Our culinary heritage's 'rojak' dishes
It has always been "colourless" and "raceless".
Food is simply good or bad.
I'm like that because I saw the birth of independent Singapore and watched it grow.
Singaporeans may look and speak differently, but we're all the same inside - hungry!
Back then, I fearlessly ate everything I believed I might enjoy and even food with names I struggled to pronounce.
That's the Singapore I grew up in.
When you chomp down that fiery tangy pot of fish head curry, are you really concerned about whether it's an Indian dish? No? Me neither.
So today, in celebration of all our multiracial-cultural palates, I list "rojak" dishes from our culinary heritage that I've enjoyed over the years.
CHINESE: DA BO CURRY CHICKEN NOODLES
They are Chinese who sell a Nonya- and Indian-inspired curry noodle dish topped with Hainanese chicken chunks.
How much more messed up and integrated can you get?
The curry is rich, redolent with spices (spicier if you add some of their own sambal) and smoothened with coconut milk. The bowl is packed with fish maw, potatoes and taupok.
They also offer an agreeable plate of chicken rice. Hence the topping used in the curry noodle.
NONYA: BUAH KELUAK FRIED RICE, IMMIGRANTS GASTROBAR
He's Eurasian and serves up everything from his cultural heritage, including Curry Debal, Indian Chicken 65 and even Peranakan meat rolls.
This true "anak Singapore" (son of Singapore) grew up savouring the wonderful flavours whipped up by his multiracial neighbours.
In his gastrobar, he plates a humble portion of sambal buah keluak fried rice; a black blob of fried rice done with keluak paste, minced meat and sambal.
MALAY MUSLIM: SATAY GADO, ROSRAIHANNA SOTO AND SATAY
It is neither satay nor gado gado, but both. Deliciousness has no rules.
They took the best Malay food traditions of the land and did a mix and match, yet still stayed within the parameters of their culinary heritage.
Their gado gado, with chunks of tofu, tempe, egg and greens, comes with a nutty peanut sauce, two roasty sticks of satay and fish or prawn crackers.
The best part? They sprinkle a spoon of fried shallots over the delicious mess to heighten the experience.
INDIAN: CHAPATI, AZMI RESTAURANT
Indian Singaporeans have also created "culinary gifts" for us that are unique to us. Think sup tulang, Indian rojak and even curry fish head.
This chapati is still top of my list. It is soft, made fresh on the spot and is roasty. The chapatis are done with nary a drop of oil.
They offer a few types of meat curries (like keema) and vegetable dhal (lentil masala). Don't just order one chapati here. The wait for the second can be excruciating, as the queue is long.
Da Bo Curry Chicken Noodles
505, Beach Road, B1-53, Golden Mile Food Centre
- Closed on alternate Mondays
467, Joo Chiat Road
- 5pm to 1am daily
Rosraihanna Soto and Satay
505, Beach Road, B1-19, Golden Mile Food Centre,
- 12pm to 10pm
- Closed on Sundays
168/170, Norris Road
- 7am to 10pm daily
Makansutra, founded by KF Seetoh, is a company that celebrates Asian food culture and lifestyle. It publishes food guides in and around the region, produces a food series, develops interactive mobile content and services, operates foodcourts and eateries, organises food tours and events, and consults on culinary concepts.