Chef Inderpal Singh’s India Tour Was All About Singapore's Best
Image Credit: Instagram/Soy Como Soy

Among the myriad reality cooking shows aired across the world, the most beloved is undoubtedly the MasterChef format. And apart from cheering on Indian contestants across the world, what gives Indian viewers immense pleasure is when Indian-origin contestants win MasterChef titles beyond the nation. This stands true for Sashi Cheliah, the winner of MasterChef Australia 2018, as well as Inderpal Singh, who won MasterChef Singapore in 2023. But while you may be familiar with Sashi Cheliah’s journey, here’s what you first need to know about Inderpal Singh. 

An accountant by profession, MasterChef Inderpal Singh traces his roots back to Amritsar in Punjab—a background he has in common with another culinary stalwart, Chef Vikas Khanna. “I’m second-generation Singaporean,” he revealed during an exclusive conversation with Slurrp. “My grandad came over after World War II, and my dad was the first Indian kid born in my family in the Republic of Singapore. I used to visit my pind more frequently when I was younger. I love Punjab and I keep in touch with the culture, especially in terms of food, music and more.” 

Since his MasterChef Singapore victory last year, Inderpal Singh says he’s been very busy doing pop-ups at home and now in India. Pairing up with Pune-based curators of food experiences, The Hedonist, Inderpal Singh recently wrapped up a brilliant tour of Indian cities like Kolkata, Hyderabad, Delhi, Pune and Mumbai. In each city, he showcased his considerable culinary chops by bringing his signature Singaporean dishes to Indian foodies, while also indulging in the best dishes each city had to offer.  

MasterChef Inderpal Singh’s Tasting Menu: A Culinary Tour Of Singapore 

If you want an introduction to Singaporean food, Chef Inderpal Singh’s tasting menu is a great place to start because it offers a holistic view of the cuisine and its most popular dishes. You will get a taste of popular street-style dishes like Roti John as well as famous staples like Laksa and Nasi Goreng. Of course, each dish is crafted with a signature twist on the classics, showing off the chef’s insight into the food he grew up with. 

For example, his take on Roti John is not only inspired by the way the iconic sandwich is prepared, but also his memories from MasterChef Singapore. “This dish is something you have in Singapore mostly as a hangover food,” he chuckles. “You know like you have a biryani or fried rice in the middle of the night, you have Roti John in Singapore after hitting a few clubs, have had one too many, or are just chilling with friends over the weekend. It starts with a baguette and there’s an omelette cooked into it. The omelette has nothing on it, but maybe you add some meats like some mutton curry or chicken curry, and finish it off with mayo, pickle salad and chili sauce.” 

Explaining that Roti John is one of his favourite things to eat, Chef Inderpal Singh adds more about his version. “During MasterChef Singapore, I met my idol Sashi Cheliah who gave us an egg challenge, and I decided to go back to the basics,” he explains. “I did the Roti John with chunky prawns the traditional way. The current dish on my tasting menu is a more modern take on it. We don’t have gluggy eggs in this one. Instead, we have streaks of eggs peppered with chilli crab.” 

A standout in his menu was the Kueh Pie Tee, which was served in a stunning pani puri format. “This dish was born more out of necessity than anything else,” he explains. “I did try making the Pie Tee shells here, but they just didn’t work out as well as the traditional ones do in Singapore. Then I thought of the pani puri shells and thought maybe it could be a good fusion.” 

However, this dish made it to Chef Inderpal Singh’s menu for another reason too. “Kueh Pie Tee is very popular in Peranakan and Nonya restaurants back home,” he says. “In Malaysia you also get them in those chicken-rice shops. But one of the judges on MasterChef Singapore, Chef Damian D’Silva, has a very famous restaurant called Rempapa and he has a crazy good Keuh Pie Tee in his menu which I love. So, this dish was also a tribute to Chef Damian D’Silva, who was an amazing support during my MasterChef journey.” 

Understanding Singapore’s Food & Culinary Heritage 

Another incredible dish on his menu was the Laksa Prawns, a dish that you might feel you have tasted a lot of. But Chef Inderpal Singh explains that every Laksa is different. “It is a quintessential Singaporean dish, a Malaysian dish...everyone has their own version of it,” he explains. “In fact, the history of Laksa in Malaysia differs from region to region. As you travel down south, it gets fishier and fishier to the point that it’s not that bright orange colour that you are used to. It becomes dark brown because the paste changes. There are also old traditional versions in Singapore, which one of my MasterChef friends, Jonathan, makes. It’s called Laksa Siglap and it has no coconut, but tastes so good.” 

But is it likely that Indian foodies are not getting that exact flavour profile from Singaporean cuisine’s most popular dishes, like Laksa, and are missing out. Chef Inderpal Singh says not exactly. “As a business person, you just want to make sure you appeal to the palates of people, and when you are starting with a new cuisine (which can be risky in an unexplored market), you start with something a bit familiar,” he explains. “Then slowly you up the ante and start introducing more regional, more authentic stuff. Look at Soy Como Soy in Pune for example: I tasted their truffle dimsums and it tastes brilliant, but you won’t find it in a yum cha place in Singapore or even Hong Kong.” 

Often what also hinders recreation of a foreign menu in another nation is the lack of availability of the precise ingredients. That, Chef Inderpal Singh says, is simply not an issue with India when it comes to Singaporean cuisine. “My favourite protein in the whole world is prawns, so I loved my experience in India. I love seafood, so does my wife—we could have it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I love chicken, but prawns, lobsters, crabs, they are more up my alley with Singaporean and even Indian cuisine,” he says, and it reflects truly in the food he cooks.  

Tasting His Way Through India & Future Plans 

So, when it comes to his tasting menu and his serving experience in India, Chef Inderpal Singh’s tour has been a huge success. But the question you may ask is, while he was plating up Singapore’s best for Indian foodies, did he get to try all the local flavours he should as well? Yes, he did! 

“I had a list of foods I wanted to try everywhere and so did my friends,” he laughs. “I’ve had epic phuchkas and mishti doi, eaten at Kasturi and Avartana while in Kolkata. In Hyderabad, I tasted some of the best dosas I’ve had in my life. We were there on Eid, so I had some amazing biryani, crazy good haleem and Suleimani Chai. In Delhi, we went to Jama Masjid and we had kebabs at Karim’s and shahi tukda. I had some of the most amazing food at Gulati’s. In Pune, I’ve had Misal Pav—that was spicy and so good. The best chai I’ve ever had in India is the Irani Chai in Pune. Then of course, there’s Vada Pav to look forward to in Mumbai. Food wise, it’s been quite an amazing experience.” 

So, what are his plans for the future, you may ask? In the long term, he plans to open a fine-dining Punjabi food place in Singapore, and he’s looking for investors who love the food from the state as much as his approach to cooking. Meanwhile, there are plenty of pop-ups and events he’s looking forward to. “I have been very blessed in terms of opportunities since winning MasterChef Singapore,” Chef Inderpal says. “I’m advising for a vegan ice cream company in Singapore, and there’s also a company where I’m advising on the menu. Yeah, a lot is going on. I’m currently working on doing a tour of Australia, serving up Singaporean food there. And the people at The Hedonist have invited me back to do a winter barbecue menu in January, so I’ll be back in Pune soon again.”