Visiting Singapore – A banana leaf meal in the middle of the rainforest

A meal served on a banana leaf at Samy’s Curry at Dempsey Road, Singapore. They serve traditional south Indian food.

The Singapore scene is one that is constantly changing. In a short span of a year, new roads and buildings have appeared, with new eating places that support the vibrant food culture of this place.

Nestled amongst lush rainforest trees along Dempsey Road is Samy’s Curry, that serves up south Indian cuisine on a banana leaf.

Samy’s Curry at Depmsey Road is comfortably nestled amongst a thicket of rainforest trees. The lush leaves cool the atmosphere, even on a hot tropical day.

Eating on a banana leaf was a more common sight in Singapore about twenty years ago. These days, only specific Indian eateries and restaurants serve their meal on a banana leaf, one of them being Samy’s Curry. Their waiters walk around carrying tins of spicy looking concoctions that smell as delicious as they looked! Their mission is to re-fill the banana leaves on tables that threaten to go almost empty of these side dishes.

Indian cuisine in Singapore is characterised by the use of spices such as cardamon, cinnamon, fennel, cloves and nutmeg. Coconut milk is often used in curries and plain yoghurt is also used in their cooking. Indian food can also be largely vegetarian, so one can find the most delectable vegetarian dishes in this restaurant, alongside barbequed chicken, squid and fish. Curried gourds, aubergine, ladies fingers and lentils are a staple in vegetarian dishes. Potatoes find their way into curries quite comfortably too, giving the curry a thicker texture.

Freshly squeezed lime juice accompanied this meal; the drink complementing the curried food.

The banana leaf used in Singapore seems simpler compared to those used in India. Here, only half of the plantain leaf (split from its spine) is used to serve food. In India, the type of plantain leaf is used to convey the social status and the financial background of the family serving the meal. The leaf is also divided into sections where certain dishes are placed in different corners of the leaf.

The restaurant attracts a large expatriate crowd. Its large grounds make customers feel right at home under colonial looking fans.

In Indian tradition, food is eaten either seated on the ground or seated on cushions with low tables. Cutlery can be requested at this restaurant, though it is not uncommon to eat with your hands, straight off the banana leaf. The whole idea is not to grease up or dirty the entire palm of your hand with curried food, but use only the tips of your fingers when eating. As I found out years ago, eating with your hands requires quite a bit of skill and it is not as easy as it looks.

Plain white yoghurt that is sour to the tastebuds, is often served last at the meal, in order to bring balance to the spicy dishes served during the meal, and it’s believed to help ‘cleanse’ or calm the stomach.

Hot tea with milk makes a good beverage to most Indian cuisine. On this particular occasion though, the tropical heat seemed to favour an ice-cold drink. Samy’s Curry serves very good freshly squeezed lime juice that mellows out the spiciness of the dishes and cools the body instantly!

Their opening hours.

Dempsey’s is today, a place of restaurants and antique shops, which draws both expatriates and locals alike. It’s a recommended swing by for a variety of food, when in Singapore.

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Bibliography

  • Indian Foods, that explains the different sections of the plantain leaf when food is served on it.
  • More pictures of Indian cuisine
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