Curry carnival brings residents together

Some of the contestants from the nine teams of three who pitted their culinary skills against one another, whipping up three different styles of curry - Malay, Indian and Chinese.
Some of the contestants from the nine teams of three who pitted their culinary skills against one another, whipping up three different styles of curry - Malay, Indian and Chinese.PHOTO: COURTESY OF YOH KAI XIANG
Some of the dishes at the curry contest, part of the Good Neighbours Project competition.
Some of the dishes at the curry contest, part of the Good Neighbours Project competition.PHOTO: COURTESY OF MUHAMMAD HADI SYAFIQ AHMAD SAFARUDIN

The popular dish, cooked by different races, unites S'poreans

Curry - that creamy, spicy dish that goes swimmingly with anything from rice to prata - was once the centre of a dispute between two households over 10 years ago. The incident made the news several years later in 2011.

In the episode, a family from China had sought mediation because they could not stand the smell of curry cooked by their Indian-Singaporean neighbours.

Earlier this year, some students from the Institute of Technical Education College West decided to give the dish a positive spin. They held a curry cooking contest for residents on April 24 at the Chua Chu Kang Community Club (CC).

Nine teams of three pitted their culinary skills against one another, whipping up three different styles of curry - Malay, Indian and Chinese. Other residents were then asked to taste the curries and vote for their favourite of each type.

The winners and participants all walked away with FairPrice vouchers sponsored by the CC.

"We wanted curry to bring people together rather than divide them," said Mr Habib Muhammad Abdul Rahim, 22, one of the eight students behind the project.

His schoolmate, Mr Ang Chang Hui, 20, said: "It's the same dish cooked in different ways. It's about celebrating our differences while having a common ground."

About 300 people attended the event and the two huge pots of curry the students made for the public ran out quickly.

Participants were taught how to make samosas - fried snacks with savoury filling, often made by Indians here; and ketupat - rice dumplings in a woven leaf pouch, a Malay speciality. The school and CC also put up cultural performances such as Indian and Malay dances.

The event was one of 28 projects selected for implementation under this year's Good Neighbours Project competition. In this Housing Board initiative, residents and students can apply for up to $1,000 to fund their activity.

Since the competition was introduced in 2014 under the Good Neighbours Movement, the HDB has received 192 proposals, of which 83 were shortlisted for implementation. The activities, some of which are ongoing, have reached out to over 14,000 residents so far, and are expected to involve another 2,000 for the rest of the year.

Private tutor Jenny Leong, 48, who took part in the curry contest with her two friends, said the event combined her penchant for cooking with a fresh appreciation for other cultures.

"It was our first time cooking Indian curry and we learnt a lot. Some spices, such as cumin and turmeric, we don't usually use them in Chinese cuisine," she said, adding that she also made new friends there.

Residents hungry for more will be happy to know that the students plan to make the curry carnival an annual event. They also plan to hold a "roti prata" day later this year. "Let's hope we don't run out of curry again," said Mr Ang.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 30, 2016, with the headline 'Curry carnival brings residents together'. Print Edition | Subscribe