For me, Gina was the OG (Original Gangster) of Vadais.
I ate Gina’s Vadai growing up and they were at a corner Coffeeshop along East Coast Road across the street from Jago Close and next to an Esso Station.
Their first location, however, was opened in 1987 in Geylang Bahru. Hence, they are sometimes known to some people as Geylang Bahru Vadai but I have always known them as Gina’s.
Gina’s now boast a glitzy website and it is currently housed at the basement of Duman Food Centre which is just behind Joo Chiat.
The Original Vadai
I didn’t know a thing about this stall.
Just recently, one of the makan Kakis brought a bag of their Vadais to the table at the basement of Golden Mile Hawker Center where we were eating the Hokkien Mee fried by the old couple.
We were stuffed with old uncle’s wok hei laden Hokkien mee and champion Kopi O and yet that Vadai moved me, spoke to me in Hindi, and made me exclaim :
“this is damn Ducking good (cleverly disguised as this is a wholesome blog).
I went back several times thereafter and tried their other offerings – original big assed prawn, ikan bilis, grego – they were all good.
Their stall started life as a pop-up at pasar malams over the last 30 years.
Run by 30-year-old Stephen Suriyah and his mother Jumana Rani, the stall specialises in Singaporean-style vadai, or Indian prawn fritters.
And it was only in 2019 that they decided to open a stall at Haig Road Food Centres
They were only there for a month but ran into some licensing/tenancy issues and had to give up the space.
Happily, they found a nice stall at the basement of Golden Mile Food Centre and they are there today.
Nestled at the ground floor of an industrial building at 116 Changi Road alongside a string of F&B outlets (same stretch with Cafe Mariam which serves great Biryani), there is a little shop called Yeh Yeh Cafe which is home to the delectable Vadais of Mr Vadai.
While waiting for my order, I was lucky enough to speak to a pretty lady at the cashier and I asked her “are you guys connected to The Original Vadai at Golden Mile Center?”
“ They’re my cousins “ was the reply.
She also told me that like The Original Vadai, Mr Vadai started life participating in pasar malams (night markets).
They opened up at this location 2 years ago.
“And is there a story about the cartoon ? I asked gesturing to the cartoon on the wall.
“That’s my Dad, the founder of Mr Vadai”,
The Ultimate Taste Test
I told my bunch of hard core like minded Makan warriors that we needed to taste all 3 brands of Vadai together in the same laboratory conditions.
So off we went one afternoon to buy Vadais from the 3 stalls.
We departed at about the same time to collect the spoils and congregated at Bar Guan Hin, the delightful home of Sanjay and Kuan, so called because they had an authentic antique Sign board bearing that name in their patio.
At each of the 3 stalls, we bought original prawn Vadais, and also ikan bilis vadai.
So this is what they look like:
Gina’s Vadai (Dunman Road)
The Original Vadai (Beach Road)
Mr Vadai (Changi Road)
For the sake of science and the future of humanity, we gorged our faces and produced the following observations:
Cheen & Shufen.
Most aromatic. Flat, hence crispier
B) Original Vadai
Tastiest of the lot, really spicy green chilli
Like the prawn, it’s flat & crispier. The only one with added nuts
A lot of Ikan Bilis, can be overwhelming.
C) Mr Vadai
Tastiest of the lot, aromatic.
Taste – Mr Vadai
Texture (fluffy) – Mr Vadai
Overall – Mr Vadai
Taste – Beach Rd
Texture – crispy outside/ fluffy inside – Beach Rd
Overall – Beach Rd.
Yu Li & Chin Yong
Drier but crispier
Dry tasty with ikan bilis , tasty but not visible
Nuts? Not crazy about it
Nice Indian spices taste
Soft and fluffy
Tasty ikan bills
No Indian spice
Soft and fluffy
Too little ikan bilis
1. Original Vadai
2. Mr Vadai
Wolf and Bulldog
Favourite was Original Beach Road which edged out Mr Vadai only marginally.
Original was slightly better spiced than Mr Vadai. But both came very close. Both textures were good but could afford to be slightly crispier.
Gina’s was more crispy but the other two were tastier.
Mr Vadai was the clear favourite. It was crustier and very tasty.
There was too much ikan Bilis in Original Vadai and they were not crispy.
Gina’s addition of nuts was weird and the Ikan Bilis could not be tasted.
Mr Vadai edged out Original Vadai only very marginally because their Ikan Bilis was superior.
Gina’s was no 3.
All the Makan Kakis liked the green chillies of Original Vadai and Mr Vadai and felt Gina’s chilli lacked a kick.
Dunman Food Centre
271 Onan Rd, Singapore 424768
Closed on Mondays.
Open Tuesdays to Sundays.
9:30 AM to 3:30 PM
The Original Vadai
Address: 505 Beach Rd, stall #B1-32, Singapore 199583 (Golden Mile Food Centre)
Tel: +65 8588 4181
Hours: 12:00 noon – 7:00pm(Monday closed)
Address: Wis@Changi Building, 116 Changi Road, Singapore 419718
Tel: +65 8768 2297