Indian Cuisine in Singapore

Category: Food Heritage

Indian cuisine comprise diverse and rich culinary traditions from the Indian sub-continent. In Singapore, Indian cuisine includes Tamil Muslim cuisine, South Indian as well as North Indian cuisines, among various other regional traditions. Many of these dishes with roots in India have been adapted and influenced by culinary traditions of local communities in Singapore.

Southern Indian Cuisine in SingaporeSouth Indian cuisine in Singapore. Source: Jacklee, CC 4.0, Retrieved from Wikimedia.

The ingredients commonly used in Indian cuisines include ginger, garlic, turmeric, cardamom and cumin as well as different varieties of spices. Rice is a staple in South Indian cuisines, and common ingredients include lentils, tamarind and curry leaves. Dosa (crepe-like pancake made with fermented batter) that is served with vegetable fillings, chutney and sauces is another popular dish commonly associated with South India.

North Indian cuisine include naan (oven-baked flatbread), samosas (triangular-shaped fried snack with savoury filling), palak paneer (vegetarian dish containing spinach, garlic and different types of spices) and aloo ghobi (vegetarian dish containing potatoes, cauliflower and different types of spices).

In Singapore, there are a number of unique dishes which combine culinary traditions from Indian cuisines with culinary traditions from other communities. These include popular local Tamil Muslim dishes such as roti prata (flatbread with stretched dough and ghee), biryani (rice dish with spices) and rojak (salad dish with fruits and vegetables).

The fish head curry is another example of a unique dish involving the fusion of culinary features from South Indian and Chinese communities in Singapore. The dish is believed to have been conceived by Mr M. J Gomez, who came to Singapore from Kerala, India in the 1930s.

With an entrepreneurial mind and spirit, Mr Gomez was keen to customise Indian curry to cater to the taste buds of local Chinese customers. He noted that fish head was popular as a dish amongst the Chinese community, and hence, he combined the use of fish head with curry gravy. The curry used in the dish is a Kerala-style recipe which involves the use of tamarind for a sweet and sour taste, and common ingredients include ladies’ fingers and brinjal.

Today, fish head curry is widely enjoyed by the different ethnic communities and Singapore and the dish can be found in many Indian, Chinese and Peranakan restaurants.


If you would like to contribute additional information on this element, please visit this page.