Uncle Mahmood's mutton curry helped bond neighbours

SINGAPORE - (THE NEW PAPER) For years, the Mahmoods and the Hoons were neighbours, living next to each other in their Bedok HDB block.

The Hoon family would give the Mahmoods rides, while the Mahmoods would help tend to their potted plants.

But it was the authentic Indian Muslim food prepared by retiree Mahmood Maricar, 69, that truly bonded the two families.

Ms Rachel Hoon, 27, says: "He never fails to invite my family to his home during Hari Raya to join his big, bustling family to dine together. His cooking is fantastic. It has always been delicious and sumptuous."



    2kg mutton
    3 red onions, sliced
    6 shallots, sliced
    4 cloves garlic, sliced
    4 tbsp ghee
    2 tbsp cooking oil
    2 tbsp garlic, blended
    5 tsp young ginger, blended
    4-5 tsp blue ginger and Thai lemon grass, blended
    4 tsp dried chilli paste, blended
    4 tsp cumin powder
    4 tsp fennel powder
    3-4 tsp chilli powder (optional)
    70-100g tomato paste
    200ml natural yoghurt
    2 1/2 tsp salt
    5 tbsp meat curry powder
    2 handfuls mint leaves
    2 handfuls coriander leaves
    4 tomatoes, diced
    6 potatoes, diced
    3 cups boiling water

    Mixed spices (Soak for 5-10 minutes)
    4 tsp fennel seeds
    2 cinnamon sticks
    10 cardamom
    4-5 star anise
    1 tsp cloves


    1. Wash the mutton. Add a heaping spoonful of salt into a bowl of water with the mutton. Wash until the water runs clear.
    2. Heat a pot with the oil and ghee.
    3. Fry the onions, shallots and garlic.
    4. Add the mixed spices, blended garlic, blended ginger and the mixture of blue ginger and lemon grass one at a time into the pot.
    5. Add in the chilli paste, chilli powder and tomato paste.
    6. Add the mutton and fold into the ingredients.
    7. Add the fennel powder, cumin powder and salt, followed by boiling water. Stir well.
    8. Cover the pot and cook on low heat for 15 minutes.
    9. After that, remove the lid and add the meat curry powder.
    10. Cook on low heat for 10 minutes.
    11. Add the potatoes, mint leaves and coriander leaves, and stir well.
    12. Add the tomatoes and yoghurt. Stir constantly.
    13. The dish is ready to serve after another 30 minutes of cooking.

Each Hari Raya, Mr Mahmood would spend a full day cooking up a wide array of traditional dishes for his relatives and friends, including the Hoon family.

They still keep in touch even though both families moved out because of an en bloc project. They live a block away from each other today.

Sometimes, even when there were no festivals, Mr Mahmood would deliver his home-cooked meals to them.


He began honing his culinary skills more than six decades ago, learning them from his grandfather and father, who ran a catering business.

Says Ms Hoon, a marketing manager: "He once told me that he was a little disappointed that none of his children want to learn his recipes."

Mr Mahmood need not worry that his recipes will disappear as Ms Hoon "grabbed the opportunity", picking up recipes from him last year.

And from Aug 1, the public can also learn to create two of Mr Mahmood's signature dishes - mutton curry and semolina dessert.

The dishes are among 50 that will be featured in My Singapore Food, a crowd-funded campaign that aims to preserve home-cooked flavours through an online video cookbook.

Says its founder, Miss Karen Nah: "I could feel the deep friendship and bond between the two old neighbours... this is the kind of kampung spirit we need to preserve in Singapore."

About My Singapore Food

My Singapore Food is a not-for-profit crowd-funded project that aims to preserve 50 family recipes.

They were compiled from recommendations by chefs and restaurant owners here, some of whom will also be featuring their family recipes.

The short videos will be uploaded to www.mysingaporefood.com by Aug 1 and can be accessed for free. So far, the team has produced videos for about 30 recipes. It is still in the process of filming.

This article was first published on July 26, 2015.
Get The New Paper for more stories.