Venturing out in Little India, Singapore

Little India is a culturally authentic neighborhood of Singapore. It’s known for Mustafa, a four-storey department store that has everything. It’s the area that has all things Indian from corner shops, saree and gold stores, ayurvedic treatment centers. It is closer towards central Singapore. The Purple Line MRT will take you right there. Despite the recent riot, Little India is safe. I have been there even as a woman alone and I never felt uncomfortable or unsafe. However, I’d advise to avoid visiting the neighborhood on Sunday evenings because that is when most of the workers are off and the crowds can be hectic. Daytime is the best for a quieter, peacefulventure of the place or Saturday mornings or late afternoons.

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This cutie is my baby cousin. We were in India for his baptism ceremony. Of the family, I’m the oldest cousin at 30 and he is the youngest as an infant.

Saree blouse tailoring. I needed to get two saree blouses stitched for me. In America, finding saree blouse tailors at reasonable prices can be a challenge. As you can see in the picture, sarees are sold with an unstitched fabric for the blouse. The saree sets needs to be taken to an Indian tailor who can create the blouse to your measurements and desired style such as short sleeve, sleeveless, halter, low back, high back, and so on. Saree fashion trends come and go just like fashion anywhere else. It’s the type of fabric, colors, and blouse styles that vary. From years ago, I remember looking at sarees in a store with my extended family and I picked out a saree that I thought was pretty. Then both my aunty and the saleswoman told me that saree was not for young ladies. It’s a style for grandmothers. I have no way of telling. Not surprisingly, popular Bollywood actresses influence styles.

The saree too needs a fall lining (a 6-inch ribbon) at the bottom. The purpose of the saree fall lining is to make sure the saree falls right. And if you don’t already have one, please don’t forget to get an underskirt. Otherwise, where else will you tuck in the saree fabric? You may want to take the entire saree set to the tailor so that she can also look at the fabric and help you with recommendations for saree blouse styles. In Singapore, the tailors I visited are used to people unfamiliar with wearing sarees.

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Sarees with unstitched blouse piece

During the last days, it was a theme each free day. For two days the theme was “Indian Things.” The days involved picking saree blouses, eating out, ayurvedic treatment, and Indian sweets.

Getting Saree Blouses. By word-of-mouth, I heard of Paru’s Tailoring. It is located behind the Little India MRT stop. Behind the stop there is a open cafe and behind that cafe on the right is Paru’s small tailoring shop. The stores in this strip seem to be for the locals. This is the place to go if you are capable of adapting to a thick Singlish blended with a blunt communication style. Paru knows what she is doing and I am happy with the quality of her tailoring work. The hole-in-the-wall places can be hidden treasures. Paru’s Tailoring, 672 Chandler Road #01-48 Chola’s Village Singapore.

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Next stop: savory Indian snacks and mango lassi before an ayurvedic treatment 

 

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Pani puri takes me to another world

Chaat. Little India has tons of bustling restaurants, food courts, and of course tea shops where you can get tea, coffee, lassi, and chaat. Chaat refers to savory snacks that typically accompany tea. I could wander through the streets and sample different types of food from different places.

Pani puri is basically bite-size portions of fried bread, puri that is then stuffed with potato curry and spices. The green chutney is poured into the opening and you take a bite. It’s a great pick-me-up with tea or mango lassi.

Samosas are another personal favorite of mine. It’s deep fried pastry that is stuffed with potato curry, green peas, and other goodies. Only when I had them here in Singapore, I discovered that I lost my ability to handle spicy foods. It is probably because I have been having the mild versions when I lived in the States.

That’s when I sip mango lassi afterwards. I miss good mango lassi and I could have it all day. It’s really nice for hot days in Singapore.

Life is to short, so that is why I say eat.

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Getting an ayurvedic massage for the first time . . .

 

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Highly recommended Ayurvedic center in Little India

Ayurvedic treatment at Amrita Ayurveda & Yoga CenterThis was my first ayurvedic treatment of my life. Don’t ask me why I never had that experience even though I heard about it several times. Growing up with the Indian cultural background and being of Indian origin, it’s one of those things that I took for granted. Perhaps, it’s similar to asking you why you have never tried swing dancing or country line dancing. I also wanted the real thing in a place where I don’t feel intimidated as someone clueless about ayurveda’s ways. 

To those completely clueless to ayurveda like myself, Amrita is the right place to be. Don’t let the unfamiliar names for treatments intimidate you. The person at the front counter was friendly, hospitable and I felt at ease asking him the most basic questions. The place was clean and pretty. It invoked a sense of intrigue.

I signed up for the treatment for back pain and muscle stiffness. I can’t even remember what it is called, but I can tell you my experience. A nice Malayalee lady greeted me and had a short consultation about my aches and pain. I was given time to undress and it started with me sitting on a chair while she massaged my shoulders and upper back. Then, I lay on a table for the treatment. It felt more like a oil rubdown rather than a massage. I generally prefer Chinese style acupressure massage or deep tissue. Then, heat compress was applied to my back. The experience was definitely a relaxing treat. I enjoyed it but I still would prefer a Chinese or Javanese style massages. 

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Can never get enough of Tandoori Naan & Chicken Tikka

More food at the Delhi Restaurant. Tandoori Naan and Chicken Tikka is generally considered special occasion food. It’s not something Indians typically have at home. Regardless, it’s comfort food. I could pig out on this dish. The perfect Chicken Tikka is not to oily and with the right combination of spices. 

2014-05-14 21.08.02Then, there are Indian sweets for the road

2014-05-14 18.56.42There was a sweet shop I was looking for only to find out it closed down. Instead, I visited Bikanervala. It’s a place where you can grab dosas and tea. But they have an array of Indian sweets. When I lived in Dubai, I took Indian sweets for granted.One reason I loved Diwali was receiving sweets as gifts. 

Indian sweets are very rich. Don’t let the tiny pieces fool you. It’s also not for those who are dieting. It’s mostly made of milk solids and sugar. I got different varieties of peda, kaju burfi, gulab jamun, and ras malai. Peda has a similar taste to a milk-cardamom flavored fudge. Kaju burfi is a fudge made from cashew nuts as the base. Gulab jamun is a fried dough that is soaked in a sugar solution. Ras malai is paneer soaked in cream, sugar, and saffron. The latter two are acquired taste. Most newcomers to Indian sweets generally do not like them at first. My ex-boyfriend who’s never had Indian food (or ever seen a Bollywood film) before meeting me enjoyed kaju burfi. He described it as a “kind of nutty fudge.” 

When I want to enjoy “Indian things” whether it be saree shopping or tailoring, indulging in mughal cuisine, or pampering myself with ayurvedic treatments, Little India is the place to go in Singapore. It also has gold shops and places to get your eyebrows threaded. There’s plenty to do there during the day.

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