280 – On Former Colonies: Triptych 51

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 (1612-1947)

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 (1819-1963)

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!

(AUTHOR’S NOTE: The featured image for this post came from vectors icon on the free stock image site Pexels.)


6 thoughts on “280 – On Former Colonies: Triptych 51

  1. The British Empire was created by the wealthy and powerful of my country and yet all of our citizens now carry the burden of how the British Empire is now viewed around the world.

    That said I think you should add several notes to your article. Once the British left India, religion broke India and caused the break away of Pakistan. Muslims, were told to go to the east which became Pakistan dividing many families and those arguments have caused 4 wars to date 1947, 1965. 1971 and 1999.

    When the British government signed a legalling binding document with China about handing back HongKong, China agred to allow the people of Hong Kong to continue enjoying the right to vote, and other freedoms mainland Chinese don’t have. In the last couple of years China has broken everyone of those agreements as it seeks to tighten its grip on Hong Kong. It does not want the independance and freedoms enjoyed by the people of Hong Kong to “infect” mainland China.

    • Thank you for your comments, Chef! Just a note, however: I didn’t delve too much on the history as I sought to focus on the food. I’ll just put my two cents here for the sake of additional information — plus some thoughts on current events.

      For India — there’s also Bangladesh, which was originally part of Pakistan but was excised in 1971. I distinctly remember George Harrison organizing a concert for it.

      As for Hong Kong, do correct me if I’m wrong — but I believe it was under Xi Jinping’s term that the crackdown on pro-democracy movements there became more publicized? I remember Time magazine featuring the 1997 handover (when Lord Patten was still governor and Jiang Zemin was still China’s paramount leader).

  2. Pingback: 309 – On Recapping 2021: The Year That Was (Part 1) | The Monching's Guide

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