Asean flavours with dash of India at meet

This weekend, hundreds of chefs at Marina Bay Sands will whip up a feast blending culinary traditions from India and 10 Asean nations for 2,500 guests.

The gala dinner on Sunday is a highlight of the annual Asean-India Pravasi Bharatiya Divas conference, which celebrates the contributions of the overseas Indian community in South-east Asia.

Elements of the two-day event, from food to music and decorations, were carefully chosen to reflect Indian influences on South-east Asia - and vice versa.

The menu for the gala dinner includes "Indianised" local dishes, as well as culinary inventions marrying Indian flavours with local techniques and ingredients.

Celebrity chef Sarab Kapoor, who designed the menu, told The Straits Times that her dishes reflect places in Asean where Indians have made a deep and lasting impact.

"Indians are known to be travellers, seekers and eaters. Wherever they go, they bring the flavours of home and adapt them to the local climate and available ingredients," said Mrs Kapoor, who grew up in Mumbai and is based in Singapore.

For instance, guests can snack on tiny spiced vegetable pouches in crispy wonton wrappers. The dish uses Indian samosa fillings and the crispy dumpling skins found in many South-east Asian cuisines, said Mrs Kapoor.

Other dishes include Laos mango salad, Angkor holy basil and baby kai lan fried rice and a medley of poriyal masala.

Guests will also watch a cultural performance depicting the cultural strings that bind India and Asia, featuring musicians from the Singapore Indian Orchestra and Choir, and classical dance soloists from the Singapore Indian Fine Arts Society.

The performance includes dances depicting the Indian epics Mahabharata and Ramayana, which are celebrated across Asia, and a dance show about the spread of Buddhism from India across Asia.

Other acts include singer-songwriter Raghu Dixit, who fronts a multilingual folk music band, and musician Sonam Kalra, said the Indian High Commission in Singapore.

Ms Kalra said her performance blends Hindustani classical music and Western music with Sufi and Gospel verses, along with other expressions of religion.

"I work with a keyboard player and guitarist who are Christian, my accompanists on the sarangi and tabla are Muslim, my flautist and percussionist are Hindu - a testament to the fact that when it comes to faith and music, religion is not relevant," she said. "South-east Asia is very accepting and multicultural."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 05, 2018, with the headline 'Asean flavours with dash of India at meet'. Print Edition | Subscribe