Monday, June 28, 2010

Singapore Food Part 2: Din Tai Fung + Tonkichi

This post is because the awesome (awesome) Singapore food cannot be detailed in one (super long) photoblog and deserves a second one!

On Wednesday of the Singapore week, PV was kind enough to meet with me for dinner. It was good timing for me since Wednesday was the last official work day. It awesome timing to start the "fun" part of my Singapore time that night.

Din Tai Fung
Paolo and I met by Paragon Mall along Orchard Road at around 9. His work stuff got a little in the way so we had to meet up a little later than planned. The thing was, most restaurants were closed by that time. We tried our luck two floors down Paragon and headed to Din Tai Fung. Apparently, this restaurant is one of his and his friends' favorite weekend haunt for awesome awesome dimsum.

Din Tai Fung is a casual dining place with patrons ranging from families to groups of friends to couples out for simple dinner. The place isn't fancy, no fireworks. You have wooden chairs and tables, no mood lighting, everything practical and utilitarian. You just know that the people really troop to here to sample the really awesome food.

Din Tai Fung, Paragon Mall | Orchard Road, Singapore
Photo credit: Taste Buds to Share

Halfway through the ordering, I remembered the list Blanche gave me before my trip. Side story, when I told Blanche I was leaving for Sg for work, she got a piece of scratch paper and wrote down places I should visit and things I should try in Sg. She wrote down MRT stations and the places/restaurants/hawker centers I should go visit so my trip is "sulit." I told her it was all work and that I would prolly not have time to go around. But she insisted, saying I'd never know, so I might as well take the list with me. I took her word, brough  that piece of paper with me, always in my purse at all times. You know, just in case.

Imagine my surprise when I opened the list while Paolo and me were seated in Din Tai Fung, written in big bold letters, Xiao Long Pao! I prolly looked like a retard screaming "Xiao Long Pao!" to Paolo weilding my crumpled piece of Singapore places list! Hahaha!

The famed Din Tai Fung Xiao Long Pao
Photo credit: unknown (I do not claim ownership of this photo)

I let Paolo do the ordering since he comes to the place a lot. We made sure to get the insanely popular Xia Long Pao and as of Paolo's recommendation, the house Pork Chops. He vouched for everything we ordered and said he wouldn't be embarrassed cos the food's really to die for.

It was almost 10PM and I was already hungry. The Chinese server finally brough our food and I was all too happy to dig in. Paolo got us the 10-piece set and told me, that for purposes of eliminating the awkwardness of eating the last piece, we each get 5 xia long paos. I was all too happy to oblige.

Xia Long Pao, up close
Photo credit: Aromatic Cookery

These babies are made in dimsum heaven! Think ground pork, loosely shrouded in thin dimsum wrapper with a surprise pork broth inside! Made of awesome :)

I am no fan of dimsum. I have no idea how I got my aversion to anything ground - ground pork, groung anything makes me queasy. I only learned to eat burgers when I was in college but until this meal, I never really eased dimsum into my diet. Imagine my surprise when I bit into it and realized I actually liked it!

The Xiao Long Pao according to the menu card is a house specialty, delicately created to ensure an awesome dimsum experience. But yeah, not in that kind of (awesome) English. Each Xiao Long Pao is shrouded with a thin veil of dimsum wrapper, with 18 folds on every piece. I didn't get to count, but almost all accounts on the internet say that Din Tai Fung is indeed true to its 18-folds promise!

I can't even begin to tell you how many kinds of awesome this Xiao Long Pao packs in that tiny dimsum body. It's your dimsum with a "surprise" broth inside. Just thinking about how they managed to pump that broth inside the thing amazes me :)

According to PV, 2 ways of eating the Xiao Long Pao. The first one I call the Poke and Plop, the Second I call The Explotion! Yes, they deserves fancy names like that :p

In the Poke and Plop, you pick up the Xiao Long Pao with your chopsticks to place it on your soup spoon. You then poke the dimsum with a chopstick to let the broth out. Sip the soup to your heart's content from the spoon. When the soup's all gone, you plop the dimsum in your mouth and enjoy!

For The Explotion! just one big yummy/sloppy/excited step. You pick up the dimsum with your chopsticks and you put the whole thing in your mouth. Yout bite into the Xiao Long Pao and let the dimsum explode with yummy broth goodness in your mouth. Crazy good! Just writing about this makes me hungry!

Next part of the Din Tai Fung meal is the house pork chops. I didn't even choose my own pork chops, I just got whatever PV got. Good thing I did :) The pork chops we got were tender, just the right kind of chewy, and perfectly flavored. It goes so well with the rice.

The Din Tai Fung Pork Chop with Rice
Photo credit: Disney Mike's Flicker

The rice that went with the pork chop is very much like the special rice we had in Taste Paradise. If I remember what Paolo said right, they cook the rice in a special broth (instead of adding just water) and toss it ( I would think with olive oil and some chinese herbs) with bits and pieces of pork and fried egg. The rice was so good you can seriously just eat the rice and feel like you had a full meal.

I insisted on eating with chopsticks the whole meal. For one, I wanted to practice my chopsticks skills. It gets pretty embarrassing when we eat out with our Chinese/Malaysian/Singaporean/Korean colleagues and it's so obvious I can barely eat as I am fumbling with my chopsticks. And for another well, since I was poor with the sticks, I would inevitably be unable to eat all of the rice I want as the chopsticks prove to be a challenge. In your face, 2-pronged goal! Hahaha!

I can tell the pity look on Paolo's face as he watched me eat the rice with my chopsticks. He bullied me many times during the meal to shift to silverware but I did not budge! After the meal, I have half a plate of uneaten (super good) rice. I am happy I didn't eat so much, but I feel a little wasteful for leaving so much.

AND AND, thanks Paolo for the Wednesday welcome dinner! :)

On Singapore Thursday, I spent half the day in Universal Studios with some of our Asian colleagues. I got back to at the hotel at around 4:30PM with just about enough time to rest before I get ready for a 6PM dinner with my boss.

I was really tired from walking all day I fell asleep. I intended to wake up by 5:30 to join the boss for dinner.  But sleep got the better of me. Got up right on time -- at 6PM. Heehee. Woke up to my boss' text to join him for dinner. I had to beg off and had no choice but to tell him I just woke up :p

After I got to shake off the weary from the morning, I decided to run to the Marina Mall to do some last hurrah shopping before we left the next day. Just as I was about to leave, I got a text from Paolo asking if I was doing anything. We swapped some texts and we set dinner at Tonkichi in Takashimaya Mall along Orchard Road.

Tonkichi to me sounds like a word play on the popular Japanese meal 'tonkatsu' which incidentally is what the place is wildly popular for. The choice for this night's dinner is between one of the hawker centers from Blanche's list and Tonkichi, which according to PV is a pricey joint with really good food. I  really wanted to go hawker, but I was still sore I just wanted to sit somewhere quiet and eat in peace. So I picked Tonkichi.

The sesame seed bowls handed at the beginning of the meal
Photo credit:

Together with the bowl, you are handed a pestle with which to grind the seeds. You then pour the 'special' sauce where you dip the pork katsu :)

You start the meal by pounding your own sesame seeds. We were handed bowls and pestles and I happily pounded away. After the grinding, you pour this thick, brown liquid for a DIY dipping sauce for the katsu. We ordered the regular katsu which came with steaming white rice and a mountain of shredded cabbage.

The Tonkichi Tonkatsu
Photo credit:

Battered and breaded lean meat served with a mountain of shredded cabbage. Comes with unlimited rice and veggies (shredded cabbage), too!

For some reason, I had very low expectations of the katsu. Maybe my tongue was trained by years of tough pork chops and mile-thick batter. Maybe I haven't met "the one" of pork chops. Haha, ew. But seriosuly, this katsu was something.

The Tonkichi was served on a huge plate with the pork chop on top of a wire rack, maybe for effect and maybe also to drain off  the oil. One the one side was a really good looking mound of steaming white rice and opposite it was this huge ass mountain of shredded cabbage. The pork chops came sliced in pieces just the right size to pick up with your chop sticks.

The tonkatsu went so well with the sesame seed dipping sauce. The pork was soft and tender and the right amount of chewy. The dipping sauce was a happy mix of sweet and tangy and salty and really complemented the pork really well. This was a good steady meal. We capped it off with the complimentary watermelon slices :)

Overall, I loved Tonkichi. It was a no-fuss, straightforward good meal. No more desserts for us after this since PV had a work thing very early the next day. We had to call it a night at 10PM.

At which time, I decide it was too early for me, so I decided to walk the stretch of Orchard Road. The lights were fascinating and the fact that people were out and about and walking at such an ungodly hour. I didn't notice I've been walking for a good 2 hours, soaking everything in as it was my last night in the city. I got home by foot at midnight super sore, with plenty of blisters on my feet (I should've known better that breaking in new shoes always hurt) and a sense of readiness to say a happy goodbye to my work holiday.

Singapore, we shall meet again :)

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