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No Onion, No Garlic? No Problem!

David Rogers, Owner & Chef

22 FEBRUARY 2017

Padhmasree Sankara, co-owner of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha

Padhmasree Sankara, co-owner of Sri Lakshmi Narasimha

Padhmasree Sankara and her family operate a vegetarian restaurant in the heart of Singapore’s Little India. The restaurant, Sri Lakshmi Narasimha, serves some of the healthiest food available in a city considered one of the world’s culinary capitals. Sri Lakshmi’s approach to cooking is rooted in Brahmin culinary traditions of Tamil Nadu, in southern India.

The Pongal Meal at Sri Lakshmi’s original location on Serangoon Road

The Pongal Meal at Sri Lakshmi’s original location on Serangoon Road

The food at Sri Lakshmi is low in oil, high in whole grains, legumes and the vegetables of the region, and rich with the healing spices and loving spirit that Ayurveda considers key factors in making food not just fuel, but medicine. The Sankara’s have operated the restaurant for more than 11 years, making changes to the menu as the market opens to the insights Ayurveda brings to eating healthfully. For instance, the restaurant recently eliminated menu items made using garlic and onion, with one exception – the Andhra Meal. They prepare this meal using equipment that never touches ingredients for the other menu items.

Why no onion and garlic? According to Ayurveda, Padhma says, “garlic and onion over-stimulate the body and can disrupt emotional balance”. While this extra stimulation can feel good to someone who is eating a heavy meal, Ayurveda considers it wiser to eat easily digested foods that do not make you feel like you are on an energy roller coaster. Padhma says garlic and certain small onion varieties do have medicinal properties, but that they should be handled like medicine – used to address specific conditions temporarily until the imbalance is resolved. Overusing garlic can be like taking too much of an antibiotic: over time the body becomes less able to experience the benefits, and the negative effects become more powerful.

 Chapati Meal

Chapati Meal

By the way, one of the secrets to flavorful Sattvic cooking is careful use of Asafetida, a dried resin, which creates an umami flavor similar to that of onion/garlic, but without these negative effects!

Padhma recommends making sure that every meal includes each of the six tastes – sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and astringent – because together they help the body maintain balance between the five elements – water, earth, fire, air and space. According to Padhma, balancing these in your body keeps you better connected to Nature, which is made up of the same five elements.

Pongal Meal at new location

Pongal Meal at new location

The Sankara family hopes that interest in Ayurveda-inspired cooking will continue to grow as the Singaporean market becomes more health-conscious. Sri Lakshmi just opened a stall at a food court in the Signature building in Changi business park area – right next to other, more established stalls that serve the garlic/onion/chili fare that most people associate with Indian cuisine.

Good luck with your new spot, Padhma. And thank you for your dedication to making healthy food delicious!

Sri Lakshmi’s new stall in the Signature Building food court

Sri Lakshmi’s new stall in the Signature Building food court

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