Singapore is a diverse playground for foodies and those who relish (pun intended) trying new dishes. Local markets offer a variety of spices and ingredients to create and experiment with dishes at home. For the adventurous, Little India is home to some of the most flavorful food in Singapore.
Some Indian dishes can seem quite daunting to recreate at home. However, traditional Indian home cooking is simple with most dishes created in thirty minutes or less.
Indian food is nutritious and many ingredients contain healing health benefits. For example, cumin aides digestion, cardamom improves blood circulation and cinnamon is high in antioxidants that help the body detoxify. Ingredients such as legume, lentils and seasonal vegetables are part of wholesome diet. And, as an added benefit, lentils are not only nutritious, but very inexpensive.
Every spice used in Indian cooking carries some nutritional or medicinal purpose. Some Indian cooking is based in Ayurveda, a 5,000 year old practice promoting health and wellness. This practice involves mindful eating, combining food and spices to enhance wellness based on individual body types and nourishing the body with nutrient dense food.
A traditional Indian meal will consist of a ‘wet’ dish (for example, dal), a ‘dry’ dish (for example vegetable curry), basmati rice and/or whole wheat bread (for example roti) and yogurt (raita).
As with other cuisines of Asia, an Indian meal tastes of sweet, salty, sour, spicy, and bitter The deep flavors come from the way it is prepared. The complex combination of flavors is derived from layering spices during the cooking process. Indian food is always better the second day as flavors will continue to meld overnight.
Indian dishes vary depending on where in India they originate. There is not one main spice that influences Indian food; but a combination of various spices that create the unique tastes.
Northern Indian food tends include more dairy, so dishes are creamier and contain paneer (Indian cheese). Also, food preparation includes the use a clay (Tandoori) oven. Naan, traditionally cooked in a Tandoori oven is also popular in this region.
Southern Indian food is lighter; the weather is hot and therefore people tend to prepare cooling dishes. Dishes contain ingredients such as tamarind (sour in taste) and coconut. Dosas (a lite pancake stuffed with vegetables) and dry curries are more popular in this region.
Eastern and Western India also have their own unique fare. Eastern dishes have a heavy Bengali influence and, some of the best desserts rein from this region. Western dishes have a Portugese influence, such as Vindaloo (derived from a Portugese word). Here vegetables are preserved by pickling or making chutneys and dishes are sweeter.
Next time you are in Little India, look for some of these differences on the menu! You will now know what part of India your meal is from. Try to recreate some of your favorite dishes at home. You will find the process is easy and ingredients are readily available at Singapore markets.