Little India on Sunday Afternoon

(Many readers may not realize that this blog started off nearly 10 years ago as basically a travel and food blog for two twenty-somethings spending a year in Southeast Asia. This post is written in that earlier mode.)

One of my favorite things to do when traveling is to walk around markets. One of the more interesting market neighborhoods in Singapore is Little India, which—despite having been organized and regularized for tourist purposes—remains a bit gritty and suitably colorful. With my free afternoon this Sunday I took a stroll along Serangoon Rd, from the Little India MRT stop to Syed Alwi Road, and off and on here and there to explore some sidestreets.

Kerbau Road from Above Serangoon Road

Kerbau Road from Serangoon Road

I did not expect the streets to be as crowded as they were. But it occurs to me now that Sunday afternoon is likely to be one of the busiest times in Singapore’s Little India, as many non-resident workers from the subcontinent have the day off.

Dunlop Road at Dusk

Dunlop Street at Dusk

And indeed, the crowd was dominated by young men (20-45 years old), sprinkled with the occasional Western tourist. The picture above captures the mood along the side streets perfectly. It was not hard to imagine the setting of the recent Little India riot, which took places several blocks from where that picture was taken. (And incidentally, it took place late on a Sunday night. The definitive analysis of that event has yet to be written, and I would love to read it.)

As I haven’t been in Singapore for several years, it’s been awhile since I’ve had proper South Indian food. I thus decided that I could afford two dinners this evening. The first came at one of the local outlets of Chennai’s justifiably famous Murugan Idli Shop.

Idli, and a Side of Sambarvadai

Idli, and a Side of Sambarvadai

Then, about an hour later, at the original outlet of Komala Vilas.

Paper Dosa Set

Paper Dosa Set

If you’ve never had idli before, then it’s hard to describe them. The closest thing in flavor and texture is injera, but they have nothing to do with one another except for they are squishy and a bit sour. Sambarvadai was new to me, but it’s basically a lentil donut doused in sambar (which is basically this, pardon the name). Komala Vilas’ dosa is right in their wheelhouse, and it immediately brought back memories, although it was about 1/3 of my way through the unidentified pulses and vegetable sides that I realized that two dinners would be too much.