 46th year with a menu that pays homage to the birthplace of its founder – Chettinad, South India.
The menu, named Mannuvasanai (Tamil for “fragrance from the land”), consists of signature and authentic Chettinad dishes, and will be available from 15 June to 31 October 2015 at the Race Course Road flagship restaurant.
This heritage menu consists of 5 dishes, made from traditional recipes that have been passed down for generations. In Chettinad-style dishes, spices such as black pepper, coriander and shallots are featured heavily. You’ll not miss the distinctive punch of the black pepper here! Chettinad cooking also pays a lot of attention to the way the ingredients are sliced and diced. The entire meal is a visual feast of red, orange and yellow – which will definitely stimulate the appetite.
Of the dishes in the Mannuvasanai Menu, I found myself gorging heartily on the Milagu Varutha Kozhi – a chicken dish with peppery notes so powerful, tears started to flow from my eyes. Eaten with rice, it was all I could do to pace myself and eat slowly. I just wanted to keep on eating! There are 2 banana-based dishes in the menu – the Vazhathandu Koota (banana shoots) and Vazhakkai Varruval (shallow-fried unripened bananas) – and these, though spicy, had the effect of adding a hint of sweet roundness to an otherwise fiery meal. Perhaps the item that surprised me the most was the Payasam – a rice pudding that had the appearance of a dal but tasted sweet, coconutty and refreshed my overly stimulated palate.
So, now that I’m fed, I decided to put a lifelong curiosity to rest: Who runs this iconic restaurant that I grew up eating at? I requested for an interview and was informed that the founder, Mr Ayyakkannu, has passed on and it is his son who now runs the business. Lots of people want to read interviews with chefs of the newest restaurants or owners of the coolest hipster cafes … but what about this local legend???! I was curious to find out more.
An interview was then arranged with Mr Visvanaath A., CEO of Muthu’s Curry.
Were you always expected to take over the family business?
Yes, I always knew that I would have to take over the family business.
Did you even once entertain the idea of not taking over the family business?
Well, I have seen my father worked very hard for the business since I was a young boy. I decided very early on that it would be my responsibility to take over. I never had a second thought.
At what age did you start learning how to make Muthu’s famous curries?
My dad was very generous and open about teaching me the ropes of running a restaurant. I picked up all the knowledge on the job, from front of house to cleaning cutlery! He only put me in kitchen and started to train me when I was 20 years old. That was when he began teaching me the fine art of making curries.
What were some of the initial challenges you faced trying to master the craft?
The biggest challenge was being trained by my father who was a perfectionist and he was very precise in his cooking methods. I had to really put my heart and soul into my cooking to get a thumbs up from him.
What are some secrets you can share about making a good curry?
That is a difficult question to answer as cooking is a very soulful experience. A good curry is about getting the right mix of spices, knowing the right cooking time, controlling the fire and of course, our secret recipe.
Have the tastes and expectations of Muthu’s customers changed over the year? In what ways?
The expectations of guests have definitely gone up over time. They are well-travelled and are heavily influenced by social media, which has exponentially increased awareness about the food industry. Dining is no longer about just the food. It has become more of an experience and we are constantly keeping up with trends to satisfy our diners’ cravings. Ultimately however, we still remain true to the ethos of Muthu’s Curry – “Serving passionately since 1969”.
How have you adapted the business to suit the Singapore of today?
When my dad started in 1969, it was a very humble set up serving Fish Head Curry with a very limited menu. Loyal customers came for their favourite curry fix and they enjoyed what they ate. Today, that isn’t enough. Thus, we constantly think of reasons for our customers to keep returning, be it a new dish or new experience. An example is the current Mannuvasanai Heritage Menu promotion that we just introduced – it features authentic Chettinad food, paying homage to my late father’s hometown. We have upgraded our service procedures, and greatly expanded the menu. We are also active on social media – our Facebook page has over 16K likes – and this is instrumental in keeping in touch with the social media savvy customer of today. We enjoy interacting with them in this space as well.
The Mannuvasanai Menu costs $32++ for two and is available from Monday to Friday only at Muthu’s Curry flagship store at Race Course Road. Tel: 6392 1722
Win one of 5 Muthu’s Curry dining vouchers worth $50 each!
[This contest has ended]
We have 5 $50 vouchers from Muthu’s Curry for readers of Go Away looking for their next curry fix! Simply follow the steps below to qualify for this draw:
Deadline: Tuesday 14 July, 6pm
1. LIKE Go Away’s Facebook Page as our contests are only open to our fans.
2. In the COMMENTS section below, ANSWER this question: “Only at what age did Mr. Visvanaath start learning to cook curry?“
3. SHARE this post on your Facebook Wall. Make sure this post is set to PUBLIC so we can verify your entry [see image below for explanation]. If we can’t see you post, we won’t put your name in the draw.