Spoonfuls in Singapore

Chuen Chuen's chicken rice
On a quick visit to Singapore, I had a few hours to spare which I devoted to a groan-inducing food trip with my cousin, Kuya Milan, his wife Ate Mennie, and son Mateo. It's been months since I last saw them in the Philippines, and three years since I last visited Singapore.

As soon as I arrived at the York Hotel in Mount Elizabeth (near Orchard Road), I left him a message that I am ready for our much-awaited food trip. He promised to tour me around the good but reasonably-priced restos in Singapore. Our first stop? Chuen Chuen across Bugis MRT station.

The restaurant, which started out as a push cart stall on Bugis Street, has been around for almost four decades and how has four branches already. It continues to give the younger generations heirloom recipes that  are sure to delight.

My cousin has been raving about Chuen Chuen's claypot curry fish head, so that's the first dish we had ordered. I must admit I was quite hesitant at first as I am not too keen on eating fish head (I find the aftertaste weird), but this one turned out to be an exemption. The huge serving (good for four)has hearty chunks of red snapper, squid rings, tofu, and veggies swimming on rich and mildly spicy curry sauce simmered for many hours. The dreaded weird aftertaste was not at all present, and the sauce was so luscious that you would need more than one cup of rice!

As Kuya Milan told me, fish head curry was "invented" out of the need to make use of all the fish heads that the Brits wouldn't care to eat. They would only cook and eat the fillets so the heads were just thrown away. (Singapore used to be a British colony).

Claypot fish head curry

Sauteed camote tops? (not sure though, sorry!)
We also ordered  crunchy fish skin (battered fish skin deep-fried to perfection), and seafood sambal (squid, prawns, fish sauteed in hot and spicy sambal sauce).And of course, what is a Singaporean dining table without, you guessed it right, chicken rice? Chuen Chuen serves one of the tastiest chicken rice in the area! You can have it steamed or roasted. We prefer the latter (so Pinoy!).

Crispy fish skin

Seafood sambal
My verdict? Two thumbs up for Chuen Chuen! If you are travelling to Singapore  and you happen to be in Bugis, please, by all means have a meal here. It's like your "Singaporean grandmother's" home cooking! Note though, the restaurant only accepts cash as mode of payment.

Kuya Milan, I, Mateo, and Ate Mennie
The following day after I finished all my business, I went out for a walk at the malls in Orchard Road in my search for my favorite Old Town white coffee and Koka curry noodles. I hopped from one mall to another including Ion, Wisma Atria, Takashimaya, Lucky Plaza, Tangs, and god-knows-where. Tired from window shopping at H&M and Cotton On, I went to Ion's food court to look for something to eat. As if it was my destiny to have landed right in front of 3rd Generation stall, a branch of the famous hawker place where laksa (curry noodle soup) is one of their specialties. I ordered a regular serving of laksa (around 5 SGD) and a bottle of water.

The regular serving was too huge that I couldn't imagine how big the large serving would be. Laksa is a kind of Singaporean-Malaysian noodle soup that has coconut milk, curry, sambal (chili) paste, tofu, prawns, and sometimes stripped fish- and squidballs. I was actually expecting that the dish was too hot and spicy for my liking but I was wrong. It was just right! At first sip, you'll have a taste of rich coconut-curry flavors followed by a kick that gradually intensifies. The tofu, already soaked in the rich sauce, was crunchy yet oozing with savory goodness. Next to chicken rice, this is now my favorite Singaporean dish. I even tried to copy it at home!

3rd Generation laksa
On my last night in Singapore, Kuya Milan met me again in Ion for dinner. This time, our target was the famous bak kut teh, literally means "meat bone tea", is a pork rib soup popular in Singapore and Malaysia. We were supposed to go to Founder Bak Kut Teh in Rangoon but ended up eating in Ion food court again, at Balestier Bak Kut Teh.

We ordered the classic bak kut teh (pork rib soup), braised pig trotter, and you tiao (fried dough fritters).

In the menu it says, "the dish contains nourishing broth with rich and complex herbs and spices (including star anise, cinnamon, cloves, and garlic), boiled and simmered with meaty pork ribs for may hours."

Bak kut teh
The pork rib soup came in piping hot.  At first glance, you would think it's just one hell of a bland pork soup but you would later find out that the broth alone is bursting with garlic and pepper flavors. It's the Singaporean version of our pork nilaga. Kuya Milan said this dish was originally prepared and eaten by the laborers as they need warm soup and protein to keep them going.

To further enhance our bak kut teh experience, we dipped the you tiao (fried dough fritters) into the broth. Dipping these fritters in the soup becomes an art, as you only need the right amount of soup to soak it in.

You tiao
The braised pig trotter is sweet-tangy pork dish almost similar to our local version of pork estofado or pata tim. The meat was fall-off-the-bone-tender, and the broth was full of exciting spices that tickle the tounge as you munch on it. Again, dip the you tiao here and you're all set.

We had all our meals with the famous chicken rice.

Braised pig trotter

I left Singapore with too much extra weight gained. Burrrppppp!

Thank you, Kuya Milan and Ate Mennie for eating around with me! 'Til next time!


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