Inter-area/Border Crossing

Organized Panel Session

3 - Commerce, Cuisine, and Culture: Indian Food in the Making of Singapore Identity

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Silveroak II, Ground Floor

Singapore is often regarded as a gastronomical haven in Asia in the popular imagination of food enthusiasts. It is no surprise that food is often promoted as part of Singapore’s tourist attraction. As a multiracial city-state where different ethnicities co-exist, the CMIO (Chinese, Malaya, Indian and Others) factor is strongly reflected in the official representation of Singapore. Despite being a demographic minority, the Indians are important in the making of Singaporean identity. The “Indian,” or more accurately speaking, the South Asian food and culinary culture is an integral part of Singapore’s heritage. Generations of migrants from the sub-continent brought with them diverse regional and ethnic cuisines, which resulted in the emergence of different categories of “Indian” restaurants in Singapore, as well as the hybridity of dietary practices and the fusion of cooking recipes. Thus, although “Indian Mee Goreng” and “Indian Rojak” are popular dishes in Singapore, they are almost unheard of in India. The iconic Singaporean dishes, such as “Roti-Prata” and “Fish Head Curry” are also prepared differently in India. 


By examining the development of some Indian restaurants in Singapore, this article tackles the issues of consumption and cultural practices of “Indian” food through different times, its effects on the culinary culture in Singapore, and its influence on diaspora identity formation. It also discusses commercialization and commodification of these cultural practices in the business, which aims at tourist promotion and further expansion and investment in the industry.

Jayati Bhattacharya

National University of Singapore, Singapore

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3 - Commerce, Cuisine, and Culture: Indian Food in the Making of Singapore Identity



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