Once upon a time, the British Empire had the biggest colonial domain in the world. The empire’s dominion was that substantial – which earned it the moniker “the empire on which the sun never sets.” At least one part of the empire would be daytime, while the others would be night-time. This massive empire would see its territory become smaller following the end of World War II and the eventual decolonization efforts of other European countries.
Decades passed, and these former colonies became independent nations of their own with their unique culture and cuisine. Today’s triptych looks at three former British territories and their cuisines, which I managed to try before and during the pandemic.
India was under the British for more than three centuries, almost the same duration as the Philippines under Spain. The British East India Company initially administered the colony from 1612 to 1858. Under the British Raj, the Crown directly ruled over the country beginning in 1858 until the Indian independence of 1947. India’s independence from the colonists also gave rise to Pakistan, which is located west of the country.
I managed to try out the country’s incredible cuisine through New Bombay Restaurant at The Podium in Ortigas. The joint does not have many customers on Mondays, but most of its revenue came from food delivery apps. I ordered a number of dishes rather familiar to me, but the main reason why I ate here is because I craved mattar paneer (cheese cubes and green peas in curry). I last had the dish in 2019, on my last day in Singapore with my younger brother. While the food was definitely good, I admittedly overate and experienced a food coma hours later.
Hong Kong (1841-1997)
The British occupation of Hong Kong had its roots in opium, when Crown forces occupied the island in 1841 during the First Opium War. Subsequent conflicts such as the Second Opium War widened the scope of areas under British control, and the Second Convention of Peking facilitated a 99-year lease on the territory. The island was eventually handed back to the People’s Republic of China in 1997 when the lease expired.
Tim Ho Wan is almost synonymous with Hong Kong and dimsum, and I personally am no stranger to the restaurant. The last time I dined at their SM North EDSA location was years before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, so I very much looked forward to a return there. I ordered some familiar favorites and some new ones on the menu. Permit me to commend this particular branch for adapting quickly to the new normal. Tim Ho Wan revised seating arrangements to avoid close contact, implemented a one-way foot traffic scheme for the entire place, and installed hand sanitizer dispensers at the entrance and exit points.
Singapore traces its roots to the arrival of Sir Thomas Stamford Raffles in 1819 to establish a British trading post. It eventually became part of the Straits Settlements in 1826 along with other adjacent territories. The outbreak of World War II in 1942 put Singapore under Japanese control for four years. It then returned to British hands in 1946, became a part of Malaysia for two years, and attained full sovereignty in 1965.
Hawker Chan prides itself as the cheapest Michelin-starred food establishment in the Little Red Dot. It opened its doors here in the Philippines back in 2018, and has gained a following ever since. This was my second visit ever to the establishment, having featured it in an earlier triptych. Seeing that I was unable to try it during my two visits to the Lion City due to the purported queues, it was fortunate that this branch at SM Fairview was a drive away. There weren’t many diners during my visit, so I managed to try new specialties I haven’t tried before and a few familiar picks.
And that ends my triptych. How about you; have you tried dishes from these places?
Until the next post, bon appetit and stay safe!