Review: A deep dive into Indian heritage cuisine at the newly-revamped Yantra

Sorry, Indian food snobs, but it is ok, even encouraged, to order the butter chicken at the newly-revamped Yantra.

The Indian restaurant at Tanglin Mall reopened its doors earlier this month after a renovation and a menu reworked by Indian food historian and activist Pritha Sen.

Sen is a former journalist who champions what she calls indigenous heritage cuisine. Her decades-long work in sustainable livelihoods led her to research and document the history of native cuisines, which now serves her in her role as consultant for award-winning restaurants in India such as Mustard.

At Yantra, Sen’s impressive range of knowledge has spawned a wealth of dishes from the Indian subcontinent, from lesser-known recipes coaxed out of village grandmothers to dishes served in royal households.

Pritha Sen (Image credit: Yantra)
Pritha Sen (Image credit: Yantra)

Bring redemption to your snooty foodie friend by force-feeding them Yantra’s butter chicken, or Purani Dilli Murg Makhani. The cashew and tomato gravy is spellbindingly rich without being cloying, and a tribute to the original form created by chef and restaurateur Kundan Lal Gujral during post-Partition Delhi. “His recipe didn’t have cream, which most restaurants use today,” Sen said.

Chaat Banarasi, another dish found widely in Indian restaurants here, is turned into fiery puffs of potato and chickpea fritters tempered by airy yoghurt. Kathi rolls are transformed into Nizam’s Kathi Kebabs, or tiny discs of chewy dough with smoky mutton and a bright mint sauce.

Chaat Banarasi (Image credit: Yantra)
Chaat Banarasi (Image credit: Yantra)

Sen’s hand is the most intriguing in dishes rarely found in Singapore. Ema Datshi is a punchy chilli cheese soup from the Himalayas that is traditionally prepared by women livestock holders, according to Sen. Her version is revitalised by sambal and calamansi, and deserves to be mopped up by a side of Tibetan steamed bread called tingmo.

Nimona is a stew from the northern Uttar Pradesh state made with sweet green peas and fried cauliflower florets. At Yantra, it is decorated with goina bori, an elaborately shaped lentil crisp traditionally made by Bengali widows, and it takes on the gravy’s earthy flavours. Haleem Rashmi, which was brought to India by Arab traders, is simply dressed with pulled jackfruit, cracked wheat, and red lentils, yet carries so much depth.

Nimona (Image credit: Yantra)
Nimona (Image credit: Yantra)

The haleem forms an automatic bond with Navratan Pulao, or Nine Jewels rice. Hailing from the ancient Mughlai empire in north India, it gleams with nuts, raisins, peas, cauliflower, cottage cheese balls, tomatoes, and saffron. Equally impressive is Hyderabadi Chicken dum Biryani. Cooked with a puff pastry cap called purdah, it locks in the chicken’s natural juices and keeps the rice fluffy.

Bhapa Doi is a Bengali steamed yoghurt pudding. Garnished with cardamon, blackberry, and the fragrant dried flowers and treacle from the mahua tree, it is gently sweet and citrusy. It also soothes the mind for quiet contemplation on the wealth of food India has to offer.

Yantra is located at 163 Tanglin Rd, #01-129/130/131, Singapore 247933. Book here.

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