Home > Can you not cook curry Sir?, Singapore Scene, Uncategorized > Please Sir, Can you not cook curry Sir?

Please Sir, Can you not cook curry Sir?

I did not want to write anything today.  Really not in the mood. But this news report caught my eye and ire. Todayonline – community disputes So here is my rant.

I mean we all know that some disputes can be really petty. But surely this takes the cake?

You know how we used to hear racial jokes about smells? We are all convinced that we don’t smell? In actual fact we do. Chinese can have a “porky” smell or smell of garlic. Indians can smell of coconut oil. It is just that we are not aware of it. What do we do? We can laugh at ourselves and tolerate our neighbours. I mean what do we expect? Tell the Chinese to eat less pork, use less garlic? Or the Indian neighbours not to use coconut oil?

Hygiene is a different matter. If the smells that exude from our neighbour’s flat is a result of a lack of hygiene, then yes, we can complain and expect some improvement. Lack of hygiene can bring pests, or in extreme cases present a fire hazard.

Coming back to this case, I take issue not just with the complaint. I take issue with the highlighting of this specific case. In the first place, I think this is NOT a common example. In highlighting this case, it makes this particular PRC family look bad, probably deservedly so. The bigger problem is that it shows that our foreign guests are not integrating. Worse still, they know how to make their complaints heard and addressed. It spoils the market for other, more sensitive foreign guests.

Furthermore this is the sort of story that promotes xenophobia. Just read the rapidly increasing no. of comments on facebook links and the content of the comments.

Next I take issue with the resolution by the community mediation centre. Is this a triumphant solution or what? I take my hat off to the Indian family for tolerating this resolution. Cooking curry only when the neighbour is not in? Gosh how is that wisdom? Or is that really being totally insensitive? So if the Chinese family is home by six every evening, the Indian family must cook dinner before 6 even if they eat at 8?

Tolerance of each other’s culture is the basis of harmony. Imagine muslims tolerating the Seventh month festivities that are coming up, the smoke from the joss sticks and the very loud noise of the performances of the getaior the Chinese tolerating the call to prayers from the mosques. In this society, there are many examples of such tolerance. Now we have guests who come to our country who tell our own people what not to cook? I mean…

By coming up with this sort of solution, CMC is almost sending a message that we need to be gracious hosts and be mindful of our guests. Our guests on the other hand, have every right to complain against us. Why not advice the PRC family about culture and integration instead?

The request of the Indian family is for them to give the dish a try! It is nice of them. However, the Chinese family is entitled not to like curry. Offer them some dishes as good neighbours should. But if they don’t want to, no need to try. Just like I don’t like smelly tofu, or my future daughter-in-law does not like durians. No need for either of us to try. Live and let live.

Taking this a step further, next thing I know, durians are disallowed in all hdb flats, because some neighbours, especially those who just moved toSingaporethink they smell foul. Or worse, the sale of durians is banned because we need to be sensitive to those who think it smelly beyond reason.


  1. August 8, 2011 at 11:32 am

    Good article! Don’t mind, I’m submitting this to Temasek Review 🙂

  2. HK Peng
    August 8, 2011 at 12:52 pm


  3. August 9, 2011 at 6:04 am

    I saw this in a comic strip: A robber comes to you and demands $500. A passing policeman, instead of arresting him, negotiates with him to ask for less money. The robber asks for $300, and gets it. The policeman claims he has helped mediate the problem. This is what this episode sounds like.

  4. August 9, 2011 at 6:43 am

    I absolutely agree with you. I related this case to some people and all were shocked by the resolution from the mediation center. The Indian family is really generous and considerate to accept it, and I seriously pity them. Some people told me they would have told the mediation center and the PRC family to screw themselves. And yes there’s growing xenophobia among Singaporeans. But I think Singaporeans have to bear in mind that the foreigners are here to make a living, to build a better life for themselves. The culprit whom we should place the full blame on is the ruling government. We need a credible alternative government.

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      August 9, 2011 at 7:19 am

      Hi Maria – left out the last part of your sentence. Anyway – i really dont understand why this particular case was highlighted. And yes, we can welcome foreigners – but when the nos get too large, there is bound to be tensions. It is already difficult to draw the line between being angry at the situation and angry at foreigners. Why highlight such a skewed case? really beats me!

  5. diurach
    August 9, 2011 at 7:12 am

    Ang moh’s smell of old cheese, apparently… I was told this when I first moved here 6 years ago, and as my eating habits changed (I use hardly any dairy since leaving the UK) I too began to notice the smell of curdled cream and cheese from friends who visited me from home.

    I once had Chinese Singaporean neighbours who observed their faith by regularly burning paper and incense, which could easily fill my flat with smoke. However, they always knocked on my door to let me know when they were about to start, and if I was not in but had left a window open they would push it closed. It’s little common courtesies like this that negate the need for mediators… sadly too many people these days feel the need to take their grievances to the extreme. How long before Sg becomes like the US and everyone sues everyone else for the smallest thing?

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      August 9, 2011 at 9:50 am

      haha – just noticed your old cheese comment. yes – i also did not realise that Chinese smell of garlic or pork till i came back from a mainly muslim country where pork is missing in the diet. thanks for popping by ang moh…no racial joke intended – just a way of addressing my fair skinned friends.

  6. August 9, 2011 at 7:16 am

    Fellow Singaporean bros and sis, we must put our foot down on this one. They should integrate into us and not us into them.

    If we don’t say something or do something, very soon, new FT citizens will request a nationwide durian ban in SIngapore or ban of beef burgers in burger outlets…

  7. citizen
    August 9, 2011 at 8:18 am

    I will continue to cook my curries, and eat my favourite durians. Heck to these new immigrants. They came to our home, we are gracious to let them have our flat, schools and jobs, and they said, please don’t eat this or that…?? What audacitiy. And the CMC is stupid – the best solution is ask them to go back where they came from, jump into the sea, or assimilate.

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      August 9, 2011 at 8:24 am

      The problem is we do not really know the whole story. Hence i still blame the insensitive way this story is put across. This is a specific case and not a common issue. By reporting this as such, it is CMC which has shown itself to have given inappropriate counsel – assuming the story is accurate, and being unaware of the unhappiness on the ground.

  8. Harry
    August 9, 2011 at 11:14 am

    Totally agree that the CMC really stuffed this one up. They seem to be the model of how to bend over backwards to accommodate the incoming foreigner and instead lean on the local who’s done no wrong to accept an untenable situation. That’s not mediation, it’s more like arm twisting.

    Isn’t the public interest better served when community mediators bring intelligence to their job? Foreigners coming here should integrate or at least respect the practices of locals, especially when those practices are otherwise unobjectionable.

    Unfortunately the article is symptomatic of the balance our govt has struck between the interests of locals and foreigners – there is none! Essentially, govt’s made it a zero sum game – foreigners win, locals lose – notwithstanding any pious protestations to the contrary about Singaporeans coming first, or striking a balance (who believes those soundbytes anymore?)

  9. August 9, 2011 at 12:05 pm

    from BT Kojak kojakbt@gmail.com
    to mlaw_hq_cmc@mlaw.gov.sg
    cc THARMAN_S@mof.gov.sg,
    date Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 5:15 PM
    subject PRC asking a Singaporean Indian not to cook and eat curry
    mailed-by gmail.com

    Dear Sir(s),

    I read the following article from Temasek Review with consternation:

    In a dispute between 2 neighbours over curry cooking, it was reported that the PRC family asked the Singaporean Indian family, “Can you please do something? Can you don’t cook curry? Can you don’t eat curry?”.

    The most disappointing part is the CMC mediator, Mdm Giam, got the Singaporean Indian family to cook curry only when the PRC family was not at home!

    I’ve lived in Singapore for almost half a century. I do not ever recall any Singaporeans complaining against others over the cooking of curry. In fact, curry has already become a cuisine of Singapore and many Singaporeans, regardless of race, love curry. It has become part of our culture.

    And now you have a Govt official siding with foreigners to ask Singaporeans not to eat or cook curry??? What has Singapore come to these days? Shouldn’t the foreigners be integrating into our culture and society if they want to become our citizens and not the other way round?

    We need an answer from you. Thank you.

    Yours sincerely,


  10. jpc
    August 9, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    I am not a lawyer. But have this gone to court, I think the Indian family will win. need input from someone will knowledge of law.

  11. Dave
    August 9, 2011 at 11:26 pm

    So now we can’t cook our curries..freely. What’s next? Actually the question should be what more? I was wondering why the National Day Parade stirred no sense of patriocism in me.. Now I know.. I no longer feel that it is a place where Singaporeans can feel safe and secure.. Not physically but emotionally..
    In fact when I recently was signing some papers with POSB, I realized that I was no longer ‘Singaporean’ but a ‘National of Singapore’!
    Are we slowly being weaned off our sense of bring a Singaporean? Are we unconsciously being manipulated so that we can no longer call ourselves Singaporean?

    If I were a ‘new citizen’ from some village in Shandong.. That category may be appropriate … But I was born bred here as were my parents and one grandparent.. Surely I deserve to be a Singaporean!?


  12. Susila
    August 10, 2011 at 10:42 am

    I am a citizen of Singapore. I love my country and my nationality. Yesterday, when I saw Mr Lee Kwan Yew walking up the stairs to his assigned seat, my heart ached to see that he has aged so much.My great respect for him and my country can never be deterred by anything.

    After hearing about the curry incident, only one thing came to mind.This can happen to me too! How could this be allowed in a multi racial country? I cook in my house, in my kitchen which are within my four walls. Who has the right to tell me what to cook? How much smell can Indian cooking cause that could disturb a Chinese family? There are many Chinese families who play Mahjong into the wee hours of the morning. We can also hear the noise as neighbours. So what do we do? Do we go to court and complain? We simply tolerate this because we understand that it is a part of their culture, don’t we?

    I am saddened to know that curry, which is considered a staple in the diet of Indian families has come under such light to a point where a family has to actually avoid cooking it because their neighbours cannot stand the smell. Well, one thing is for sure, I am happy that this family is not living next to me and Singapore definitely doesn’t seem to be having a “gracious” and “courteous” society.

  13. August 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm


    I linked your article to mine too.


  14. Hum Yee
  15. mb
    August 11, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    Go to hell if you so called guests of ours don’t like our Sing food. Curry is very much a part of our cuisine and no foreigner has the right to complain what and where we cook our food. If you can’t assimilate into our society, take the next plane back to PRC.


  16. Heaven
    August 16, 2011 at 7:24 am

    Being an indian this issue really makes my blood boil.. Hw can you forego your habits and culture? I have always voice I feel like a stranger in a country I’m born but now I feel alien among the PRC’s and FT.

    • SpeakSpokeWriteWrote
      August 16, 2011 at 7:29 am

      i am not an indian, and many non-indian singaporeans also feel this is ridiculous, whether we like curry or not. The issue is still the failure to use the opportunity to counsel integration!! enjoy your curry please…

  1. August 10, 2011 at 12:16 pm
  2. August 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm

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