Every so often, we’ll take a peek into the culinary lives of DC’s international ambassadors. They’re a unique lot, given that they entertain extensively, see food as a key part of diplomacy, and employ resident chefs. But where do they eat on their off time? And where do they seek the flavors of home?
Who: His Excellency Ashok Kumar Mirpuri, Ambassador of Singapore.
How long he’s lived in Washington: Eight years.
Did your family cook when you were growing up?
“Every meal was a home-cooked meal. My father would also have homemade meals sent to his job site for lunch. There was really no concept of food from outside.”
Did you cook?
“I was a good, traditional Indian male, and I stayed out of the kitchen. I felt more useful staying on the outside. It was traditional for Indian men not to cook, however my wife will argue that’s not the case—her father, brother, and our son are all quite good cooks.”
What is your favorite comfort food from home?
“I grew up in an Indian household with traditional Indian comfort food that my mom made. Indian curries, chapatis, vegetables, lamb…Singapore’s Indian population is eight percent. Many came during the British colonial period to work at British companies or they worked in civil service or as traders. My family came as a trading family and made their lives in Singapore.”
What’s your favorite dish that the embassy chef makes?
“Beef rendang—slow-cooked, Indonesian-style beef.”
What ingredient could you not live without?
“Chili sauce. It goes into every meal I consume. Every meal I eat at home is accompanied by a basket of about eight to 10 chili sauce bottles, each with slightly different flavors. The hard decision is which bottle to take with you when you’re going out.”
Where do you go for a taste of home?
What’s your favorite American dish?
“A steak from a steakhouse in New York City.”
What’s your favorite neighborhood restaurant?
Do you ever get pizza?
“We love &Pizza.”
What’s your favorite restaurant for a formal night out?
“Masseria. Last year for our wedding anniversary, we tried a new place each night for five nights. Compass Rose, Maydan, Spoken English at the Line hotel. We loved them all.”
What is your least favorite food?
“I will try everything once at least, though my wife would argue that I’m a fussy eater.”
What’s most special about Singapore’s cuisine?
“Hawker stalls are a treasure. This is a place where you not only have a mixing of different foods but a mixing of people. People buy their own food and then go and eat together and that kind of cultural intermingling is very special. And very affordable. Each hawker center has different specialties, from venue to venue. Nothing cookie cutter about them. We would love for UNESCO to recognize them for their cultural heritage.”
What dish from Singapore would do well in DC?
“Fried noodles. DC has got much more of a street-food eating culture now, and I think people would be up for trying something new and different.”