Rediscovering Indian food

Posted on September 29, 2006 by Aun

I’m a huge fan of Northern Indian food. Going to university in New York City meant that I lived partially on a staple diet of Chinese and Indian takeaway meals. My flatmate and I were pretty sick. At least my wife considers what we did pretty vile. Every few days we’d call our favourite neighborhood Punjabi palace and call in a couple orders of sag paneer, chicken tikka masala, butter chicken, keema, navrattan korma and dhal. Whatever we didn’t eat immediately would get tossed in the freezer. Whenever we got a little peckish, we’d carve out some frozen Indian food, toss it onto a plate with some rice (pulled out of the fridge of course) and nuke it in the microwave. Instant meals for the next few days. When we ran out or when the food started looking a little too frostbitten, we’d simply pick up the phone and order some more.

It wasn’t until I moved back to Asia that I discovered just how elegant and refined Northern Indian food could be. The food I tried was nothing compared to the schlop that I had ordered in week after week in university. It was beautiful. It was delicious. It had complex flavours and it was made with the freshest ingredients.


multani shorba

One of the very best exponents of innovative and artfully-crafted Northern Indian food is Chef Milind Sovani. Chef Sovani runs the kitchens at an exquisite restaurant in Singapore called The Song of India. Previous to opening The Song of India, he was the head chef of Rang Mahal, an equally amazing and very well-known restaurant located in the Pan Pacific hotel. I like Chef Milind because he’s a man on what he himself describes as “an important mission”. And that mission is, as he puts it, “to showcase Modern Indian cuisine to the world.”


gilawat kebab and saunfwale scallops

Sovani is trying to do for Indian food what chefs like Ducasse and Robuchon did for French food in the early 1990s. With total respect and understanding of his culture’s cuisine and cuisine heritage, he tries to create new, lighter, more elegant and more beautiful dishes. His food is still authentically Indian. But it’s a new Indian.

I also admire the fact that Sovani, through his menu, is also trying to introduce diners to foods from regions whose dishes are not usually seen on Indian restaurant menus. Take for example the cuisine of the Lucknow region. While Punjabi dishes are common on menus around the world, Lucknow food is hard to find outside of India. One of Sovani’s signature dishes is Gilawat Kebab (pan-seared soft lamb kebabs). These kebabs are super-tender, gorgeous and tiny minced lamb patties. Sovani explained to me, on a recent visit, that about 60% of his menu at The Song of India are indicative of what he calls Modern Indian cuisine. Another 20% are regional dishes that he believes you won’t find in other restaurants. The last 20% are classics that he admits he has to have on his menu or else customers would complain. He’d love to remove them, but too many customers still expect an Indian restaurant to offer things like chicken tikka masala.

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with Chef Sovani to plan a menu for a very special meal. Thanks to one of my very generous sponsors, I’ll be hosting an exquisite 8-course Modern Indian dinner prepared by Sovani in an equally exciting space. The Miele Active Kitchen is one of the best kept secrets in Singapore. Built by Miele, makers of stunning German home appliances (I love, love, love their steam oven), it is a private dining room that seats 12 comfortably and boasts a beautiful open kitchen. Here, Chef Sovani and his team will be whipping up this meal right in front of me and my dining companions using all of Miele’s super-cool kitchen equipment.

In addition, Chef Milind and I have also come up with a special 6-course menu that will be available at The Song of India. Many of these dishes will also be served at our 8-course extravaganza. The menu is as follow: Jhinga Smamarkand (tiger prawn in caraway enhanced marinade) with mustard chilli-infused chickken tikka (tender tandoori chicken kebab in grainy mustard); multani shorba (Lucknavi chicken and lentil soup); gilawat kebab and saunfwale scallops (scallops with a fennel and coriander crust); cumin lemon sorbet; lobster moily (lemon-chilli lobster with a Keralan moily sauce) with lime leaf upma, madras onion & edamame stir-fry; and malai kulfi (Indian ice cream with saffron) with fresh fruits and minted honey. This menu, though, will only be available to OCBC cardmembers, starting from 1 October 2006. The price of the menu will be S$114+++ without wine and $144+++ with wines paired with the meal.


malai kulfi

I’ve had the pleasure of trying these dishes, of course, and all are yummy. The lobster was especially fantastic. And I’m always a sucker for a good, well-made kulfi. If you haven’t been to The Song of India you should try it at least once. It’s a unique and delicious experience.

The Song of India
33 Scotts Road, Singapore 228226
Tel: +65 68360055

About Aun Koh

Aun has always loved food and travel, passions passed down to him from his parents. This foundation, plus a background in media, pushed him to start Chubby Hubby in 2005. He loves that this site allows him to write about the things he adores--food, style, travel, his wife and his bouncing baby boy!

What Others Are Saying

  1. Anonymous September 29, 2006 at 6:43 pm

    So you weren’t exaggerating when you said there were more exclusive and exciting offers for OCBC cardmembers coming up.

    I only discovered North Indian food as cheap meals when living in Berlin, it’s comfort food to me. Sounds like Song of India will have a different take on it. Must try.

    brenda

  2. ec September 29, 2006 at 10:45 pm

    of course it is true that there are exciting offers for OCBC card holders

  3. Nha September 30, 2006 at 12:22 am

    The foods look yummy! I recently had an “Indian Feast” in my cooking class, but the foods look nothing compare to what you have here.

  4. Veron September 30, 2006 at 11:13 am

    I just came back from a cooking class . I will actually try and make it look like fine dining fare
    like you have it in your wonderful yummy photos. Just started my food blog and I am enjoying it.

  5. ike September 30, 2006 at 12:02 pm

    have always been a great fan of indian food and rang mahal is indeed good. the presentation and food at song of india look fantastic…not your typical indian food presentation.

    have yet to go there. thanks for the review..will ask my husband to give me a treat soon :)

  6. Anonymous September 30, 2006 at 7:26 pm

    As an Indian, I was thrilled to see the simplicity in the photos and describtions of the Indian food. Way to go. But as a South Indian, I felt left out. Is it because you are not exposed to or not favourable to the tropical flavors of Southern Indian food?
    shaheen

  7. My Space October 1, 2006 at 2:37 am

    Hi I discovered your blog from google search, the photos in your blog really amazing! I just started my blog in Aug ’06, will visit you often. Cheers!

  8. My Space October 1, 2006 at 2:42 am

    Hi discovered your blog from Google search, photos in your blog are amazing! I just started my blog in Aug ’06, will visit you often. Cheers!

  9. Frederico October 1, 2006 at 4:46 pm

    wow.. i’m blown away… will go try Song of India …
    Did’nt know North Indian food could look so exquisite…

  10. Homesick Texan October 1, 2006 at 10:53 pm

    Next time you’re in NYC you should try Surya in the West Village–with fresh flavors, beautiful spice and gorgeous presentation, they prepare Indian food as edible art not cheap grub. Bombay Talkie in Chelsea is also a huge leap above the 6th Street curry factories.

  11. Kimmie October 3, 2006 at 1:28 am

    Hi Chubby Hubby!

    I’ve never had Indian food presented so beautifully. That’ll definitely be my next quest here in Los Angeles!

    I can’t wait to visit Singapore someday!

    Hope you and S are doing wonderfully! Thank you so much for all the wonderful pictures!

    xoxo Kimmie

  12. Anonymous October 3, 2006 at 1:34 pm

    Hello chubby Hubby -

    The pics are so wonderful, like some work of art on display in an art gallery. Loved the way Malai Kulfi has been presented. creative genius indeed!!

    Happy discovering Indian cusine. Try and explore cusines from other regions in India, especially the South – finger licking chicken stew and hoppers!! yummmm!

    -an Indian settled in Dubai

  13. jules October 5, 2006 at 1:54 pm

    I love Indian food too. I wish there was somewhere in Sydney I could get Indian that looked this good

  14. nika October 7, 2006 at 12:29 am

    I love both northern and southern but I find myself craving a really good sambar, idli and dosa more than I do northern curries. Where I live there are no indian restaurants at all.. the closest is about 45 mins away and they are all north indian! So of course I crave southern!

    beautiful pics, just divine!

  15. Anonymous October 9, 2006 at 5:59 pm

    as a north indian…this is just amazin…so far away from the greasy,sloppy “indian” food in uk and india.

  16. Anonymous October 9, 2006 at 6:00 pm

    as a north indian…this is just amazin…so far away from the greasy,sloppy “indian” food in uk and india.

  17. Mallika October 16, 2006 at 8:54 pm

    These photos are amazing, with a touch of 1980s nouvelle cuisine about them

    I’m currently posting info about the defining characteristics of food from different parts of India on my blog http://www.quickindiancooking.com.

    Can you give me your pointers on the unique characteristics of Punjabi food. Help! I know my saag paneer from my idlis but I’m having trouble putting the differences to paper.

  18. valkyrie October 27, 2006 at 3:52 am

    hey i’ve been to a fabulous dinner in the miele kitchen! chef julian it was, if i remember correctly. it was awesome! i sat next to the ambassador of peru and he was a funny dude! (i dared him to eat a flower and he did)

  19. Foodie Jr. November 1, 2006 at 7:53 am

    Cool pics!

  20. Brigitte January 30, 2007 at 1:06 pm

    Oh how wonderful this is, right the information I need. I have this restaurant on my to-go-to-[die die must try :-)-}list. I’ll go there as soon as possible. Even if I love to eat in.

  21. Ritu May 2, 2009 at 8:43 am

    These are vey special recipes as can be known from the photos. Malai kulfi looks very yummy. I am a veggie too, cannot comment on others.

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