Friday, August 30, 2013

A Taste of Singapore at Boon Tong Kee

Whenever I find myself in Singapore, I have a little routine I like to do before visiting my sisters and step-mum in Johor, which just so happens to be right next door. There is this hawker centre near Bugis Street that I frequent where I'd order char siu and chicken rice with a side of complimentary sliced cucumbers and a glass of Thai iced tea. I'd have a meal before I get a cab to cross over to Malaysia, and it would be the first place I'd go to once I'm back on Singapore soil. This was one of the little things I'd do with my dad when he was still around, and having a good Singaporean meal at that hawker centre was one of our simple bonding moments I still do when I find myself there.

With Singaporean food slowly finding its way to Philippine shores, I can relish in as many fond memories as I want, with imports like my newly discovered Boon Tong Kee serving my favorite Boiled Chicken and Cereal Prawns. Now that's damn shiok!

The story goes in 1979, Mr. Thian Boon Hua started a small stall in Chinatown serving Cantonese chicken rice. Building upon the popularity of his silky white chicken rice, uncle Thian and his family established Boon Tong Kee along Balestier Road in 1983. My parents hadn't even thought about having me then.

The restaurant has since branched out and his year has finally made it to Manila! Jericho and I checked out the Boon Tong Kee branch at the Mall of Asia with his fambam in tow (I've been unofficially adopted since 2010) and our dogs - Wiggles and Zoey - since it's a dog-friendly mall, after all. Zoey was a bit apprehensive at first, being such a small dog with so many people walking about, but she relaxed after dinner and had a blast. This was Wiggles' second time at MOA - his first was during his birthday a few months back that we celebrated at Bulgogi Brothers.

We ordered a lot for five people, but still managed to lick most of the plates clean, plus a few extra orders of Chicken Rice.

We started dinner with an order of Prawn Toast (P275), each bite chock full of fresh prawns with a little bit of what I taste is mayonnaise that's been colored green and a teensy bit of fish roe for contrasting color. There's definitely no skimping on ingredients here. I had two of these delicious babies - we were off to a great start!

The Fried Sambal Kang Kong (P195) provided us with the much needed vegetable component in our protein-heavy dinner. Braised and then mixed in spicy sambal sauce, it has just the right amount of heat to complement the rest of the dishes without taking away from their individual flavor profiles. This gave everything I paired it with some much needed spice, as it is after all, an important component to Singaporean cuisine.

The Fried Spare Ribs with Zhen Jiang Sauce (P395) was both sweet and spicy, but not overwhelmingly so. I was also surprised at how generous the serving was - there was so much! I would get as much meat as I could off it with my spoon and then give the bones to the dogs. They quite enjoyed their spare ribs dinner since they definitely weren't getting scraps! The golden mantao on the side was over-fried and a bit of a let down.

Jericho loved, loved, loved the Coffee Pork Ribs (P295)! I found it a tad too salty for my taste and could only have a little piece. Whoever's in the kitchen has a very heavy hand with the salt - it would've been perfect otherwise. The ribs are sweet (ruined by the salty aftertaste), delightfully sticky, with the coffee showing up as more of an aftertaste than a bold flavor.

Of course any Asian dinner wouldn't be complete without rice, and we had Sambal Fried Rice (P225) with our meal to start off, followed with individual orders of Chicken Rice (P65) after. The fried rice has a mix of diced vegetables, sambal sauce, fried egg, pork floss, peanuts, topped with shrimp and prawn crackers. Boon Tong Kee is super generous with the shrimp in all their dishes - I love et!

The Signature Boiled Chicken (Quarter - P245; Half - P455; Whole - P845) was a hit at the table. But then again, why wouldn't it be? It's a Singaporean staple. The quarter that we ordered was good for two people (if that is all you're having), the silky white chicken breast boiled in a rich stock and dipped in a mix of ginger, chili, and dark soy.

Jericho ordered the Fish Fillet with Ginger and Spring Onion (P395) which didn't taste like anything, really. I used the ginger, chili, and soy dip on the fish to maybe give it a bit of flavor, but the soy just ended up making the whole thing taste salty. Skip this and opt for the Sweet and Sour Fish Fillet (P445) instead.

We had an order of Boon Tong Kee's large Crispy Cereal Prawns (Regular - P375; Large - P655). Not only was it a large serving, the prawns were massive! They should rename this dish to Massive Cereal Prawns instead. I was over the moon with joy - so many giant, juicy prawns! Jericho's mom found the cereal breading to be too salty, but this was fine for me. Is was less salty than the Coffee Pork Ribs.

For dessert, I really wanted to try their Green Tea Creme Caramel (P145) for dessert, but they were out. I settled for the Choco Almond Jelly (P75) instead. Hey, if I can't get my green tea fix, at least there's a chocolate alternative - and that's all good in my book. It was alright, but nothing special. The almond jelly slid down my throat leaving the mild taste of almond essence in it's wake, with the pistachios and sesame seeds giving the silky dessert some crunch and the chocolate leaving me on a happy high.

Overall, I enjoyed my Boon Tong Kee experience and will definitely be back for more of the Boiled Chicken and Cereal Prawns! When mucking around the Mall of Asia, give Boon Tong Kee a go - it's a culinary trip to Singapore without the expensive airfare. Don't forget uncle Thian's Signature Boiled Chicken, lah!

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Images taken by Jericho San Miguel of The Pixel Project Manila

Boon Tong Kee
+63 2 804 2862
2/F, Entertainment Mall, North Wing (by Seaside Blvd)
SM Mall of Asia, Pasay City
Open Daily: 10am - 10pm