Aside from the humdrum essentials I’d come for, I found a beautiful raw-silk scarf in a shade of deep purple for a friend for about $12 in the fabric and sari section. I also mused over lovely Indonesian batik sarongs but left them for another time. In the men’s clothing section, I rifled through pajamas in the style of Pakistani kurtas for my father, but none looked like the right size. Instead, I bought him a silly Singapore T-shirt that shows the “fines of Singapore,” such as $1,000 penalties for littering or urinating in elevators. Maybe he’ll wear it around the house.
Spicing it up
Just down from the Center off Serangoon Road, a vibrant thoroughfare of shops selling gold, fragrant flower garlands and waving-cat souvenirs, is my favorite Indian restaurant in the city. Lagnaa has two floors, the first with standard tables and chairs and graffiti covering the walls and the second with low tables and floor pillows, where shoes are not allowed. On our latest visit, my husband, Brian, and I sat upstairs as usual and began with a bucket of a selection of Indian beers, with names such as Kingfisher and Flying Horse.
That night Brian wanted to chip away at Lagnaa’s “chili challenge,” a kind of game he had become consumed with. Customers order dishes based on a spiciness scale of 1 to 10. I can only handle a 3, and Lagnaa’s hostess had told me that 3 is also the chef’s limit. Brian had made it to a 5, which meant that a clothespin with his name on it was added to a line strung against the wall on the first floor. Tonight he wanted to go for a 6.
He ordered chicken masala, which came to our table with six curry leaves in it, to denote its spiciness. While I savored my favorite (and tame) dish — butter paneer — with yogurt rice and garlic naan, he ate the fiery masala, his nose and eyes running the entire time. When he finished, the hostess came by to make sure that he’d eaten every last bite. “She’s tough,” he said to me, spooning the last morsel into his mouth.
Only one person has achieved a 9 — an Aussie from Sydney who claims that he’ll fly back to Singapore and take on anyone who tries to best him with a 10. Brian recently moved back to the States for his job, and I’ll follow in the coming weeks. But I don’t think we’ll need much of an excuse to come back and visit; after all, the chili challenge waits to be conquered.
Kirk edits scholarly publications for the Middle East Institute at the National University of Singapore.