Little India is not usually the first place that comes to mind whenever one is hungry for a midnight supper. Most of the neighborhood’s stores would have darkened their lights, vacated by tourists and locals alike. One of the oldest parts or Singapore that hasn’t been given a major rehaul within the decade, its preserved authenticity and charm also means it can get pretty grimy and seedy when dark, made even made more pleasant by its night inhabitants of roaches and rats, free to roam after the day’s humans have gone to bed.

Still, Little India remains one of my favorite locales. In addition to be being one of the few authentic places left in Singapore, it was where I spent my first few years in theatre and of course made good memories with young and W!LD. Strange how even though we would supper quite often after our sessions, we never did quite discover the rich cuisine available just beyond Kerbau, in eateries mere minutes away and serving much better food in a more comfortable environment than some of the farther places we would travel to.

After performing one day, and on my whine that “I want to eat Indian food today!” So Indian culture aficionado, O, brought us to an eatery/restaurant along Syed Alwi Road, one of his favorites. Called Baanu Restaurant, it’s easy to spot because it’s opposite the newest wing of the infamous and enormous 24-hour shopping complex called Mustafa.

The Outside

The eatery serves North and South Indian food but our primary reason for going was to have lanjiao prata…I mean lancha lacha prata, a baked kind of prata. O had raved about how good it was and with a name like that, we just had to try it. Unfortunately, we were too early, they only start selling lanjiao lacha after 1pm. Nonetheless, we were quite happy to try the rest of the food. S and I had the dum bryani chicken, the others had regular prata. We also shared a couple of curries.

To be honest, I wasn’t too impressed with the bryani, though it was good. I have had better dum bryani. Dum bryani is usually made by cooking basmatic rice, spices and the chicken/mutton in the same container, usually a small pot called a dum. While Baanu’s was served in a small dum, it wasn’t cooked in the small dum, but in a larger vat. Somehow the flavours aren’t as strong when bryani is cooked in a large vat. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t bad but it wasn’t the best bryani I’ve had.

The butter marsala chicken on the other hand was excellent. It was creamy (but not too overwhelming) and bursting with the flavours of what must be the spices for the gods, and of course the chicken was jubilant and juicy. It was so good we had to ask for extra gravy…and because O batted his eyelids, we got it. Why did we need extra gravy? Well, because the regular prata WAS EXCELLENT. Crispy on the outside, just the right amount of goo on the inside, and simply artery clogging gorgeousness. I could have married it.
All in all the food was just so excellent, the curries were good and did not disappoint. What made it a better meal was that the dining environment was reasonably pleasant. The staff were friendly, although I think it was mainly because O was a regular customer. The air-conditioning was cold enough, and ventilation worked which meant we weren’t sitting in cooking residue like a lot of the other Little India restaurants – two very important factors especially if you are coming from a sweaty rehearsal room and all you want is air-conditioning.
So what about this lacha prata? Well, we left the restaurant after our first visit swearing that we WILL return to try this by now purposefully mispronounced prata. And 1 month later we did. This time we returned at 11pm with the sole purpose of putting lacha into our mouths, to savor and suck on its decadence.

Unfortunately for the lacha (the right prata in the picture), I think we had worked up such an appetite for it in our imaginations that when it was finally delivered, it just tasted like well…what it was…baked prata. It had the texture of a dense naan. BUT I must say, you could taste the difference between a regular naan and the lacha. Made from prata dough, the presence of the tasty tangy ghee made it special and because it was baked, lacha felt like a healthier version of your regular pan fried prata. It still was quite excellent despite our over-hyped expectations.

Nevertheless, go ahead and give Baanu a try. It’s quite a little gem of a place and while you’re there, do put some lancha in your mouth 🙂

Banuu is located at 82 Syed Alwai Road. Parking is a challenge but possible. By public transport, the closest MRT would be Farrer Park on the North East Line.

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