I love Singapore because the diversity of its food always lures my palate. I also have dear friends there who are not just foodies but restaurant owners, too.
Filipino Maribeth Wong divides her time between Singapore and the Philippines. She and I have gone to the best hawker places in Singapore.
We continued our hawker-food exploration at Tao Yuan at Resorts World Manila. The restaurant—partly owned by Maribeth’s husband, Simon Wong—serves Singaporean and Cantonese cuisine.
Bah kut teh (pork rib soup) is a dish I always eat when in Singapore. This soup, prepared with lots of herbs and spices, is my favorite simple pleasure.
It provides a depth of flavors from the warm, garlicky broth garnished with coriander sprigs and the tender pork ribs dipped in dark, sweet soy sauce and chilies.
Enjoyed with a bowl of steamed rice, it is comfort food at its finest.
There are two types of bah kut teh: peppery and Chinese herbal. Tao Yuan chef Kent Yap said he combines these two types, which is why the broth is a perfect balance. It is neither too spicy nor too strong.
The secret to this pork rib soup is the long cooking time and the right balance and blend of herbs and spices (that include cinnamon, star anise, fennel seeds, cloves).
The full recipe remains the chef’s well-guarded secret. Tao Yuan’s stock is made from 10 kilos of pork ribs that yield only 15-20 servings.
The prime piece of pork rib served is first steamed until tender, before being added to the soup. To be honest, while I have a penchant for this aromatic herbal-tea-flavored pork rib soup, it is not for everyone.
Noodle soup, oysters, eggs
Then there’s Hokkien Prawn Noodle Soup.
Five kilos of fresh prawn heads and pig tails are boiled together for hours until a rich, intensely flavored broth is achieved.
The noodle choices for the soup are bihon, yellow noodles, or a combination of both.
The bowl of noodle soup is garnished with slices of smooth, tender, delicious fish cake and kangkong (swamp cabbage).
To make the soup richer, it may be topped with a generous spoonful of fried pork fat, fried shallots and a good drizzle of soy sauce and chopped chilies.
Done Singapore-style is Oysters and Scrambled Eggs. The oyster juice lends its flavor to the eggs; preserved radish, chopped garlic, green onions are added.
The egg mixture is scrambled lightly in a wok with just a little oil. The oysters are then added and half cooked, leaving the mollusks plump, soft and juicy.
The Singapore version of clay pot rice consists of chicken pieces, sliced Chinese sausage, bits of salted fish and mushrooms laid on rice and slow cooked in a clay pot. The juices from the meats and the mushrooms flavor the rice.
And then there’s the Cantonese version—rice topped with slivered preserved pork, sliced Chinese and liver sausages with greens.
Chef Yap says the perfect clay pot rice must have a smoky aroma from the slightly burned rice crust that forms at the bottom of the pot.
However, it’s the appetizer of Singapore potato chips with salted egg that stand out. It consists of thinly sliced, crisp potato chips, salted egg yolk, sugar, chilies and curry leaves.
The chips are crunchy, salty, slightly sweet, a tad spicy, while the curry leaves give the chips a new flavor twist.
Call Tao Yuan and order the hawker dishes in advance, tel. 0917-8521546, 0917-8007818, or 8469998.