India and Indians have a long association with the native Malay civilization of Singapore that goes back to the ancient ages. But the systematic migration and influx of Indians in large numbers started and became consistent when Singapore became a colony of the British. The ethnic Indian Diaspora mainly comprises South Indians, particularly Tamils which is best mirrored in the potpourri of hot, tangy, and spicy dishes-the hallmarks of Indian cuisines.
The popular components of Indian cuisines
Since Tamils form a majority of the Indian population (approximately about 9% of the total population), most of the variety of Indian dishes available also happen to be Tamil. Since the late nineties of the last century, North Indian cuisines have started making inroads courtesy the setting up of some high-class and chic restaurants by successful Indian chefs like ‘Punjab Grill’ by Jiggs Kalra.
Owing to intermingling with the Singaporean culture for years on end, the dishes have become hybrid containing a blend of local spices and condiments yet the flavor is unmistakably Indian. The main elements used in Indian cuisines here in Singapore are Indian pickles, saffron (used in biryanis and pilaos), Rojak-an assortment of fried ingredients including eggs, tofu, and mashed potatoes, indigenized Chinese noodles, mughlai paranthas, and so on. Other signature dishes and elements include rotis, chapattis, Murtabak, curries, and chutneys.
Some dishes, recipes, and ingredients that were brought along when Indian contract laborers and coolies were indentured to work in the rubber plantations of erstwhile Malay have been assimilated with the national cuisines. These include mutton chops, Mulligatawny soup, mince meat of potatoes and peas, and fish moolie.
Street food culture and upmarket restaurants
If you think tucking into street food is the best way of getting an insight of the gastronomic culture of any ethnicity then head straight to Little India. You’ll find an eclectic spread of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare. Race Course Road gives stiff competition to Little India as it has some of the most admired restaurants like Muthu’s Curry, Anjappar, and Mustard Restaurant.
Little India can boast of having a more varied spread of both North and South Indian cuisines. If you’re a strict vegan, you don’t need to look beyond Ananda Bhavan restaurant which has been serving delectable vegetarian fare since 1924. You’re familiar with the Masala or Sada Dhosa- the homebred varieties but don’t forget to check out their ‘thosai’ ensemble.
You can head to ‘Annalakshimi’ for a pan-Indian buffet spread. Just pay $ 5 Singapore dollars and have your fill of yoghurt, dhals (Indian lentils), rotis, Papadis, soups, curries and lassies. Sample some original Malvani fare at Gajalee that include clams peppered with coriander and coconut paste, grilled tandoori lobster, curried New Zealand oysters. And yes, you can also ask for a mouthwatering preparation of Bombay duck. And if you’re not much into seafood, you can go for the usual vegetarian or non-vegetarian fare.
If you want to wine and dine in a more exclusive and upscale environ, then you can try a few restaurants and bistros at the Marina Bay Sands enclave like the Punjab Grill and the Rang Mahal. The ‘Song of India’, Shahi Maharani North Indian Restaurant’, and the ‘Tadka Indian Kitchen’ are some other high end addresses serving authentic Indian cuisines.