I Ate My Heart Out in Singapore

I believe that food is the best way to learn about the culture of a new place. Because I usually travel locally, trying new food is not that much of a big deal — the Filipino people eat similar kinds of food from all over the archipelago. However, I still always find it interesting that there are differences. For instance, adobo in Mindanao has a thick soup, while in the Visayas region, it’s more of a thin sauce. (There’s a difference, I promise!)

When I first went to Singapore, I came with my parents and was subjected to family rules: mainly, I can’t explore the city on my own unless everyone else wants to go.  Also, my mom is not really into eating street food, which means that Hawker Centres are not high on the list.

Then I came back to Singapore with my friends, which meant that finally, I get to eat as I please, and the foodie in me was happy. For a while anyway, because I realized later on that my friends, despite being voracious eaters, don’t have adventurous taste buds.

Not that it stopped me from getting them to try, although I can never seem to get them to eat the frog. Anyway, since we were only in the Lion City for three days, I couldn’t get around to eating every single Singaporean dish they had to offer. So I went with my top five musts:

Chicken Rice

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Does it look exactly like any other chicken dish? Yes. Does it taste better than other chicken dishes? Also, yes. Liao Fan Hong Kong Soya Sauce Chicken is a Michelin-starred restaurant, so that’s saying a lot regarding it’s quality. (The chicken is incredibly tender) Their set meals, which came with a canned drink only goes for S$5. It is said to go even cheaper at their original store at the Hawker centre, too.

Frog Porridge

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Sorry for the photo, I ordered the frog porridge for takeaway, and white meat on white rice porridge just look bland in photos.

Anyway. My friends refused to take a bite out of the frog porridge. Interestingly, it tasted exactly like arroz caldo, which Filipinos tend to eat a lot of. Frog tasted like chicken, but more chewy, I suppose. I realized later on that I may have eaten some girl’s prince charming, and for that, I apologize (but she should have kissed the frog incarnate sooner).

Laksa

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Hearty, spicy noodle soup perfect for chilly days. Except that Singapore is a degree above the equator and it’s super hot out when we went there. Nonetheless, I love anything spicy, so I finished the entire bowl anyway. #NoRegrets, amirite?

Sambal Stingray

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When I told my parents I ate stingray in Singapore, they went, “Why did you go to SG to eat stingray? There are stingrays here!”

Well, there are also blowfish in the Philippines but it doesn’t mean we know how to prepare them. We don’t prepare stingray at home, either. When asked how it tasted like, I love fish and it tasted exactly like fish to me. 😀 For non-fish fans, it’s actually pretty safe as a dish: it is soft and it does not have that fishy aftertaste. The sauce that went with it (spicy, but not hot) also added to the flavor.

Singaporean Chili Crab

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Yum. I don’t usually eat a lot of crab because I find them tasking, but I would definitely not say ‘no’ to them if someone offers me the meat sans the shell. The sauce for the crab tasted a whole lot like Zamboanga’s Alavar sauce. However, I Googled recipes for the various sauces and I found that they are actually quite different! The chili crab sauce has ketchup, chili paste (duh), oyster sauce, soy sauce, and tamarind paste. Alavar sauce has a lot more ingredients that included turmeric, paprika, curry powder, and coconut milk.

Anyway, if you’re ever in Zamboanga, look for curachas served with Alavar sauce (not to be mistaken with cucarachas, which are cockroaches). The curachas taste amazing as soon as you get over their nightmarish look. (Check them out: http://bit.ly/2rZhJLv)

Meanwhile, here’s a fun fact about Singapura: According to a Reddit user, Merlions ate durian and hated it. They have been vomiting ever since.

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Little España

I don’t really do restaurant reviews. Mainly because I only have five things to say about food: Awesome, Good, Good Enough, Meh, and Bad. Or I make a face and people know I want to spit it out if I haven’t already. Besides, of all the times I’ve eaten out, I only have a handful of favorite restos here in Cebu: Sumo Sam for Japanese, Cyma for Mediterranean, Casa Verde for steak, Yellow Cab for pizza, and KFC for fast food.

Yes, they are all located in Ayala, for some reason, except for the four-cheese penne pasta from The Old Spaghetti Factory, and the bagoong rice from Mae Krua on F. Ramos Street.

Then across the street and a few doors down from Mae Krua is a haunt that I wanted to go to since I moved here, but didn’t get the chance to go to until that fateful Valentine’s day. Read: We forgot to get dinner reservations, so we had to look for a place, ended up sitting at the bar there for a while, and got a table at nine in the evening.

The place is called Ipar’s Restaurante Y Bar De Tapas.

Finally, Spanish food.

Their specialty? Paella, of course, because what can be more Spanish than paella?

So of course we ordered that for our entrée. We had the Paella Marinera, which has fresh fish, squid, and shellfish, and tastes like how paella should taste — unlike the one this chain restaurant used to have that tasted suspiciously canned.

It took a while to get the paella ready though, so the staff gave us a complimentary appetizer, the Boquerones which are servings of white anchovies wrapped around olives and speared through slices of baguette, with a light drizzle of olive oil. It was delicious, if you’re into raw fish (marinated in vinegar) like I am.

Then we also had some Patata con Alioli, which is basically potatoes with garlic mayo, but it was so delish at Ipar’s I could have eaten the whole bowl (but I didn’t because well, I wasn’t alone at the table, am I?)

I’m off red meat for a while, so we had Pechuga en Salsa, which translates to pan-seared chicken breasts in cream sauce with mushrooms. The perfectly cooked chicken doused in rich, creamy sauce made me wish I can cook better, but hey, at least my chicken is never half-cooked anymore, so I’m taking it as a sign that I have better kitchen skills now.

Spanish Food

Clockwise from top left: Boquerones Olivada, Pechuga en Salsa, Paella Marinera, and Patatas con Alioli

But the food isn’t even the best part of it: the ambience is amazing — made me feel like I was in old Spain, very European feels. Also, I love the artwork on their walls — pictures of flamenco dancers and painted tiles, tree stump tables, they even had a tapestry and a coat of arms! It’s cheery and a bit dingy at night: very much what I imagined dining in Barcelona would feel like. And because we sat at the bar for a while, we saw how the staff prepared the meals, and they were very efficient.

We would applaud the staff. It was Valentine’s and the place is packed, so packed in fact, that we had to wait for people to vacate their tables so that we can get seated, and it took almost an hour before they had a table ready for us. We didn’t even get the chance to feel impatient about it because it was entertaining to watch them from the bar, and they served us with our appetizers, and took our orders. And every time a member of the staff passes by, they smile at us and update us on the status of our table, or our orders, and they’re so nice about it, you’d think the place is half-empty instead of jam-packed.

Even if the food isn’t that good, I’d go back there for the service, but the menu is amazing, the place is hauntingly beautiful, and the staff is efficient.

Ipar's Dining Area

Ipar’s Dining Area, I went for the walls, I know. I’ll get better pictures next time.

As for the price?

You might want to go there on pay-day, it’s a bit steep; but you can find items on the menu that won’t make you cry, as long as you stick to an order or two. Getting through three or four courses can get a bit expensive, though, as it usually does with dinner dates on Valentine’s Day. 🙂

Sorry, Trelawney, I Can’t Read Tea Leaves in Divination

I am not the biggest fan of milk teas. I would take my venti caramel macchiato over tea with milk and ice, anytime.

But my sissie absolutely adores milk tea and she was dying to try Chingkee Tea in Cagayan de Oro, so we went there one time during our visit last weekend.

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Hey there! Big Smiles for Cousin Bonding at ChingkeeTea in Cagayan De Oro.

And a new milk tea place opened in our hometown, Tickles and Giggles, it was called, and we decided to give it a try as well, if only to find out if we’re going to have a new place to hang out in this small city, come Christmas.

I drank more milk tea in one week than I ever did in a year. So yes, I am posting a review, even though I don’t usually do these kinds of things.

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First off, ChingkeeTea.

Right off the bat, I loved the place. Loved it. It was quirky, artsy, and comfy, with a homey sort of feel. We got there late in the night, about an hour before closing time, but a lot of people were still there. Good thing our party of seven managed to find a table.

I ordered blueberry milk tea, because I love blueberries, and since I am not a big fan of milk teas in the first place, I decided I should go with a relatively safe flavor. If they’re brewing lifestyles like they say they do, then they’re doing good job because milk tea is more affordable than coffee, and as a student, I might actually hang out there to study on a regular basis. I’m going to rate that drink a 4.5 out of 5, because a) I am not a big fan of milk tea, and b) I actually genuinely liked it. True story. It wasn’t bland, it wasn’t too sweet, and the flavor was not too overpowering.

Unfortunately, my cousins and siblings and I just came from a party, and we were stuffed, so we were not able to order any food. Maybe next time. Hopefully, I can get a next time.

Next, Tickles&Giggles.

I guess I could say that I was a bit disappointed about how the place turned out. See, the logo indicated a Wonderland-esque theme to it (see Alice right there?) but the place was filled with whites and neutrals and wood, so I guess it did not really deliver, at least, in my case. However, the place is nice, though. It wasn’t too  big, but they had a lot of comfy chairs and stools, and even made-up room thingies that offer a bit of privacy for small groups. It’s something that people in the area could hang out in, considering how little places our little city can offer as far as hang-outs go.

I ordered wintermelon milk tea, and after a long wait (service is a bit slow, but it’s forgivable, considering that the place only opened last October 28) I finally managed to take a sip.

It was too sweet. I think they doubled the dose of sugar in mine because my throat hurt immediately. I waited for the ice to melt, but unfortunately, I really was unable to finish my cup. It was a huge cup though, so I guess that’s part of it. Again, I repeat, I am not a fan of milk tea, so if ever I do get them to drink, they should be as close to perfect as possible. I don’t think their milk teas are bad, per se, but it was too sweet for me. Others may like it the way it is, though. I’d put it at 3 out of 5.

I got the milk tea to go, because, you know, I’m a homebody and I just wanted to curl up in bed and finish watching the last season of Blake Holsey, so I asked my sissie to get me some French macarons, because they’re macarons and nobody sells macarons here in our hometown.

Again, my lemon macarons are too sweet. It took me awhile to swallow one (I usually pop them in my mouth like they’re popcorn) and I swear I felt like I’m going to have diabetes, but considering everything, the macarons did taste and feel like macarons, so I can’t complain. It’s as good as it’s gonna get, and since they’re relatively large pieces, they’re okay at 55 pesos a piece. Again, a 3 out of 5, since I usually get my macarons from a Frenchman in Cebu, and when you eat French Macarons made by a real Frenchman, it’s just better.

In conclusion, I don’t hate milk teas, but sadly, I can’t read tea leaves in Professor Trelawney’s class if I keep on drinking them with milk and ice instead of taking it the traditional way, or at least, with tea bags.