There are two types of people in the world:
The foodies who are willing to embark on any culinary adventure. Spider legs fried with honey? Bring it on!
And then there is the more cautious group who refuse to go beyond their ‘comfort zone’ in terms of food.
A foreign country is always a gamble for the second group. Mostly a losing gamble accompanied with frequent visits to the restroom. When I initially arrived at Singapore, I expected the worst – a modern version of the Kung Fu Panda style noodle shop selling soup with ingredients which I could not recognize anyway. A ‘Secret ingredient’ soup after all.
Imagine my astonishment when I discovered that Singapore had its own localized version of Indian cuisine. You can walk into any local food court and you are bound to find an Indian Muslim food stall, and if you’re lucky, maybe even a North Indian one too.
Since Indians constitute Singapore's 3rd largest ethnic group (after Malay and Chinese), it was only natural that an Indian influence crept into the local cusine particularly the Malay dishes. With the passage of time, original recipes have undergone slight changes in preparation, names and spelling, but the underlying taste remains very much intact.
A quick look at some of the available Indi-Sing snacks:
Dosa: The traditional South Indian 'dosa' has taken on a new avatar here in the form of 'Thosai'. The preparation and taste are the same, the only difference being the omission of the sambar and chutney side dishes. Additionally, there are some interesting variations of dosa available such as the cheese thosai, egg thosai, chocolate thosai, etc.
Roti John: This dish is the perfect example of a blend of Indian and Western cuisines. It consists of a baguette stuffed with minced meat, sardines, egg and chopped onions. The whole baguette is then dipped in a beaten egg mixture and then pan-fried briefly. Sounds delicious? Tastes even better. The first time I ventured to taste a Roti John, it was the name that first aroused my curiosity. 'Roti' is the Hindi, Urdu and Malay word for bread. The word 'John' can be attributed to the Western components in the recipe, mainly the baguette and tomato sauce.
Roti prata: is a local evolution of the Malabari Porotta, or the North Indian Parantha. They are a popular breakfast or late night supper dish, served with a small bowl of curry gravy. Like the ‘thosai’ the roti prata is also offered in a number of creative combinations, e.g. egg prata, cheese prata, ham and cheese prata, strawberry prata and durian prata. If you have a sweet tooth, you might want to try out the Ice cream Prata. It comprises a sizzling crisp prata straight off the stove served with three generous scoops of chocolate, strawberry and vanilla ice-cream. A nightmare for those counting calories but a dream for everyone else. My first experience with the Ice-cream Prata had left me open mouthed for a few minutes salivating at the enormous treat before me. Sadly, that time lapse resulted in the melting of the ice-cream and a soggy clump of dough where the prata once sizzled and crackled. So remember, speed is key when it comes to enjoying your Ice cream Prata!
And on that sweet note, stay posted for the next instalment where we continue our Indo-Sing culinary journey with a review of main dishes.