Jiakali has spicy curry with rice in Chinatown Complex
Jiakali opened in July this year, seven months after its 39-year-old owner had to close her previous venture, OH! My Bento Booze in Kovan. While she served Japanese fare there, she specialises in Indian-inspired curry here at Jiakali.
For those unaware, Indian curry is differentiated from Malay and Chinese curry by its use of sweeter spices such as cardamom and cloves, as well as legumes. It’s not made with coconut milk either, which makes Indian curry less creamy in general.
Jiakali’s iterations can be described as Indian curry with Chinese influences—it’s characterised by the same robust use of spices as Indian curry, for instance, but borrows some ingredients such as chicken stock and pork from Chinese versions of the dish.
Food at Jiakali
One of their more popular items is Chicken Cutlet Curry ($5), which features a bowl of curry and a portion of sliced chicken cutlet served on the side.
The curry was thick and slightly grainy; almost gravy-like. You can find potato chunks in the curry too, which adds some textural contrast to the curry if you were to have it by itself.
Noticing the chilli powder on the counter that’s meant for adjusting the curry’s spice levels to your preference, I thought I could take a mouthful of curry without breaking a sweat.
What I soon discovered, however, was that the curry was really spicy—not just in terms of the numerous fragrant spices used but also the amount of heat it packed. After just one bite, both my colleague and I found ourselves reaching for our bottles to take big gulps of water.
As for the chicken cutlet, the meat was cooked to just the right tenderness and the breading was crispy. The breading is on the denser side, but I found it paired nicely with the curry as it worked to absorb much of its flavour.
Thankfully, we got some reprieve from the spiciness of the curry with the bread we ordered, which comes at an additional $1.20. The bread is cut up into smaller pieces, which makes for easier sharing and dipping. It’s also toasted, so it’s hot and crispy upon serving.
Another must-try is their Mutton Curry ($7). Unlike the Chicken Cutlet Curry, the main protein is served in a large bowl together with the curry, along with larger chunks of potato.
Perhaps it’s because it was covered in curry, but the mutton looked unassuming at first glance. When I picked up a piece, then, I was surprised at how easily the meat fell off the bone. There wasn’t a strong gamey taste either, which made the mutton much more enjoyable for me.
Apart from bread, Jiakali offers rice ($0.60) as another carb option, which we had here. It was well-cooked with no clumpiness, and helped to tone down the spiciness of the curry.
The stall will soon be adding prata to its menu, so that’d be another carb alternative for diners in the future.
Ambience at Jiakali
Jiakali is about a six-minute walk from Chinatown MRT Station, located in Chinatown Complex. The complex is a little bit of a maze. Not only is it home to over 260 hawker stalls all housed on the second floor, it’s stuffy and dark too, which makes locating stalls a chore.
It doesn’t help that Jiakali is tucked in a quiet corner of the marketplace, hidden by a large column. The stall owner seems to have found a way to combat this though, as she’s strategically placed a projector that casts an image of the stall logo on the wall opposite her counter.
Once you’ve settled down and perhaps cooled yourself with a drink, Chinatown Complex starts to feel less claustrophobic, and it becomes easier to appreciate its nostalgic, old-school vibe.
Jiakali is worth dropping by if you’re in the Chinatown area. It might not be my cup of tea exactly, but I’d recommend it to spice-lovers looking for something other than mala to satisfy their cravings. I’d also suggest it to curry enthusiasts who’d like to taste a curry that’s different from the usual ones.
If you need help navigating the labyrinth that is Chinatown Complex, check out our Chinatown Complex food guide. Otherwise, take a short walk to Ri Ri Cha for some respite from the heat, and enjoy some of their tea-centric ice creams!
Address: 335 Smith Street, #02-051, Chinatown Complex, Singapore 050335
Opening hours: Tue-Sun 10am to 8pm
Jiakali is not a halal-certified eatery.
Photos taken by Daryl Lim.
This was an independent review by Eatbook.