Little India Singapore – Spice Up Your Life

I have always wanted to learn street photography with some human elements in them but I am shy about approaching people and am afraid that they might confront me if I took their pictures without consultation first. But then again, the “mood” may be different with artificial pose. Anyway, this was a Tuesday, a rare ocassion Chi Sao was available. We usually meet on weekends when he’s off duty.

“Today” being Hari Raya Haji (I didn’t know!!!) he was free and arranged for a few street photographers to our Little India outing. Although Chi Sao was there just last weekend, he was not done with it. Right in the heart of Singapore, bordered by Selegie Road and Lavendar Street, this cultural potpourri has more to offer than what he could do in just one day. He loves the hustle and bustle of this modest but colourful area of our island, which is touted as a major tourist attraction by STB (Singapore Tourism Board).

As the name indicated, Little India is the hub of Indian community in Singapore (although there are many Chinese living there). In Little India, there are many temples and heritage sites portraying the culture of a quondam era adorn the streets of Little India depicting an aspect of devotion that is ingrained in every Indian. Go there during weekends and you will witness a sea of Indian foreign workers feeling right at home away from home. Indians (especially the southerners) are very friendly. I feel more at ease talking to strangers there than in Chinatown.

When you run out of things to do in Singapore, step into Little India and you will be in bylanes full of overzealous vendors hawking mesmerizing merchandise. The cultural splendour of India is displayed flagrantly, in the spirit of merriment, with a gush of sights, sounds and smells (not necessarily in that order for they do come all at once). I dare say there is no place in Singapore so dramatic, so blaring, so pungent and oh-so-alive than Little India!

Spice up your palate with vegetarian and/or non-vegetarian meals. Sip a cup of chai (hmmm… you might just find chai latte, too)! Have your kismet unveiled by parrot fortune-tellers. Apply mehndi (henna tattoo) on your hands or feet. Take a deep breath when near the flower stalls, free fragrance for all 😉

To excite your senses,
You don’t need much expenses;
Just pay attention to the temple bells,
Sink your teeth into delicacies as well.
See a burst of colours unfold before your eyes,
Immerse yourself in the fragrance of spice.
Caress the luxury of silk draped over you,
In Little India, your aura’s a glowing hue.
– Sam Han

Image taken with Samsung Note 1 One of the alleys of Little India on a Tuesday afternoon.

Image taken with Samsung Note 1
One of the alleys of Little India on a Tuesday afternoon.

I passed by Gokul but did not realised this was the vegetarian restaurant to meet Chi Sao.

I passed by Gokul but did not realised this was the vegetarian restaurant to meet Chi Sao.

I have tried different types of Indian breads but this was my first taste of Idli, rice and dal cakes. It tasted a little sour (due to the fermenting process?). The texture was soft and spongy not fluffy. They broke easily too, so be care ful not to drop it onto your clothes.

I have tried different types of Indian breads but this was my first taste of Idli, rice and dal cakes. It tasted a little sour (due to the fermenting process?). The texture was soft and spongy not fluffy. They broke easily too, so be care ful not to drop it onto your clothes.

Idli Meal. Not exactly my type of lunch but I'll take it as detox day.

Idli Meal.
Not exactly my type of lunch but I’ll take it as detox day.

Idli is made of Rice and Urad Dal. The rice and dal are usually soaked for 5-6 hours and the "wet" ground for about 40 minutes till light and fluffy. The ground batter is then fermented for another 6-7 hours depending on the climate. And finally steamed for 10-12 minutes before serving with side dishes of chutneys and sambar, and sometimes podi.

Idli is made of Rice and Urad Dal.
The rice and dal are usually soaked for 5-6 hours and the “wet” ground for about 40 minutes till light and fluffy.
The ground batter is then fermented for another 6-7 hours depending on the climate. And finally steamed for 10-12 minutes before serving with side dishes of chutneys and sambar, and sometimes podi.

Coconut Chutney with Coriander. Has a slight minty taste. This one was quite strong in ginger.

Coconut Chutney with Coriander.
Has a slight minty taste. This one was quite strong in ginger.

Sambar. It tasted like fish curry.

Sambar.
It tasted like fish curry.

Tomato Chutney without Onions. At Gokul, they do not use onions and garlic and certain ingredients to keep their vegetarian cuisine pure.

Tomato Chutney without Onions.
At Gokul, they do not use onions and garlic and certain ingredients to keep their vegetarian cuisine pure.

Idli Podi or Idly Milagai Podi.  This was very spicy and salty.

Idli Podi or Idly Milagai Podi.
This was very spicy and salty.

James' lunch of Biryani.

James’ lunch of Biryani.

Chi Sao's lunch of Maggi Mee Goreng. Goreng means fry in Malay and Maggi Mee is a brand for instant noodles. So it means Fried Instant (Maggi Mee) Noodles.

Chi Sao’s lunch of Maggi Mee Goreng.
Goreng means fry in Malay and Maggi Mee is a brand for instant noodles. So it means Fried Instant (Maggi Mee) Noodles.

I have never eaten fried maggi mee outside before but I have many friends who like this. I askChi Sao for a taste. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to pay a few bucks for something less than a dollar.

I have never eaten fried maggi mee outside before but I have many friends who like this. I askChi Sao for a taste. I cannot fathom why anyone would want to pay a few bucks for something less than a dollar.

Sambal Taukwa (Tofu). This was adapted from Malay cuisine. As I mentioned earlier, Gokul has more than 400 dishes from different cuisines, all of them vegetarian. The manager told me their restaurant has the most items available in whole of Singapore that serves pure vegetarian.

Sambal Taukwa (Tofu).
This was adapted from Malay cuisine. As I mentioned earlier, Gokul has more than 400 dishes from different cuisines, all of them vegetarian. The manager told me their restaurant has the most items available in whole of Singapore that serves pure vegetarian.

Plain Naan. I would prefer garlic naan but pure vegetarian remember? According to my aunt and baking instructor (both of them vegetarians), eating onions, garlic and the likes may "hurt" the internal organs of non meat eaters. Now you know why I'm carnivorous ;-)

Plain Naan.
I would prefer garlic naan but pure vegetarian remember? According to my aunt and baking instructor (both of them vegetarians), eating onions, garlic and the likes may “hurt” the internal organs of non meat eaters. Now you know why I’m carnivorous 😉

Seekh Kebab. This is vegetarian mutton. I found it overly salty and informed the manager. We did not finish eating this. Also, I found it gamey. Gamey?!!! It's mock meat. How did the smell get replicated???

Seekh Kebab.
This is vegetarian mutton.
I found it overly salty and informed the manager. We did not finish eating this. Also, I found it gamey. Gamey?!!! It’s mock meat. How did the smell get replicated???

Teh Tarik. Teh is tea and Tarik means pull. Pulled tea is an Indian novelty milk tea beverage. The name is derived from the pouring process of "pulling" the drink between two mugpots during preparation. Foams are produced but they aren't fine like those in latte. In fact, the coarse bubbles took up so much space in this cup, it was actually half filled and Chi Sao had a second order. He said it was good but I can't vouch for his taste.

Teh Tarik.
Teh is tea and Tarik means pull. Pulled tea is an Indian novelty milk tea beverage. The name is derived from the pouring process of “pulling” the drink between two mugpots during preparation.
Foams are produced but they aren’t fine like those in latte. In fact, the coarse bubbles took up so much space in this cup, it was actually half filled and Chi Sao had a second order. He said it was good but I can’t vouch for his taste.

Little India Singapore

Chi Sao and I at Gokul.

After lunch, James, Chi Sao and I went to meet two more photography kakis. We met Marcus at the junction of Upper Dickson and Clive Street. It was a sweltering hot day and I perspired like a swine. I didn’t mind as I knew I would be getting some new experience from these seasoned street photographers. Soon enough, along the way, we saw some foreign Indians on working permits having their day off. We asked to take pictures of them and they obliged.

We walked towards the main road onto Serangoon and saw a temple. Marcus wanted to go in but the door was closed. We saw some ladies sitting outside the door and decided to hang around. Meanwhile we took pictures “suicidal style” standing in the middle of the road. Luckily, drivers are very cautious in Little India as this place is known for their notorious pedestrians jaywalking.

Marcus in the middle of the road with his lens near ground level. There were plenty of people crossing the road earlier but they thinned down by the time I snapped.

Marcus in the middle of the road with his lens near ground level. There were plenty of people crossing the road earlier but they thinned down by the time I snapped.

Sri Veeramakaliamman, one of Singapore’s oldest temple (located at 141 Serangoon Road), was built by Indian pioneers who came to work and live here. It was also the focus of early Indian social and cultural activities in Serangoon area being the first Indian temple there.

Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple (Tamil: ஸ்ரீ வீரமாகாளியம்மன் கோவில்; Chinese: 维拉马卡卡拉曼庙) is a Hindu temple located in the middle of Little India in the southern part of Singapore.

The Sri Veeramakaliamman Temple is dedicated to the Hindu goddess Kali, fierce embodiment of Shakti and the god Shiva’s wife, Parvati. Kali has always been popular in Bengal, the birthplace of the labourers who built this temple in 1881. Images of Kali within the temple show her wearing a garland of skulls and ripping out the insides of her victims, and Kali sharing more peaceful family moments with her sons Ganesha and Murugan.

The building is constructed in the style of South Indian Tamil temples common in Tamil Nadu as opposed to the style of Northeastern Indian Kali temples in Bengal, where Her worship is extremely widespread but the style of temple construction differs considerably. Info credit – Wikipedia

Little India Singapore

New friends in the temple.

There were many more pictures of people, architecture and tea break we had after the session. My battery was dead flat! I had a wonderful time. With all the walking and a vegetarian diet, I think I will gorge some plenty meat tonight! 😉

Little India at night.

Little India at night.

This restaurant has too many cuisines, so much so that even before I ordered, I was skeptical. I would rather they served only Indian although the dish that I liked best here was the sambal tofu (Malay origin). I came for Indian… I did not appreciate the vast variety of food offered. Some folks do. I would prefer them to specialise in Indian vegetarian, keep the menu small and prepare the food really well. Variety here is not as vibrant as Little India is.

Our Bill at Gokul.

Our Bill at Gokul.

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant and Cafe.

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant and Cafe.

Gokul Vegetarian Restaurant & Cafe
Address: 19 Upper Dickson Road,
Singapore 207478.
Tel: 6396 7769

Rating: 6/10

Happy discovering 😀

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Comments
21 Responses to “Little India Singapore – Spice Up Your Life”
  1. Janet Rörschåch says:

    Oh, Sam, your photos transported me right into the middle of everything. WOW!

    • Sam Han says:

      Hi Janet, thanks for your kind words. Please link your blog to your profile 😀 I have missed you!

      • Thanks for the tip, Sam. I hope I fixed it. Please let me know.

      • Sam Han says:

        Nope Janet. When you make a comment to me, I can get connected to you by clicking your name on my comment (shortlived as new comments will flood you out of my comment box). But if I click on your gravatar icon, it only leads me to your gravatar page.

      • Sam Han says:

        Your gravatar only has your yahoo email verified. Add your blog to it. You can also link your facebook to it. click on my gravatar and see what’s on my gravatar page.

      • So I I think I did it this time. Please let me know. Thank you for your patience, Sam.

      • Sam Han says:

        Nope. Janet, you have to log into your gravatar and not wordpress.

      • I did log into my gravatar. Now I’m frustrated. GRRR…..

      • Ok, Sam. I think it’s sussed. I got on my gravatar and changed everything. Logged off, got on one of your pages, then clicked on my gravatar. It takes me to the gravatar page where one can click a link to my blog. That was more effort…..

      • Sam Han says:

        Well at least I can find you now 🙂 Anyway I just logged into my gravatar to check how you can connect with graphics. Go to “My Profile” and scroll down to “Websites” on the left column. Then on the right side, click “Add Website”. You can add your facebook and wordpress blog and any sites you may have there. Good luck 😀

  2. Sheryl says:

    Little India looks like a really fun area with lots of delicious food.

    • Sam Han says:

      There are many good food in Little India. There’s even a cheap French Restaurant which I hope to blog but the timing is a bit off at times. This is really a happening place. I just didn’t quite capture the mood. The place is swarmed on Sundays (shoulders rubbing shoulders). 😀

  3. Kevin says:

    My first time staying in Singapore was in Little India. at about 9pm on a Sunday night, the street was full of Indians – about 10 deep – hard to move. They were just mingling on the streets catching up.

  4. daniellajoe says:

    wow!!! we don’t have a little India, but I have tasted their food and it is really hot, and I love spicy food, I hope we can get more cosmopolitan restaurants around my neighborhood 🙂

  5. love sth Indian food, but hard to find most places. Everywhere is nth Indian. am unenthusiastic about eating with my hands. Used to have to do it in sth India eating at ashrams. but mostly I try to keep my hands (and my feet) out of my mouth

    • Sam Han says:

      keeping hand and feet out of mouth is a good idea. but i like eating with my right hand, lol… 😉
      i prefer south indian cuisine to northern too but it is getting too heavy for my digestion these days (getting old).
      will you be coming by singapore Michael? you’re in Laos, so near yet so far!

      • but sth Indian food is lighter – less oil, more water, than northern. One of the reasons I prefer it also. This time I won’t be going through Sng. However will try to do so next year. Will tell you in advance to ensure you are free to be employed as my ‘dinner consultant’ 😉

        btw, I like your pictures of the people. Gives you a much better sense of a place. Complements the pictures of the food well.

      • Sam Han says:

        really? I always thought sth indian to be more unhealthy as in more oil. i’m pleasantly surprised 😀 thanks for the compliments on the photos, i’m trying to do a little street photography to complement my food, yes that was the intention and thank god you noticed, lol… i will gladly take you anywhere in sg for food 😀

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