(Savoury Stuffed Indian bread)
(Indian Mutton Curry)
Even non-Indians can easily tell the more fiery southern food from the milder northern dishes. Indian cooking calls for spices such as coriander, cardamom, cumin, fennel and cloves, but north and south use them differently. North Indian food is enriched with yogurt or cream, with a blend of chopped herbs, fresh chillies, and tomatoes added late in the cooking for a subtle flavour. These thicker curries are eaten with a variety of breads form unleavened flat chapati to puffy tandoor-baked naan. Singapore's North Indians, like North Indians elsewhere, have a largely wheat-based diet, although they eat at least one meal of rice daily.
South Indians on the other hand, eat a rice-based diet which suits their more liquid curries which are often enriched with coconut milk. However, the southerners have their breads too: fluffy and gheerich roti prata, often the choice for a full breakfast and dosai, tangy pancakes made from a fermented rice and dhal batter. Dosai do nicely for breakfast, lunch, tea and dinner, especially when they come in a variety of forms from crisp and paper-thin to fat and fluffy, plain or with curry filling. Dosai shops are also often vegetarian restaurants since vegetarianism is mandated by Hinduism.
Named after the "plate" on which the food is served, these "banana leaf restaurants" solve the problem of washing up by having consumers eat off banana leaves. Rice is surrounded by your choice of several types of vegetable and dhal curries, crisp pappadam, cooling yogurt and tangy resam (pepper water)
While Singapore Indian food has most of the characteristics of Indian food elsewhere, it has not escaped the influence of other ethnic communites. apart form Fish-Head curry, another local Indian favourite is Indian Mee Goreng, fried wheat noodles prepared with chillies, potato, beansprouts and some curry gravy.
There is also Indian rojak, whcih has some rather un-Indian ingredietns, such as Javanese tempeh goreng, Chinese fried tauhu (beancurd) and fishcake among the boiled potatoes, hard-boiled eggs in batter and a choice of fritters, all eaten dipped in either sweet, starchy sauce or chilli sauce.
Mutton soup is another dish with a Chinese accent: lots of fresh coriander to perk up the robust soup seasoned with spices.
A feature of Indian food is the extensive use of dried beans and lentils in a variety of ways from staples to snacks. This gives Indian food a clout with vegetarians of all races.
One meat eschewed by both North and South Indian cooks is beef because of religious structures imposed by Hinduism which venerates the cow. Another is pork, because it is prohibited by Muslim. Indian food is always halah (conform to Muslim dietary law). This makes it a favourites for multi-racial gatherings in Singapore, giving Indian food an impact out of proportion to the small size of the community.