It was the wedding anniversary of my in-laws, architect Toti and Maribel Mendoza. Our destination? Singapore!
Initially, I wasn’t too excited, having been to this place many times. But this time was different. My sister-in-law Tina did her research and made a must-do list that we would have to follow. What a blessing.
Bus tours and food joints? The idea didn’t sound great, but, in fact, I had a blast looking down from the red doubledeck bus while passing all the culture haunts and enclaves in multiethnic Singapore. You could even get off the bus to shop.
For me, there were three culinary highlights on this trip: a broiled foie gras sushi discovery in the building of the bus terminal, the Italian restaurant of Mario Batali run by our very own Filipino chef Carla Mendoza, and a dinner in what could be the best Singaporean restaurant.
Before deciding on this last restaurant, I got every opportunity to ask several locals the best Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore for them. Most of them said Boon Tong Kee.
So off we went to a clean, neat and old restaurant whose house specialty is Hainanese Chicken Rice. There is an art to deboning the fat-coated chicken. From the window outside, I watched the chef grab the neck and expertly debone the whole chicken with a cleaver, slice them into a mound and have these delivered to our table.
Beside this winner were dipping sauces of thick sweet soy and chili sauce. I didn’t know that the seasoned grated ginger in oil does not normally come with the duo. But, they also had it, so I asked for some. The pandan-flavored rice loaded with the chicken fat was so delicious, it didn’t take extra effort to order an extra bowl.
Other items on the menu I really enjoyed were the prawn toast, an appetizer of ground shrimp spread over some bread, then deep-fried; cereal prawns (very popular in hawker centers)—crispy fried prawns covered with fried oats; fried French beans with XO sauce; and bean sprouts with salted fish—healthy, clean-tasting and yummy.
Another must-try entry is roast chicken with its crispy skin, which I also had with Hainanese rice.
What do you know—Boon Tong Kee has just opened in Manila—at SM Mall of Asia. Same chef when it opened, same décor, same variety of chicken.
I am told the resto found the same variety of chicken used in Singapore, but of course with a lot less fat. Sad to say, it’s the fat or the thick skin that makes the taste.
Everything else, though, is exactly the same. Check this out. The place is right across Highlands Steak House. Don’t forget to watch the chicken deboning side show!