Singapore, spice and race

In 2011 a quarrel about cooking curry boiled over and became a national issue in Singapore. At the time, the local newspaper Today reported that a new immigrant family from mainland China complained about the curry odour coming from their neighbours place, occupied by an Indian-Singaporean family. Although the Indian family, who were mindful of their neighbours’ aversion, had already taken to closing their doors and windows whenever they cooked the dish, the Chinese family took the complaint to the mediation center to solve the problem since they could not put up with the smell.

After chewing over the details of the complaint, the mediator decided that the Indian family couldn’t cook curry when the Chinese family was at home. Hearing this news, many Singaporeans expressed their discontent on the Internet and on social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. On Facebook, the page ‘Cook and Share a Pot of Curry’ was created with more than 50,000 people sharing their photos of cooked curry.

But besides the social media storm in a teacup, the very public and emotive kitchen boil over speaks to the various ‘ingredients’ that make up contemporary Singapore, as well as larger questions of national identity.

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About Yuta Sugano