Ang Mo Kio at The Podium

7 04 2013
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Bak Kut Teh at Ang Mo Kio at The Podium

THIS ANG Mo Kio is not the 16th station of the North–South line.  It’s so way out the Red.  Like, New Jersey out.

I always pay my favorite mall, The Podium, a visit whenever I come back home to the Philippines.  Whenever I would have to play the role of the trusty door–to–door delivery man (“Serbisyong parang ikaw na rin ang nag-abot sa kanilang mga kamay!), I would often request to meet up at The Podium.  It’s also the nearest mall to all my Superhero friends.  But it actually doesn’t really matter whether there’s an errand to run or not.  Often, I just go.

The Philip Stein flagship store is there – perfect for ogling at timepieces I couldn’t afford.  And there are plenty of gastronomic choices to quiet down grumbling tummies.  Usuals include Banana Leaf, Café Med, Figaro, Healthy Shabu Shabu, The New Bombay Canteen, and Shi Lin.

I’m adding a new one to that list – Ang Mo Kio (“Singaporean Hawker Cuisine”)!  I first noticed the very shabby chic, beat up solid wood tables and benches in the colors of the Singaporean flag – red and white.  But it was the restaurant’s name that really drew me in.  It was as if the two-year Singapore resident in me suddenly faced head-on the deep-seated homesickness he has been brushing aside for days now, only because the sight of the familiar promised to offer a cure even if it took the incarnation of neon in red and white, buzzing in his head, spelling the name of an MRT Station.

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Ang Mo Kio at The Podium

 

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The interiors. The tables and benches somehow evoke images of the Malaysian Food Street beside Universal Studios Singapore. The wall has an artist’s rendition of the daily life in the Lion City.

 

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I absolutely love the beat-up look of the tables and benches. I swear I could very well be in Singapore, if not for the whiff of airconditioning that cooled the short strands of hair on my nape where I would usually expect the unforgiving equatorial heat of the Singapore sun.

It could’ve been Kembangan and still, he would care.  As long as it was “Singaporean Hawker Cuisine”.

A cordial greeting at the door ushered the Superhero and me in, all the way to the back, by the window where there is a sweeping view of the city skyline and the traffic jam below.  The “wait staff” attending to us went on describing the concept behind the (new) place, the aesthetics, the interiors, the whatnots.  All this time, most of his words just faded in and out of my consciousness into chiaroscuros.  I guess he did notice that all my attention had transfixed onto the wristwatch he had strapped on.  It was an automatic movement TW STEEL, arguably a long lost brother to the TW STEEL I had on, alongside a Philip Stein.  (Me and my stacked wristwatches!)

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The black TW STEEL I had on was actually on loan from my brother. Ang Mo Kio’s owner’s automatic movement TW STEEL is the one on the foreground.

 

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I love the descriptions on the menu.

Wristwatches became instant conversation pieces and broke further what was left of a clearly crumbling iceberg.  Before long, he properly introduced himself as the owner of the place.  He was inspired to put up the restaurant in the Philippines after having lived a number of years in – you guess it right – the Lion City.  I told him that it was quite admirable and inspirational to meet someone like him who turned an experience into an entrepreneurial endeavor!  Business cards were exchanged.  And from what he handed me, I learned further that he and his family are also in the jewelry business.  One of the specialty jewelry shops in the mall is actually theirs too.  Wow.

The menu was extensive as it is impressive, covering all the bases of the melting pot cuisine that is Singaporean.  For that “true” Singapore taste, we asked for the Bak Kut Teh and the Hainanese Chicken Rice.

The food soon hit the beautifully rustic white table and with one sip of the soup, and a stain of chili on fragrant chicken rice, whatever longing I had for my second home was instantly appeased.

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Often, I would end up judging Hainanese Chicken Rice, not so much by the chicken, but by the rice.

 

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The steamed (Hainanese) chicken was moist and flavorful.

 

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The Hainanese Chicken Rice came with the requisite blanched vegetable in oyster sauce. This was baby bokchoy.

 

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The Bak Kut Teh hits the table! I love it for its robust, restorative broth. I think this is closer to the Malaysian version. The broth is darker and more herbal. Not as peppery as, say, Song Fa’s.

 

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A tight shot of a fave, the Bak Kut Teh!

Copyright © 2013 by eNTeNG  c”,)™©’s  MunchTime™©.  All rights reserved





Wee wee wee all the way to Wee Nam Kee

13 06 2011

Super tender Hainanese Chicken, oozing with its juices, topped with a wedge of cucumber, shredeed onion leeks and torn coriander leaves.

 

AND THIS little piggy eNTeNG went…  “Wee wee wee” all the way to Wee Nam Kee!

Yes, I’ve always loved the “This Little Piggy” nursery rhyme.  I’ve actually tweaked it to reveal my passion, and to articulate my breathless anticipation when I first learned that Singapore’s ultimate purveyor of Hainanese Chicken Rice was finally coming to our shores.

 

This little piggy went to Market! Market! to Lord Stow’s,

This little piggy stayed at home and cooked,

This little piggy had roast beef sandwich at CBTL,

This little piggy had none.

And this little piggy eNTeNG went…

“Wee wee wee” all the way to Wee Nam Kee!

 

I had meant to dine at Wee Nam Kee at the Ayala Triangle Gardens before I would’ve left for my recent two-week Singapore trip.  I had the intention to compare the local franchise with the original.  But my best-laid plan wasn’t good enough and so for the umpteenth time, my Hainanese Chicken Rice dreams had to be put on the back burner.

Ayala Triangle Gardens Marker

I did manage to satiate my craving for this dish by my third day in the Lion city. So the bar had been set pretty high for anything that would follow.  And nothing higher than that for the local Wee Nam Kee.  But then again, the opportunity to go out of my way to make it to the crux of the Triangle has never presented itself.

Well, until the coffee table book was released and I was just so happy to volunteer to deliver K-anne’s copy personally.

K-anne and the coffee table book

 

The menu, the coffee table book, and K-anne

 

K-anne loved the book! That was all I was waiting to hear the whole night. And of course, compliments to my restaurant of choice. Hahaha!

Quite unexpectedly, the first thing that struck me was not even the food.  It was the stark contrast between the interiors of the original Novena Ville branch in Singapore and that of the one at Ayala Triangle Gardens.  Actually, there isn’t much of the “interiors” of the original to speak of.  It has a very hole-in-the-wall cafeteria feel, occupying a single commercial space on the ground floor of a two-storey residential building.  The dining area spills to the space in front, where tables and chairs have been propped up.  Each has a huge umbrella to shield diners from unpredictable downpours.

The local franchise is a different incarnation all together.  Probably owing most to its being in a prime location, the restaurant has the more high-end feel of a casual-fast dining place.  One could tell that a considerable chunk of the startup capital went to the interiors.  Most striking to me are the Chinese bird cages assembled into groups of eight that formed chandeliers.  The bird cages are an homage to the specialty of the house while the number eight is auspicious to the Chinese.

One of (I think) three bird cage chandeliers

 

The chandelier right above us. So lovin' it!

K-anne was obviously excited to try the chicken.  But I sort of wanted to suspend the moment a little more, and opted to dole out treats by way of starters.  We asked for the Salt & Pepper Squid, and as for me, I just had to have noodles – the Steamed Chicken Noodle Soup, specifically.

Salt and Pepper Squid

 

These were perfect. Crisp. Tender. Yummy.

The battered squid pieces were fried to a crisp outside while remaining tender inside.  They were good on their own, but even more superb when dipped in the restaurant’s prepared vinegar sauce.  The pleasant surprise of the meal turned out to be the Steamed Chicken Noodle Soup.  The dish was served in two separate bowls – the noodles, chicken, and kai lan (broccoli leaves) in one, and the broth in the other – for me, yet another silent homage, this time to my favorite noodle place in Ongpin.

Steamed Chicken Noodle Soup

 

A whole chicken breast comes with the noodles. Tender and juicy!

The petiteness of the bowl belied just how much food was inside – a generous bed of perfectly cooked flavorful egg noodles, on which seemed to lazily lounge a sliced steamed chicken breast, kept propped up by swaths of deep green kai lan.  I would’ve immediately poured the steaming hot broth on to the noodles were it not for our server’s proper introduction of the dish.

The Steamed Chicken Noodle Soup comes in two bowls.

“Sir, there’s a special sauce at the bottom of the noodles.  You may want to try it first before you add the broth,” Jhon politely advised me, probably sensing the apprehension in my hand as I processed in my head whether to pour the broth on to the noodles or have them separately – eat from one bowl then sip from the other.  Upon Jhon’s advice, I mixed the noodles, chicken and vegetables with the special sauce – but with first espying the said special sauce – and took my first bite.  I won’t be faking modesty here and say that I’m no noodle expert because frankly, I am.  As I would always say, relationships I may not know.  But noodles?  Noodles, I know.

The noodles come with a special sauce at the bottom. Yum!

And Wee Nam Kee’s Steamed Chicken Noodle Soup – a new addition to their menu per one of the owners who was in the store that night – is undeniably a flavorful, hot, comfort in a pristine white bowl.  If only I could have it all week.

Of course, a trip to Wee Nam Kee wouldn’t be complete without having their famous Hainanese Chicken Rice.  The “small”, which I think is a quarter of chicken, was quite plentiful for two.  And what was served to our table was exactly how Hainanese chicken should be – moist, tender, infused with just the right hint of ginger, and oozing with its natural flavorful juices, quite plenty to mop up with the plump, fragrant, and yes, flavorful rice.  A small bunch of shredded onion leeks and torn fresh coriander leaves elevated each spoonful closer to gastronomic heaven.

Wee Nam Kee's Hainanese Chicken, Steamed, Quarter

 

For me, Hainanese chicken goes perfectly with onion leeks, fresh coriander, and cucumber, all stained with the thick sweetish soy sauce.

 

Shredded onion leeks and torn fresh coriander leaves

 

Each table has its own set of the traditional condiments for Hainanese chicken – grated ginger in oil, sambal chili, and thick sweet soya sauce.

 

The very scrumptious Hainanese chicken rice

Wee Nam Kee at the Ayala Triangle Gardens is worth braving and defying unpredictable tropical weather and the long stretch of the parking lot that is EDSA for.  I was even more convinced as I sipped my tall glass of Cold Fresh Barley Juice.  I had two.

K-anne and her new favorite, my favorite Cold Fresh Barley Juice

 

K-anne and eNTeNG

 

I walked with K-anne on her way back, and we passed by this poster of Green Lantern at the underpass.

 

Of course I gotta have my photo taken with Green Lantern!

 

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





Hainanese chicken vice

22 04 2011

Royal Plaza on Scotts's Hainanese Chicken Rice

WHEN ALL dinner plans suddenly fall through, what does one do?  Order room service, that is.

I didn’t even bother checking out the in-room service dinner menu.  I just picked up the phone and ordered Hainanese Chicken Rice.  I was in the island of chicken rice so I sure expected it to be in the all-day dining menu.  So I ordered that, and oh, extra chicken rice!

I get weak in the knees at the sight of Hainanese chicken rice.  So to say that I love it is clearly an understatement.  It’s the one dish I’ve had all over, the most memorable ones being from the Penang Mutiara Beach Resort and Shangri-La Hotel in Malaysia, and Makati Shangri-La Hotel, Penang Hill, and Banana Leaf Curry House here at home.  And of course, Wee Nam Kee at Novena Ville in Singapore.

I’m adding Royal Plaza on Scotts to this short list.

The Hainanese chicken rice has arrived!

 

It was quite hard putting this tray on the table and enforcing my shoot-now-eat-later policy.

 

I couldn't wait to fill this out!

 

I loved the cutlery that came with the meal.

 

Finally, the cover is lifted and the Hainanese chicken rice is revealed!

 

I knew I wouldn't get enough of it so I made sure I asked for two cups of rice.

 

The set meal has half chicken breast portion. I found it generous enough, as the really tender meat was infused with so much flavor!

 

Slices of Hainanese chicken rice is usually served on top of slices of tomatoes and cucumbers. So I make sure I get those too. I actually dip them is the thick sweet soy before having them with the rice.

 

Hainanese chicken rice traditionally comes with three sauces, one of which is this sambal chili.

 

Grated ginger in oil

 

Thick sweet soy

 

The most flavorful broth on the planet! I can have this all day. Everyday.

 

Me and my Hainanese

 

Super loved my meal!

 

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





Wee Nam Kee

3 04 2011

Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice (half roasted, half steamed)

FRIENDSHIP AND PARTNER, two of my best friends, have each been in Singapore for close to three years.  Each of them opened a world in my life that I never knew existed until they arrived.  Naturally, I would want people that important to me to become really good friends too.  Being 1485 miles away from them, I didn’t know how to make it happen.  Until they told me they’ve been planning to do a Hainanese Chicken Rice dinner.  Bonding over food.  Now they’re talking my language.

Unfortunately, with the schedules they keep, a trip to Novena Ville could never be prioritized.  Well, until I arrived.  On just my third day in the city, long-standing plans to go to Wee Nam Kee, finally came to be.

Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of my ultimate comfort food.  I first got acquainted with what so many people call as arguably Singapore’s national dish in Penang in Malaysia.  Once back home in Manila from that first of three Malaysian sojourns, I started asking hotel chefs if they could make the dish for me.  The most memorable was the one made for me by the lobby coffee shop chef of the Makati Shagri-La Hotel…  at past midnight!  He made an authentic rendition of the dish, complete with all the requisite condiments and the perfect rice, that I couldn’t help but write him a very heartfelt note of thanks.  That was the very first time I wrote a note of thanks for a chef.

In Singapore, I wouldn’t have to worry if a chef would be considerate enough to go out of his way and make me Hainanese Chicken Rice.  It’s made at hawker food stalls, at restaurants, and is in every hotel in-room service menu I got my hands on.

But for this special dinner, Partner and Friendship agreed to have it only at Wee Nam Kee.  Unlike in the first couple of days when they would pick me up from the hotel, they probably felt it was time to take the next few baby steps in my “immersion” in the lion city by telling me to take the (MRT) train to Novena.  Aided by my trusty printout of the MRT system – folded four times to fit into my wallet – I found Novena to just be a couple of stations away on the same red line (North-South line) my hotel was.  Before I knew it, I was already at Velocity Mall where Friendship decided to pick me up.  She told me we where just a little walk away from Hainanese heaven.

Wee Nam Kee is a no-frills dining place. They had even put extra tables and chairs outside, shielded just enough by umbrellas against the here-and-then-gone drizzle.

Wee Nam Kee prides itself to serve one of the best – if not the best – Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore, enough to brandish “Chicken Rice” on the sign at the restaurant storefront.  Perusing their menu, one would realize that they offer quite a selection of delicacies.  So we decided to get the Hainanese chicken – half roasted, half poached/steamed – as the centerpiece of the dinner spread and around it built a menu of cereal prawns, tofu two ways (braised and deep-fried), crispy lemon fish fillet, and poached baby kai lan.

Arguably the best Hainanese Chicken for me!

 

I couldn't get enough of this alone!

 

Cereal Prawns! The Boy Wonder loves these though he would get hung up on the fact that the restaurant leaves the shells on still.

 

Crispy Lemon Fish Fillet

 

Braised Beancurd with Vegetables

 

Deep-fried Beancurd

 

Poached Baby Kai Lan. Partner loved this too! And I think Friendship, who is very particular about vegetables, liked this as well.

Wee Nam Kee has got the secrets to the perfect Hainanese Chicken Rice down pat.  It is in how the chicken is cooked (definitely NOT overcooked, just brought to one boil ever so lightly, and then left to simmer in the broth for between half to a couple of hours); how the rice is cooked; how the accompanying chicken soup tastes; and of course, the condiments – grated ginger in oil, thick sweet soy sauce, and chili.  Besides the braised tofu with vegetables and the poached baby kai lan I would pierce with my fork every so often, all that demanded my attention was the steamed chicken.  And oh, yes, a couple of cups of the chicken rice!  The rice alone made me moan at my seat.

Lest I be remiss in reliving my Wee Nam Kee experience, I have to say that it was there that I first tried Fresh Barley Juice.  It was love at first sip.  I totally defied my eating practices – not having a sip of drink till I’m done eating – at first just so I could get a taste, then just so I could ask for another glass!  Sadly, they’d run out.

My new love, "natagpuan ko na sya!"... Fresh Barley Juice!

Another item ticked off my list – Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice.  And one item added – Fresh Barley Juice.  They are in great company with (Tung Lok) chili crab, fishball noodle soup and oyster omelet.

Wee Nam Kee... I miss you. I've got to be back!!!

 

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