Little India and the gastronomic incarnate

I think I could have been Indian in a past life.

After gushing about my foodie excursions through the hole-in-the-wall restaurants of Little India, my Indian friends – both at work and outside – look astonished. “I’m surprised you liked that,” they said, because the taste for spice is not for everyone.

Indians are “chutney people”–coconut, tomato, mint, coriander

Gastronomical reincarnation: The idea that our palate is pre-disposed to the preference of someone we might have been, in some other part of the world, in another lifetime. It can be an unfortunate defect for those who enjoy exploring food. A bias that unknowingly prevents a person from the delight of dipping masala dosa in in various flavors of chutney.

Thanks to Frank, my new found Indian guru, favorite psychoanalyst and friend, I’ve awakened my Indian palette beyond the well-known naan and chicken briyani to the gastronomical borders separating North and South India, and the pluralistic flavors that underpin a country like India — or in this case Little India.

Chaat means street food. It also translates to devour with relish, eat noisily. I love how it can also describe how some people can talk so animatedly!

“I view India like the European Union. Population wise, we’re a country with states as big as countries,” says Frank.

“West Bengal is like France where you find the artsy intellectuals while Tamil Nadu, where I’m from, is industrious like Germany.”

As Frank rambled on, I tried to let his insights sink in, but all I could hear was my empty stomach grumbling at 10:30AM.

Aside from this comparison with the EU, what I liked about our discussion is how each sub-Indian cuisine reflects the personality of their region.

North Indian food is more posh, with a preference for style, presentation and butter, while South Indian food is more laid back, eat-with-my-hands-on-banana-leaves and lick-the-chutney-off-your-lips. South India is a good way to go vegetarian!

North India

Chaat is an Indian like taco but with yogurt, chutney, pomegranate and all sorts of awesome filling.

Aloo chat is a savoury potato pattie. Unintentional, but the shape refers to its place in my heart

Chloe bhature. Like naan on steroids. Eaten with chick pea gravy

South India

Inside the bowl is Sambar vadai, where a donut is drunk on lentil gravy. Lentils seems to be a staple in South Indian cuisine, making the texture quite fibrous.

Attack of the chutney! Idli (rice cake) retreat.

Masala dosa is a South Indian crepe stuffed with spice potatoes. Isn’t it weird to think of crepe as anything but French?

Indian desserts are underrated. Chakra pongal – sweet rice porridge with sugar molasses, rice butter,raisin, nuts, etc!

*Note: Check out Lagnaa (North Indian) and Murugan Idli (South Indian) in Little to taste the food mentioned in this entry. 

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16 thoughts on “Little India and the gastronomic incarnate

    • I recently started learning how to cook and the first real dish I made was chicken curry! I know it’s a far cry from what I mentioned in this blog, but it hit me how what I cook reflects the food I like! I checked your site out. Nice idea! Maybe you can try your luck with cooking some “authentic” indian food. :)

      • Hi! thanks for checking out my site!

        I know what you mean about what you cook reflecting what you like.. but in my case i love Asian food but have been cooking mostly western because these are the ingredients that I get here! :)

  1. Indian in the past life? Don’t forget your “Indonesian” roots. The embryo of an ugly”bebek”planted in Jakarta was delivered into this world on June 17,1990 at the Pondok Indah hospital in South Jakarta. Being “Indonesian” the swan loves to eat spicy food in her early child hood days haahahahahahahha. Good article.Also, don’t forget that your grandmother swan was from the province of Bicol, where Siling labuyo is eaten like fried egg for breakfast.Cheers

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