I don’t know what came over me.
I am not good at meeting new people, and a disaster if thrown into a cocktail party situation. I tend to talk to people I already know.
So what got into me to sign up for Khana Commune?
Khana Commune is one of Singapore’s new things, a secret supper club.
Secret Suppers are like flash mobs for eating. In the instance of Khana Commune, host (the very lovely) Zina Alam opens her home to you and up to 15 others. You pay to hang out at Zina’s home and eat what she prepares for you, with people you don’t know.
Usually something I would avoid like the plague, but I was piqued with curiosity and by pictures of Zina’s food showing up on my FB page. You know I have a fondness for food (understatement).
My friend Mai described it ‘checking our social skills, to see if we still have any’.
When we arrived, there was already a table of 6 going, made up of a group who had come together. We decided to take the second table instead of joining a pre-bonded group – it seemed less intimidating.
Our table of 8 ended up being made up of a group of 30/40-somethings Canadians and a Brit anaesthetist, his Singaporean friend, and us. Who would have thought that would be a combination for an enjoyable, sociable evening? There was one person who we could have met through our normal circles. The other 5 were definitely out of our six-degrees-of-separation-ness. It was a really enjoyable combo.
If you sign up for these things, you have to go with an open mind and an open heart. Part of the secret supper experience is the social one, of meeting people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, hearing different stories over yummy food. If nothing else, you’re united by curiosity and food-fandom. So there’s bound to be something to talk about.
And it was yummy. Zina offers Bengali-based food, a mix of mum’s recipes and cooking (mum was in the kitchen), Zina’s own experiments and helper Wati’s contributions. This was our menu for the evening -
begun bhartha on dahl with roasted winter figs (aubergine mash on lentils)
murg pilao (dhaka chicken biryani)
peanut and pineapple salad
gula melaka kulfi
It sounded very promising!
It was ALL good. I was happily surprised by the dahl – I’ve usually had yellow dahl that’s quite watery (especially in Nepal, it’s like a soup), but this dahl was thick, substantive and really flavourful. Coupled with the aubergine puree, it could have been a gooey mess, but it wasn’t – it was tasty, and the bite of the roasted fig provided the texture to hold it all together.
The chicken pilao was subtle but hearty, and accompanied by mum’s sweet chutney, and Wati’s crunchy, fresh salad. All together on one plate, contrasting textures and flavours that worked really well together. They were accompanied by potato-meat rissoles, delicious in their own right, and another nice note in the overall piece. The pilao is quite unlike the heavier Indian biryani – it was gentler, less greasy, packed a quieter punch but delivered taste.
Being a great fan of gula melaka, I was excited by the kulfi, and it didn’t disappoint. Maybe if you don’t have a sweet tooth, it wouldn’t be your cup of tea – as kulfi (like ice cream, but with condensed/evap milk) is sweet and rich. The gula melaka added another dimension of the sweet. A happy marriage.
As far as I could tell, I wasn’t alone in enjoying the good food and convivial company. You wouldn’t ordinarily catch me rolling out a phrase like ‘convivial company’ but it genuinely was.
Zina herself is a delight, a natural hostess blessed with oodles of charisma (and cooking skills). Zina’s sister, in London, has now started a London Khana Commune – so readers in London, give it a go!
An unexpectedly enjoyable and happy evening. Happy tummy, happy brain. For $55 a head, that’s good value for money.
To give it a go yourself, contact Zina to get alerts on her next planned evening, or like the FB page.