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In the enchanted realms of worldly cuisines, the Indian kitchen stands tallest in terms of familiarity. I spent more than a decade living in India, stuffing my face at every given moment with the morsels of many kitchens. From home cooked meals to five star hotels, roadside dosa shacks to streetside pav bhaji stalls; i've tried it all. Leh to Kanyakumari, Amritsar to Imphal, your dhaba's have lain waste to the appetites of a man unleashed.
Having survived almost an entire week of eating every couple of hours; something I invariably do in Hong Kong, the time had come for a change of scenery. My friend and veritable food-enjoyer, Ben Tse, had often raved about the vegetarian thali's at Woodlands while we chatted on messenger. I had written it on my long list of places to try and today was the day. Sadly Ben was otherwise engaged, so I sifted over through public transport suffocations and confused directions.
There, perched in a nondescript corner on the 1st floor of a shopping mall, was Woodlands. I sat within visible communications with the staff, but far from other guests, content with having my own space to fuss over my food and not feel ashamed if I subconsciously let out a gleeful yelp.
The stainless steel circular vessel of meticulous joy landed at my table and the fumes of forgiveness wafted into my tentative nostrils. I fear a tear left my left eyelid, but nobody saw. Five small bowls of vegetarian curries, one dessert and one raita. A crisp poppadum shading the rice and a delicately folded chapati crowned the masterpiece. Oh, and some pickle.
Not to be forgotten, guarding the flank, an ice cold lemon soda; No sugar, no salt !
The symphony commenced with barely a pause. No toilet break. No water break. No time for phonecalls. This was one continuous spiralling intoxication with life itself. Each bowl brought new joys, each turn of the platter a new surprise. My stomach had long stopped remonstrating with capacity issues as I kept piling delicately spiced curries deep into hiding.
Tomorrow may never come, but with stomachs filled with the food of the Gods, we may greet them with no trembling.
These recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.
"Sadness is tempered by umami, grief by the motion of slurping, hope restored by the ladling of glistening, fatty broth"