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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Finally, Boon Tong Kee. Here.

Yes, there is a back story to the title of this post.

It can be summed up as: "We went all the way to Singapore and didn't sample Boon Tong Kee's famed poached chicken (Hainanese chicken)!" And we were tired, hungry, searching for hours for BTK using their (highly efficient) public transportation system of buses and trains...and when we finally arrived, and were seated in two large tables (that's how big our party was), we were told: "Sorry, we ran out of Hainanese Chicken!"

Nooooooooo. (No one verbalized this, but you could tell it was what was on our collective minds.)

So, when we scored tickets to the excellent Cirque Du Soleil production, Saltimbanco, at the SM Mall of Asia Arena, I breezily put it out there that maybe we should have dinner before the show, and when I was asked where, I said "there's a Boon Tong Kee here, so that's where we're headed."

It may be just me, but did they design Mall Of Asia to be confusing? There are no directories with clear indications of specific stores. The fact that you could ride tram cars to get to buildings within the complex indicates how big it is area wise, so it's not "fun" when you get directions like "go to the center, turn right, go out and climb the stairs, go to the edge," as they involve literal kilometers, and when you're hungry...well, you can imagine what that does to your mood.

Finding Boon Tong Kee was a challenge. (Hint, hint.) Good thing it was worth the search. And wait, keeping the back story in mind.

As soon as we were ushered in, the lady taking our order wasn't even finished with her spiel and I said, "Hainanese Chicken. Please." Everyone else was looking through the menu but I knew exactly what it is I came here for. Arthur told me "let's get something else as well" so that's how we ended up ordering a tofu dish that was actually excellent.

After our order was taken, we noticed that it was not a very large space (in fact the booth we were at seemed a little cramped). They were showing various cooking demos on the television screen. We waited around 10 minutes for our food to arrive, which was just right in my book.

One could argue that a poached chicken is a poached chicken is a poached chicken, but the delicate aroma and taste of Boon Tong Kee's version of their signature dish lends weight to the claim that they are Singapore's best representative of the dish. (I also found out that their government hands out citations or recognition on an annual basis as to what is the best Chicken Rice version.) Light but flavorful, the aroma pierces through without overwhelming you, leaving both your olfactory and gustatory senses satiated.

The ginger sauce was a bit bland for me, but the others found it good, so that could be a matter of personal taste.

The rice that accompanied the chicken got the most "oohs" because it was thoroughly infused with the broth and could seriously be eaten on its own, even without any viand. It looks a little blah from the outside, which is why it elicited the most unexpected response.

This dish was also very good, tofu mixed with seafood (I saw crabs and squid) and it was definitely a pleasant surprise since I was very single-minded about having the Hainanese Chicken and nothing else. Again, it was light but had quite a kick flavor wise, the seafood complementing the canvas of the tofu. Like everything else on the table, nasimot sya (it was practically licked clean) because even the sauce was enticingly delicious.

I can't compare it with the Singapore version since I haven't had the opportunity to try it there, and I can already here the purists going "it's just not the same" but sampling the Boon Tong Kee chicken here - as well as something else - makes me feel we aren't missing that much from the version of where it originated from.

And I can finally say, I've eaten at Boon Tong Kee. And I like it.


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1 comment:

  1. I was at the Boon tong Kee outlet (near Boon Keng MRT branch) today with my family.
    We were regular patrons of this outlet because the food was quite good and the location convenient.
    However, due to various reasons, we did not go to this restaurant for quite a while and there seem to be a lot of changes during this period of time.
    The food and the tea have become more expensive (they made changes to the prices for a menu which remain largely unchanged).
    The service standards also drop- The auntie serving us was a bit annoyed that we order so little at their busiest dinner-time- to be frank, we always order the same dishes to go with our chicken rice, I don’t understand the change in attitude. My mom kept saying that the chicken was tough and wasn’t as tasty as before. I had to agree.
    Upon payment, I was a little surprised at the grand total, so I took some time to look through the receipt. Another auntie who handed me the bill was visibly upset, and this is what she said, word-by-word, :” So few dishes, how can count wrongly. It can only be the case that we missed out on dishes that we should add and not the other way round.”
    What the hell did she meant by that?!
    We are customers, and regular patrons.
    I am appalled by this kind of service standards.