My Curry Experiment

A couple of years ago, when I was living in Singapore, I got over my fears of being poisoned by “the enemy” and tried some Indian Muslim food at a hawker center in Pasir Ris.  Indian food basically means curry.  There’s a lot of different types, but all the curry I had was delicious!  I finally got tired of reminiscing about how great the curry was and my wife and I decided to try our hand at making curry ourselves.

Curry Time

Curry Time

Curry Time

Curry Time

Curry Time

After a little trial and error we finally got it down right, using a recipe from a local Indian spice store as a guide.  It was a lot of fun and it’s great to know that we can throw together some curry whenever we want.  It’s amazing how many different types and how great a quantity of spices go into one meal.

I wonder how the first Europeans felt when they got to India and tried the local food?  I mean, obviously they loved it, or the spice trade wouldn’t be what it is today, but what I’m getting at is, were they surprised?  Shocked?  Amazed?  Or did they not like it at first and then it grew on them?  I suppose I’ll research that when I have time, but for now, I’ll just enjoy the goodness that India’s spices create.

A Taste of India at Newport Centre

Taste of India, Authentic Indian Cuisine at Newport Centre Mall.

I went up to the food court at the Newport Centre Mall for the first time last weekend.  I saw some old favorites that I hadn’t been to since before I left the US for Kuwait in 2007 and I was pretty sure I was going to wind up eating at Sarku Japan.  It’s not real Japanese food, but it tastes pretty good.  Then I saw a place called A Taste of India: Authentic Indian Cuisine.  I went over and they were handing out free samples of chicken.  It tasted pretty good, but I wasn’t really convinced.  Then I saw that they had chicken biryani, and I wondered if it was anything like the nasi briyani I’d had in Singapore.  I asked for a sample and while it wasn’t exactly the same, it was really close and really good.  It was really spicy too!

Chicken biryani from A Taste of India at Newport Centre Mall.

I wound up getting a bowl of it, with spicy curry on top.  It doesn’t look too appealing in this photo, but most of the foods I ate in Asia tasted better than they looked anyway.

Something about the restaurant was kind of jarring.  They all seemed to be first generation immigrants, judging by their accents, possibly from the same family.  The way they were working the crowd and cajoling people into taking samples and then buying food from them reminded me of street vendors in the Asian countries I’d visited.  They could have just as easily been on a street in Kuala Lumpur or a food court in Singapore.  The weird part is that they were all wearing cheesy looking, brightly colored, standard uniforms.  I guess it was something about the authentic taste of the food and the authentic behavior of the employees clashing with the American franchise store and uniform designs that threw me off.  I suppose it doesn’t matter though.  I paid for good food and that’s what I got.

Discovering What Halal Really Means

I recently came across an article about an ongoing problem in a town called Colne in the UK.  According to the article, the KFC there has switched to serving halal foods as part of a trial.  A KFC representative said this was done because there have been quite a few requests in the UK for halal restaurants.

So… what does that mean?  The article explained that halal meat is meat that has been prayed over and blessed by a Muslim cleric at the point of slaughter.  Also, for a restaurant to have a halal rating, all food products served in the establishment must be halal, and the establishment can also no longer serve pork products, which were on KFC’s menu previous to this trial.

This has angered a lot of non-Muslim local residents who don’t appreciate having food blessed by another religion forced on them.

The first time I ever ate something that was ‘halal’ was at a Hardee’s on a US military installation in Kuwait.  When I saw the phrase ‘halal certified’ on the outside of the restaurant I thought it was amusing, but didn’t give it a lot of thought.  I assumed that it just had something to do with how the food was prepared but I had no idea that it was being blessed by a Muslim cleric.  Thinking about it now, I suppose that was set up to cater to the Muslim foreign workers that were employed on the camp.

I’ve been living in Singapore for almost two years now and I’ve never given much thought to halal food at all.  I always figured that hey… halal, kosher, whatever.  It’s just prepared a special way and not mixed with what those people find ‘unclean’ right?

Now that I understand the true significance behind the meaning of food being halal… I suppose I still don’t really care all that much.  It does bother me a bit that the food is being blessed by another religion, because it reminds me so much of the rite of Communion, which is considered holy and something only Christians should take part in.  On the other hand, if I’m right and they’re wrong then the blessing isn’t going to amount to anything in the long run, is it?  Besides, halal or not it’s still just a piece of chicken.  A fried chicken leg isn’t going to jump off my plate and try to convert me.

I feel bad for the people in Colne, though, because in switching over the restaurant to halal to suit the needs of the Muslim minority, they’ve effectively alienated the Christian (minority?) who may not want to bend their religious principles to eat food blessed by another religion.  Depending on the size of the town, those people may have just lost their only KFC.  I also feel bad for them because people are labeling them as bigots just for standing up for their religious beliefs.  People from one religion not wanting to eat food blessed or ritually killed by another religion is nothing new.  According to AsianCook.co.uk, sikhs will not eat kosher or halal foods either.

What’s most interesting about the situation to me, though, is KFC’s religious insensitivity in the matter.  When confronted about the issue, they replied that the food they’re serving is “still made from the same great ingredients”, effectively dodging the primary issue.

[Note: Keep in mind that I don’t personally know the people in Colne that are protesting this.  All I know is what’s in the article I read. They may certainly be bigots that are using this as a platform for grandstanding.  Regardless, I believe in letting people believe in whatever they want, without putting undue restrictions on their religious rights, insomuch that it doesn’t cause harm to others.]

Roti Paratha (prata?)

Just one of the many delicious dishes I’ve had the chance to enjoy since moving to Singapore. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Letting stereotypes pushed on you by the media influence the way you behave towards certain people is ridiculous and it could cost you some mighty good meals too!

If you’re not familiar with this dish it’s a flat bread that can come with a few types of fillings. The ones I’ve seen are cheese, cheese and egg, and even sardine I think. It’s similar to murtabak, and sort of reminds me of eating American pizza crust.

Posted via email from Bradley’s Posterous

Muslim Food

A few weeks ago I posted an article about some Muslim food we’d tried. It was called Chicken Murtabak and it was pretty good. It took me almost a year to get up the courage to try out Muslim food. I think it was mostly because of paranoid fear over being poisoned or having my food spit on by Muslims because of where I’m from.  Not to mention I spent some time in Iraq.  Ya, sounds kinda silly and stupid right?  But, for years the US media has been pushing it down our throats that all Arabs/Muslims could potentially be dangerous, and I spent a long time in Iraq and Kuwait, worrying about whether a guy was going to say hello or blow himself (and me) up at any moment.  So, maybe the fear wasn’t so unfounded after all, but then again most people here ask me where I’m from.  They don’t seem to recognize the accent.

Anyhow, we enjoyed the murtabak and had decided we would go back for more, but we put it off because it messed up our stomachs a bit. Tonight we finally decided to eat there again. The stuff tasted so good we were willing to risk stomach problems! Plus, we think it was the curry that’s served with the dish that caused the problem, so we were careful about how much of it we ate this time around.

As we walked up to the “Indian Muslim” stall, the guy behind the counter had an amused look on his face. Maybe there aren’t too many white guys that order Muslim food in this area? Well, that probably goes without saying. Anyhow, we got another order of murtabak, mutton this time, and a cheese roti prata. I also went to the next stall called “Muslim Food” and got an order of chicken rice. It had another name in front of that, but I can’t remember what it was. So, we had a pretty good spread of food between the two of us.

The mutton murtabak was good, but my wife says she likes the chicken version better. The cheese roti prata was fantastic. I’m going to get more of those tomorrow at lunch time. They remind me of cheese sticks from the US, or like a slice of New York cheese pizza without tomato sauce. It’s not that big, but they’re only 1.50 apiece so it’s not too bad a deal. Plus, I think I can get them cheaper around the corner from there. As for the muslim version of chicken rice, it was surprisingly good. It tasted as if it had been grilled over a real fire, which is a plus for me. I love grilled food! It also had a nice sauce poured over it. The rice was seasoned with garlic, which I enjoyed. Plain rice usually doesn’t do it for me. There was also a cup of a clear broth. That’s typical with meals purchased from hawkers here in Singapore. I wasn’t expecting much from it. Usually it’s just a chicken broth. Again, I was surprised. It had been seasoned with onion and garlic and tasted great!

It’s hard to get over cultural stereotypes, but in this case it was a good thing I did because I’d have missed out on a lot of good food.