An Accidental Restaurateur

Moghul Mahal has become synonymous with authentic North Indian food. With its ever rising popularity, Manjit Kaur is striving to keep the tradition alive by ensuring that quality and taste are not lost

8/1/2016 2:29:30 PM
written By : Nithya Subramanian Print

In a country where Indian food was basically defined by what was cooked in the southern part of the country, Moghul Mahal is perhaps one of the first authentic North Indian restaurant in Singapore. Set up about five decades ago, by a true blue Punjabi businessman, Niranjan Singh, this restaurant has become an icon of sorts offering quality food at reasonable pricing. This tradition is being carried on by daughter Manjit Kaur who is now taking the restaurant to greater popularity.

“I was literally thrown into this as I had no plans of joining my father in business,” said Kaur who has now managed to get her restaurant to cater to specific regional cuisine too. So whether it is organising a Gujarati buffet for the local society here or a Marwari one, Moghul Mahal is always sought after.

Here is an exclusive interview with Manjit Kaur, who talks about her journey and future plans for this Indian eatery, which will soon be relocating to a new premises at the Singapore Khalsa Association.

India Se:Tell us a little about your childhood, family and upbringing? What persuaded you to enter the restaurant business?

Manjit Kaur: My father came to Singapore in the 1960s from Punjab, India. He set up a small company in High Street doing exports - fabric, cassettes, electronics, catering mostly to Indian tourists. He later opened up a travel company once his export company gained ground in the 1970s. Presently, this company is run by my sister, Rekha.

I have two siblings, an older sister and a younger brother. We all grew up in Calcutta. My mother, a housewife lived with us there while we were studying. Dad would travel every other month to visit us and we would come to Singapore twice a year during school breaks. The whole family finally moved to Singapore in 1983 and completed our education here.

My father opened Moghul Mahal in August 1983. It certainly wasn’t what you see now, starting off as a humble restaurant in a shop house opposite the present Parliament House. He is a food lover and a great cook himself. So it was very much him honing his passion in Singapore which was just in the early stages of finding its standing in the culinary world. At the time, there were only a handful of Indian restaurants in Singapore but pricing was expensive. The objective was make quality food accessible to the common man. More so, at the time, Indian food was exemplified by South Indian cuisine; pratas, South-Indian styled biryanis etc. North Indian cuisine was a new entrant in the scene and my father was one of the early pioneers of this cuisine. In 1985, the business picked up speed and we relocated to Colombo Court. 

In 1992, I completed my A-levels and while I was waiting for my admission to a Polytechnic to pursue Biotechnology, I was asked by my father to sit at the restaurant and attend phone calls. Many of our staff and the manager had left to launch their own businesses. He told me he’d probably need me there for about a week or two till he could find someone to man the restaurant. My two weeks stretched out to become a 24-year journey which I hope I can pass on to someone who will love this restaurant as much as I do. 

India Se: Moghul Mahal has, in a way, set a benchmark when it comes to Indian food, especially North Indian. How do you manage to maintain such high standards?

Manjit Kaur:My dad loves his spices and masalas. He hand picks them personally and flies them in from India. To date he plays a part in the restaurant with recipes and food choices, even décor. His experience drives the high standards of this place. We serve comfort and ensure that we stay true to our roots. Also, this being a family-run restaurant, every member scrutinises quality and consistency; because it’s not only a business at stake, but family name and image. 

2 comments for “An Accidental Restaurateur”

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