31 03 2011

One of the many bowls of noodles that kick-started my mornings and filled my days at Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts.


This beautiful arrangment of pillars and scented candles stand front and center in the lobby, giving guests the fitting welcome to the world of Royal Plaza on Scotts.

GIVE ME pen and paper and I will just write away.  Writing longhand – mostly in cursive – is something that I would never give up even with the onslaught of modern technology.  I guess that’s the reason why, apart from wristwatches, I consider gifts of notebooks, stationery, and writing instruments to be the most thoughtful.  And lucky me, I have Friendship and Partner who help fuel that passion.

On my fourteenth day in Singapore – my last breakfast at Carousel at Royal Plaza on Scotts – I got so overwhelmed with all the amazing food I have been blessed to start my mornings with that I felt the need to express my gratitude.  I have been feasting on food so good “it consumes me,” to borrow Poh Ling Yeow’s words.

So I asked for pen and paper.

I channeled my gratitude through my right hand, onto a pen and on the surface of paper.  I just wrote away.  I’ve always believed that the one thing people will never forget is how we made them feel.  But I think sometimes, leaving something tangible – like something they can actually read – makes a little difference.

Letter, front page.


Letter, back page.


Feedback card for Hainanese Chicken Rice, ordered in-room service.


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

Fishball Noodle Soup and Oyster Omelet

31 03 2011

Li Xin Fishball Noodle (Mee Kia) Soup at Ion Food Hall


FattyWeng Fried Oysters Oyster Omelet at Ion Food Hall

WITH PROBABLY the brooding persona of a melancholy madman on a mission, I approached my gastronomic adventure in Singapore armed with a weapon.  A checklist!

On it I have names of delicacies I should try, restaurants I should go to, and places where to shop – prioritized in that order.  Good thing I had the pages of my kikki.K DAILY NOTES notebook to serve this purpose.  Bought at kikki.K’s store in Singapore, it’s yet another one of Friendship’s thoughtful gifts.

By the end of day one, I had already ticked off chili crab, though all of my friends said I still had to have Jumbo Seafood Gallery’s version (and I did a couple of days later).  Halfway through day two, I had managed to put a check mark beside a couple more items – Fishball Noodle Soup and Oyster Omelet.

While both could be had at nearby friendly hawker stalls, I chose to look for them at the Ion Food Hall at Ion on Orchard, the mall nearest my hotel.

My fishball noodle soup is actually called Fishball Mee Kia Soup, “mee kia” or yellow wheat vermicelli noodles being my noodle of choice.  Served in a huge white bowl, it was almost overwhelming, chockful with seven of the biggest fishballs I’ve ever seen.  The fishballs were a delight both in texture and taste.  They were firm but characteristically soft and smooth and tasted with a hint of sweetness that could only mean they were made from more pricey fish meat.  To fire up the experience, I would dip each fishball – and subsequently lace the noodles – in the soy-chili dipping sauce that came with.

Seven large fishballs all in a circle


Soy-chili dipping sauce. I finished this!

I watched and waited – breathless in anticipation – while the chef whipped up my small portion of oyster omelet.  I’ve never had one in Manila so having it in Singapore was doubly thrilling.  With one quick motion of an experienced hand, the egg batter was mixed with a thin mixture of potato starch and ladled on to a hot griddle.  As the thick egg wrap formed with the heat, the rest of the ingredients, the freshly shucked oysters in particular, were thrown in in the (heated) frenzy.  A few more quick moves with the wrist and the savory omelet was plated and topped with freshly torn coriander leaves.  I stared at it and told myself, “This is their small portion.”

Ion Food Hall also goes by the name Food Opera.


Their small portion of the oyster omelet is not small at all!


The amount of oysters they put was very generous!


Lots of fresh coriander on anything makes me so happy.

I ate the omelet at a leisurely pace, as if making up for all those times I had put off ordering one in Manila.  It was so good that I felt I had to ration it – doling out a small piece each time for dramatic effect.  With my fork, I lingered, almost teasing each juicy oyster before I put them in my mouth.

I found it fitting to pair these hot dishes with something fresh, something raw that still had all of its enzymes intact.  I proceeded to Juice Bar and asked for fresh tomato juice.  They chucked in the juicer huge wedges of the brightest red plum tomatoes and after a couple of zaps, handed me the best tomato juice I’ve ever had.  Perfect.

Fresh tomato juice!


The look of satisfaction


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.

Tung Lok Seafood

31 03 2011

Tung Lok Chili Crab

THE DAY of my arrival in Singapore was a special day, the 13th of March being Brother’s birthday.  So dinner had to be special – but within my budget.  I knew I was to channel Rachael Ray circa early 2000’s in the coming couple of weeks (think “$40-a-Day”).

This being my first time ever, I had to rely on my Singapore-based best friends on where to grab something to bite, whether I’d be on the go (the “fast” food places) or I’d have time to lounge around (the “finer” dining haunts).  But for my first dinner, Friendship opted to google.  But not blindly key in a search string.  She had a place in mind.  We just needed the address.

That’s when we found Tung Lok Seafood – “The Singapore Taste” – at nearby Orchard Central.

The taste of Singapore has a lot to offer.  Not even with one foot in the door, I already got so overwhelmed with the themed menus the place categorically laid out on the table by the entrance.  There were menus for tasting, à la carte buffet dinner, à la carte buffet lunch, and even for a wedding.

All five of us decided on the à la carte buffet dinner.  What happened was we were made to select all that we wanted from the said menu.  I repeat – ALL.  It’s like an eat-all-you-can, only that it is managed because the food served will only be those you checked.  So if you would go to Tung Lok, go with a really empty stomach and with pen and menu in hand, just check away!  Though I did notice that three delicacies had limits per person:  The scallops at two pieces, the shark’s fin soup at one serving, and the crabs at 200 grams.  Still I say, at SG$ 38.00++ per head, not bad at all.

And order a lot we did!  These were all the items we checked:  Steamed Half-shell Scallops with Minced Garlic and Vermicelli, Salmon Sashimi, California Maki, Braised Shark’s Fin with Fish Maw Soup, Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk, Crispy Eggplant with Pork Floss, Tung Lok Chili Crab with Mini Buns, Crispy Prawns with Butter and Cereal, Poached Baby Kai Lan served with Chinchalok, Crispy Noodles with Fresh Prawns, Yang Zhou Fried Rice, and Chilled Almond Beancurd with Longan.

Steamed Half-shell Scallops with Minced Garlic and Vermicelli


Salmon Sashimi


California Maki


Braised Shark’s Fin with Fish Maw Soup


Crispy Fish Skin with Salted Egg Yolk


Crispy Eggplant with Pork Floss


Crispy Prawns with Butter and Cereal. The prawns are in ther somewhere.


Oh, here's one!


Poached Baby Kai Lan served with Chinchalok


Crispy Noodles with Fresh Prawns


Chilled Almond Beancurd with Longan

The steamed half-shell scallops were served with both the white adductor muscle and the bright orange roe nestled on the pristine white shell.  Sprinkled with golden brown minced garlic, with sautéed glass noodles tucked in and around, Tung Lok’s rendition was quite the departure from the simplicity of the usual buttered scallops.  I wasn’t crazy about the “coral” (that’s how the roe is more popularly known), but the adductor was just so sweet.

My first of two scallops


I gather that not only the actual scallops, but their shells as well are prized!

Together with the scallops, a couple of other items we ordered from the “Japanese Cold Cuts” section were the salmon sashimi and the California maki.  Tung Lok has all the right to claim that they use only the freshest ingredients because it was quite evident with the salmon they sent to our table.  Bright orange-pink, packed with omega-3 fatty acids and essential oils – it is after all a type of “oily” fish – the salmon was plump, juicy, “marbled” but not sinewy at all.  It was so fresh I had to do away with the dipping sauce on at least a couple of slices just so I could savor all of its freshwater goodness.  The California maki, I did check in honor of my good friend Green Lantern who loves this rice roll so much.

The braised shark’s fin with fish maw soup (“maw” is informal for mouth) was such a pleasant surprise – its gleaming bright yellow color belying just how naturally sweet, creamy and fresh it was as a subtle assault to a palate so used to “just add one egg” soup mixes.  Comparison to off-the-shelf concoctions may seem no contest so to appreacite just how insanely good this soup was, I have to say that everything else I’ve had before – in restaurants all over parts of the world I’ve been to – seem to pale in comparison.  It was that good.  I was craning my neck ‘round the dinner table to see if anybody didn’t bother with their share so that I could snatch it.  Suffice it to say, I ended up quite a sad boy.  Sad sad boy.

Before the pièce de résistance – the chili crab – arrived, I paced my gastronomic satiation with a forkful here and there of the very crisp poached baby kai lan with chinchalok (dried fermented shrimp) either on its own or taken with heaping spoonfuls of the yang zhou fried rice.  The baby kai lan, which I know to be some variant of brocolli leaves, wasn’t bitter at all.  I find that to be the true test of preparing these leafy greens.

Capping a sumptuous first dinner in Singapore was the chili crab, arguably the only dish in the spread that could lay claim to an authentic Singaporean provenance.  Plated in a wide-mouthed low-rise pristine white bowl, the crab’s caparace perched on top of its partially cracked claws and shells appeared to send the message that it was indeed the crowning glory of a luxurious Singaporean meal.  Bathed generously in a thick sauce of tomato, chili, and – in some recipes – orange juice(!), its already succulent white meat and deep-orange roe got even more infused with flavor.  No self-respecting gourmand faced with this chili crab had to feign propriety with cutlery.  Me, I reached out for the fried mini buns (mantou), began tearing it to pieces, then mopped up the sauce.  The more the sauce dripped all over, the more delicious the meal tasted.  Hahaha!

The chili crab makes it to the table!


The fried mini bun to mop up the sauce with.

After all the mini buns had been wiped out, I scooped myself another generous portion of the yang zhou fried rice, stained it with the chili crab sauce, and ate away.

Yang zhou fried rice stained with chili crab sauce!


One of my many portions of the crispy noodles with fresh prawns

I was with four great friends on this first dinner out and while some of them had moved to pocket discussions towards the meal’s end, punctuated with little scoops of the chilled almond beancurd with longan, I ended up looking in the ceiling wondering really hard where all my concept of moderation went.

I must’ve left all of it at the lift before we pressed “11”.

Tung Lok Seafood in lights


Proudly "The Singapore Taste"!


My best friends Friendship, Partner, and Brother.


Tung Lok has a lot of menus specialized to diners' needs or wants.


I checked California Maki in honor of Green Lantern!


Our order!


Roasted highland legumes... perfect while waiting.


On the escalator to the lift landing. Pressed "11" and we were in (gastronomic) heaven!


Copyright © 2011 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved.