Hainanese perfection in Manila
A Michelin-rated restaurant in the city
There is beauty in simplicity. And that saying translates to food too. Some of the most outstanding dishes are simple. When we talk about simple yet delicious food, one dish jumps out to me—Hainanese chicken rice! This is a Singaporean dish that looks so simple yet it is one of the top-tasting dishes in the world. Looks can be deceiving because there is nothing simple about preparing the authentic dish.
I was once invited by Singapore Airlines to a wine tasting for the bottles that would be served in its Raffles class and part of the presentation was a cooking demo on how to prepare this dish. The chicken had to be dropped at a certain temperature, with a certain amount of time and had to be cooked perfectly with sometimes a slight redness near the bones of the chicken. When done well, the skin melts in your mouth while the meat is tender and moist. With a little dab of seasoned grated ginger, chili, and sweet soy, this a true winner.
A few Singaporean restaurants have opened in Manila. All were very good, but somehow, after a few years, they would fade away. Was it the price? Did the quality change? To me, it was the variety of the chicken. Hong Kong and Singaporean chicken is almost yellowish in color. It has a thicker skin, therefore it has more fat and it is tastier. That was my conclusion. After trying those Singaporean franchises, I stopped going. Quality was no longer the same.
Last week, I was invited to another Singaporean restaurant, whose specialty is the famous Hainanese chicken. My first question was, “What kind of chicken do they use?” When I found out it was local, I prejudged the quality immediately in my head. Boy, was I wrong! This had to be the same quality Hainanese chicken rice I would eat at the top Singaporean restaurants. The meat is moist, the skin, even if I didn’t want to eat it, melts in your mouth. The broth where the chicken is boiled is used to cook the Hainan rice. Simple yet delicious! Maybe all the skin fat takes it to another level. I like to mix the sauces with sweet soy, a little chili, and grated ginger. Boy do I dream about this place! It is so good. The roasted chicken is also a winner. The other dishes you shouldn’t miss are the tofu, congee (OMG!), and the kikiam. The fish head curry is also to die for. Problem is, they go so well with rice.
This restaurant is definitely a must try. It has branches all over but the one I went to was at the Ortigas Estancia mall. I noticed all the branches everywhere are packed. They must be doing something right.
I was wrong, however. It wasn’t the chicken that was not the same, it was the technique of cooking. The name of the restaurant, by the way, is Tiong Bahru, and it is a Michelin-rated restaurant in Singapore! I must say the taste of Singapore has been duplicated in our shores using our local chicken. Bravo! Happy eating!
Tiong Bahru is at Estancia Mall.
The chicken had to be dropped at a certain temperature, with a certain amount of time and had to be cooked perfectly with sometimes a slight redness near the bones of the chicken.
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