So I sat at the bench, ruminating on my mutton briyani. It tasted delicious, I found myself finally re-acquiring my taste for glorious Indian food after a good eight years.
Since childhood, our weekend breakfasts had always been a treat (finally a break from sandwiches!) of tasty Indian cuisine – prata, putu mayam, sometimes thosai, and on even more special occasions – murtabak or briyani! When I was in college, I would always pack a big packet of beehoon goreng and share it with my dad. The bright red colour of the vermicelli, with streaks of cabbage and onions, with a stash of cucumber and more bright red clear sauce, was such a delight for me. I love colours, and I love its taste, and of course, we love the value for money of that serving size big enough to feed a teenage girl after intense training and her strong dad at the same time. Mom probably thought I was a loser though, it hardly had any meaningful ingredients in it.
When I lived in Melbourne, we would crave for these titbits! Prata at 4 times the price in Singapore! Yes, we paid for it, that was how badly we needed it for our sanity. It was down the other end of the long long road where I stayed. That was the first time I tried a Roti Bom, which is prata with a cake of soft butter and some banana slices inside, crispy on the outside, and sweet syrup all over the outside. Thereafter, I would bring every Singaporean visitor friend to introduce them to this yummylicious magical piece of flour.
When I started working, I would take a break from the usual lunch group, and sneak off for a briyani meal, but it would always be too big a serving for me.
Then came my ten-day trip to India, which ruined my life and my tastebuds for the next 5 years. It was ten-days smelling curry. I loved curry, I really did, I was looking forward to the trip in fact. But ten days walking around smelling curry, and eating all sorts of different types of curry. I could not take it after three days, and was so envious of the clever ones who brought their own instant noodles. Saw MacDonald’s along the way to the site, and begged to go in. BUT … even the vegetable burger and french fries taste and smell of curry. Fast forward to the last day, our flights back to Singapore. We huddled under the airline blankets, and refused to stick our heads out and refused any food (other than apple juice).
When I returned, my parents were shocked that I was refusing a good prata. I refused to even look at it. It was sort of banned at home for a while, cos I just could not take the sight nor smell of curry. I only recovered from that years later, when I went to some Indian restaurant in Shanghai with some colleagues.
Oh my, the trauma of it all. I can be a grandma decades later and still talk about this as though it happened just yesterday.
Anyway, today’s mutton briyani was so darn good. I usually feel very overwhelmed halfway through my briyani, but this one was different. It was powerfully flavoursome, yet light and fluffy on the texture and aftertaste. The mutton was a small but extremely dense piece of meat. Initially, I was pensively looking at the uncle, and asking “is this it??” Well, physically, that was that. In terms of taste and how filling it is on the stomach, it is very well that of the usual serving of mutton elsewhere. Oh my goodness. That curry was heavenly. I could feel myself bathing in bliss and satisfaction of that tasty, but not greasy, curry.
So I returned in the evening for dinner, a great masala thosai, and Uncle nicely reminded me “this one curry very nice, uncle give you good curry”.