Muthu’s Curry

Singapore Infopedia


Muthu’s Curry is a South Indian restaurant famous for its fish head curry served on banana leaves. Established in 1969 on Klang Road by Muthu Ayyakkanu, it has expanded from a small self-manned stall to a swanky restaurant that provides dine-in and catering services.1 Muthu’s Curry currently has three outlets located at Race Course Road, Suntec City Mall and Dempsey Road.2 It is managed by Muthu Ayyakkanu’s two sons, Kasivisvanaath and Srinivas.3

History and key developments
Cooking had been a part of Muthu Ayyankannu’s family tradition. After World War II, his grandfather came to Singapore to cook for the employees of provisions dealer, Selvi Stores.4

Muthu Ayyakkannu started to sell fish head curry in 1969 at a small coffee shop on Klang Road.  At the time, there were a few other restaurants serving their own versions of fish head curry. Most of these restaurants belonged to the Chinese, Nonya and Goan communities. Muthu Ayyakannu gave his recipe a South Indian twist, typical of his home region in Chettinad, Tamil Nadu. The recipe became a hit and his business grew rapidly.5

While keeping the stall on Klang Road open, Muthu Ayyakkannu launched a restaurant in 1974 at 78 Race Course Road – not far from where the flagship restaurant is today. It was called Muthu’s Makan Shop before it became Muthu’s Curry in 1982.6 Race Course Road is home to a string of other well-known fish head curry restaurants, including Banana Leaf Appollo and KP Pillai Curry Inn.7 The area is popularly referred to as the “Curry Row”, and there has been intense competition among these eateries. Nevertheless, Muthu’s Curry has been able to sustain its position over the last several decades.8

In 1996, the government embarked on the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit system’s Northeast Line, which resulted in the temporary closure of Race Course Road. Muthu’s Curry’s regular customers were either put off by the lack of parking space or assumed that the restaurant had closed. As a result, business dropped by almost 70 percent during that period. When the Northeast Line opened in 2002, business started picking up again and the owners decided to relocate to their current 300-seat flagship premises at 138 Race Course Road.9 Muthu’s Curry has also introduced North Indian cuisine and a range of wine in its menu, so as to better meet its customers’ preferences.10

South Indian restaurants have always been deemed the “poorer cousins” of North Indian restaurants, largely because most South Indian restaurants have basic, cafeteria-like designs and structures. North Indian restaurants, on the other hand, are believed to look more modern and furnished. To change this perception, Muthu’s Curry decided to embark on an ambitious expansion, not only in terms of size but also in the total concept of dining in a modern South Indian restaurant.11

In 2004, the owners spent S$7 million to open a 6,386-square-foot restaurant at 138 Race Course Road, of which S$5.2 million was used to acquire the unit. The new Muthu’s Curry has a contemporary chic décor, an open kitchen concept with tandoor ovens and an artificially misted alfresco dining area. In the words of one of its owners, Kasivisvanaath, it has a more “zen” and “modern” ambience.12 The transformation was also extended to the dining experience. The menu is built around Indian folktales, which servers share with guests as they explain the various dishes.13

To render the best service to its customers, Muthu’s Curry has turned to technology to run its business. Instead of recording customers’ orders on paper, waiters use personal digital assistants and the orders are transmitted in real-time to the kitchen over a wireless network. The waiters also carry wireless phones to communicate with one another and the chefs without having to make frequent visits to the kitchen. This has helped to save time and reduce miscommunication.14

In 2007, Muthu’s Curry expressed its interest to start an overseas franchise, either in India, Indonesia or Australia.15

The fish head curry served by Muthu’s Curry is exceptionally popular due to its unique taste and presentation. The dish comprises a succulent fish head cooked in curry spices, okra (lady’s fingers), tomatoes and other vegetables.16 It is believed that the curry spices prepared by Muthu’s Curry give the fish head curry a special and unique taste. The two brothers are the only ones who know the recipe for this curry spices mixture.17

Besides fish head curry, Muthu’s Curry also serves other curry dishes, including chicken, mutton, prawn and squid.18

Muthu’s Curry has won a number of awards and titles, such as the “Best Five” presented by the Singapore Food and Entertainment Guide in 1992/1993. It also won the “My Favourite Local Dish” award during the Singapore Food Festival in 1994 and 1995. It was presented with the “Makansutra Heritage Foods Oscars” in 2003, and recognised as one of the “Super 8 Sea-Food Lords” in 2005.19

Nor-Afidah Abd Rahman & Marsita Omar

1. “About Us,” Muthu’s Curry, accessed 24 May 2017.
2. Annette Tan, “Spice It Up,” Straits Times, 16 February 2014, 36. (From NewspaperSG)
3. John Lui, “Magic Mix,” Straits Times, 7 September 2015, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Lui, “Magic Mix.”
5. Lui, “Magic Mix.”
6. Lui, “Magic Mix.”
7. Clara Chow, “Staying the Course,” Straits Times, 1 August 2004, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
8. Lui, “Magic Mix.”
9. Lui, “Magic Mix.”
10. “Feeding an Insatiable Appetite for Growth,” Straits Times, 13 June 2007, 49. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Cheah U-Hoon, “Curry Favour,” Business Times, 16 October 2004, 20. (From NewspaperSG)
12. Chow, “Staying the Course.” 
13. Tan, “Spice It Up.” 
14. Irene Tham, “Recipe for Better Business,” Straits Times, 20 May 2008, 87. (From NewspaperSG)
15. “Feeding an Insatiable Appetite for Growth.”
16. Derrick Tan, “Muthu’s Curry @ Race Course Road (Little India),” Blog, 12 July 2015.
17. Cherly Faith Wee, “All in the Family,” Straits Times, 7 October 2012, 2–3. (From NewspaperSG)
18. Tan, “Spice It Up.” 
19. “Awards,” Muthu’s Curry, accessed 15 July 2017.

The information in this article is valid as of 2017 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


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