As Confucius said, it is a joy to have friends visit from afar. But it can be a stressful thing too, especially if they come at this time of year. As they’re based in London, there’s no question of taking them to some hipster hole; anyway I don’t inflict hipster holes on my friends.
Fortunately, we still have Little India, crowded and noisy and wonderful, and bearing Komala Vilas just a short distance from the chaos of the main road. The place has given no attention to its decor beyond the bare minimum, to provide its customers with somewhere to sit. Instead its most potent advertisement is the scent that wafts from the kitchen and out the entrance.
Without pressure from friends I don’t tend to check out vegetarian places, which is inexplicably stupid. Indian vegetarian food is a skilful transformation game, taking the asceticism of its ingredients and working every techniqueto turn them into something luxurious.
So it is with the dosai set. Teasingly tangy from the fermentation of rice batter, the thin dosai still has different textures, retaining a little stretch and give on its inside. Where it meets the grill, it’s crisp but still a little moist. But it’s everything around the pancake that is most exciting, even if I don’t exactly know what anything is. There are turmeric-hued potatoes and long beans; lentils just waiting to dissolve in the mouth.
Then there are the sauces. Floury chickpeas fill one yellow soup; another blends cooling yogurt with the aroma of sweated onions. My favourite, though, is the sweet white gloop filled with pomelo, peanuts and almonds.
Komala Vilas is nothing new, of course. Quite the opposite – the main outlet on Serangoon Road is literally as old as the modern state of India. But the apparent humility of the ingredients they cook up is itself humbling, even if it is not exactly healthy stuff.
Filled with several kinds of carbs, lots of sugars and fats, I nonetheless feel a lightness in my step heading out (and it wasn’t the wallet that was lightened, either). It’s probably all in the mind. But the mind is itself a formidable thing.
12-14 Buffalo Road
Contact no.: 6293 3664
Hours: Daily, 8am – 10.30pm