Features Achieve >> Prashanth's
are constantly on the lookout for articles of interest to
feature on GaramChai.com. Please mail us articles you would
like to see featured and we will be glad to oblige.
Featured Article: Of Indian Food – Singapore
wondered what the book of globalization will say about Indians
and their contribution to the world? Sure, we’ll have an entire
chapter dedicated to the IT success story. We might even manage
a chapter on religion, languages and immigration. But the
one section that will make our collective conscience rise
up and sigh with pleasure will be the food section.
the exception of Bollywood, India’s greatest cultural export
to the world has been – our cuisine! Whichever country in
the world you are likely to go to, there are bound to be a
few Indian restaurants and hawker centres doing roaring business.
And I’m not talking about established immigration destinations
like the US, UK, Canada and the Gulf. Try Cambodia. I had
the pleasure of dining in ‘Curry Leaves’ – an authentic Indian
restaurant while on a brief trip there. Or Japan – where the
Raj Mahal has an ever-expanding chain of restaurants. Or even
the Taj Mahal restaurant in Seoul. Patrons include, not just
desis, but also kimchi-obsessed, Bae-watching Korean
matrons and businessmen!
taste of India can penetrate and thrive in these countries
with their own established, and zealously promoted culinary
heritage, then countries like Singapore, which count a large
number of people of Indian origin as citizens for nearly two
centuries, will surely have a thriving Indian cuisine culture,
right? Well, I wasn’t so sure. After all, Singapore is not
known as the Food Capital of Asia for nothing. Eating out
is a national pastime here. And if you see the Singaporeans
go at it, you could be excused for confusing it with a religion!
Being a first world country in a predominantly third world
continent has made Singapore the hub for an endless variety
of cuisine. And this is cuisine not restricted to the boring
East-meets-West kind of fare that passes for fusion cooking.
Not only is the multi-racial country a melting pot of cultures,
its cuisine is a unique blend of the cultural, political,
historical, idealogical and even spiritual flavours of the
region which come together to provide uplifting gourmet fare.
this the very first week in Singapore. A colleague of mine
introduced me to the famed Hainanese Chicken Rice. Although
the colourless, insipid looking dish did not make much of
a visual impression, one mouthful later, I was hooked. Small
wonder that the dish finds pride of place as Singapore’s National
dish! Next on the list was the Chilli Crab – a strong contender
for the top spot. At the Singapore Food Festival 2005, more
than a million promotional Chili Crabs were consumed by visitors
in the span of just one month. And this is not counting the
crabs the Singaporeans paid for as part of their usual eating
out experience! Other dishes I tried and liked were Laksa
(a kind of fat noodles, stewed in coconut gravy and garnishing)
and of course, Satay (although the Malays and the Thai lay
claim to this delectable skewered food).
disappointed with the Chinese cuisine though. Having been
reared in India, where neighbourhood Nepalis run thriving
‘Chinese’ stalls (red coloured push carts, nonsensical ‘Chinese’
writing, overdose of MSG and all!) I found the authentic Chinese
food bland to say the least. The Bak Kut Teh (pork ribs an
chunky liver pieces, simmered in a cheng soup base) put me
off while the porridges (Teochew or otherwise) left me craving
for my daily dosage of sodium chloride. Most of the food looked
peculiar, tasted uncooked and smelt awful. My biggest grudge?
Huge succulent prawns, cooked shell and all, making them a
pain to eat! So, my wife and I sought out Indian stalls and
tried savour the familiar.
Indian cuisine is in a class of its own. Nearly 200 years
of Indian influence has added much to the local cuisine. There’s
the unique, transmogrified version of the good old Indian
paratha. Only here, it is called the Roti Prata! It
is a fairly simple dish of crisp, fluffy maida parathas
served with a thick, delicious curry. But the craving
among the local populace needs to be seen to be believed.
In fact, Singaporeans are so enamoured by this humble dish
that they serve it up, not only with spicy curry, but also
with ice cream, chocolate chips and even sweetened yam paste!
You can find at least one Roti Prata stall in every hawker
centre and food court in Singapore.
of hawker centres, there was this hawker centre near my workplace
that had one splendid attraction. The resident Peranakan-Indian
eatery called ‘Spice Central’. Come lunchtime and you could
find the longest queue – Indians, Chinese, Malays, Indonesians,
Filipinos and even a few Ang Moh’s – waiting patiently
for resident chef Seghar to dish out his delectable Indian
food. He was wildly famous for his spicy Fish-head Curry,
a veritable passion among lovers of Singaporean-Indian food.
The curry in question is a Chettinad spin on a literal
fish head, served in a spicy flavoured broth of assorted vegetables
and aromatic herbs. It goes well with Briyani or with plain,
as they are, these tropicalised dishes can never compare to
the fare found in India. I drool each time I think about the
fabulous Hyderabadi Briyani or the Murg Mussalam.
Not to mention simple traditional fare like the Gongura
pickle, curd rice and Aavakkai. Or even paani
puris being hawked on the roadside and the constant tussle
with the vendor for the all-important onion bits. And the
scintillating aroma of garam irani chai drunk in the
most squalid of surroundings, accompanied by Osmania biscuits!
Some things simply cannot be replicated
the wife and I feel nostalgic thus, we trundle off to good
old Mustafa Shopping Centre in little India to stock up on
all the masalas, spices and a carton load of Haldiram’s.
While we are there, there are innumerable restaurants – from
Khansama through Anjappar’s and Banana Leaf to Juggi’s
Dhaba and Muthu’s Curry – where we can satiate our craving
for hearty Indian fare. Sure, the raita is often made
from synthetic yogurt, the paneer sometimes switches
places with tofu and all the dishes could do with a tad more
spice. But it’s the closest we can ever get to authentic Indian
cuisine in this island nation.
home however, (home will always be Hyderabad) my twelve-year-old
niece is assimilating globalization in her own way. She insists
on corn flakes with fruity loops for breakfast and anaemic,
cold-cut sandwiches for a snack and will not condescend to
look at any Indian fare that is served. Should we intervene
to nip this unhealthy eating habit in the bud? I don’t think
so. I’ll just sit pretty and wait for her to grow up and go
to college in the UK. When she sees that it is Tandoori
Tikka Masala that’s a permanent resident on all self-respecting
food charts across Britain, her parents and I will have the
of Singaporean terms
Peranakan – Straits-born Chinese. Their exotic Nonya
style of cooking is reputed to be the best kept secret of
the cookery world.
Moh – Literally, ‘Red Hair’. Laconic reference to the
white man in Singapore, which has made its mark on the street
nomenclature. Ang Mo Kio (or Red Hair Bridge) is a large residential
area with a healthy white presence.
Kumar is a professional marketing copywriter from Hyderabad,
India who currently lives and works in Sunny Singapore. When
he is not busy trying to make a living from his writing, he
tries (all too seriously!) to tickle the funny bone of Indians
worldwide. More details about him and his work can be accessed
can send the author your feedback at
Recently featured articles:
GaramChai.com features and sections of interest: