Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Xiao Long Bao's!!!!

Xiao Long Bao!!!! This is one of my favorite things to eat, if not my favorite. It's my ultimate comfort food and I'm always in search of the best xiao long bao's.

Xiao long bao originated from China. It's a small bun/dumpling with a thin skin that is filled with ground pork. What makes these special is the soup inside. The soup is usually from broth of pork or mixed with chicken, jellified, and mixed with the stuffing. The best ones have the most flavorful broth that burst out when you take a bite.

In Singapore, there is a restaurant called Din Tai Fung. It's a restaurant from Taiwan that has become so successful that it has branches all over Asia and in other western countries as well. I was scheduled to leave Singapore on Easter Sunday so I woke up early to have brunch at the restaurant.

I had an order of xiao long bao and a bowl of sesame noodles. The xiao long bao here is one of the best! The skin is so thin, and the juice is so clear and full of flavor. I just wish they had more! The meat is also good; tender, moist, and well seasoned.

The way I enjoy it is, I usually take a small bite of the skin, just to pierce it, then get all the juice out into my spoon. I eat the bun and when the soup is a little cooler, I sip all the soup from the spoon. Before swallowing, take a moment and just enjoy it, the flavor of the hot soup in your mouth....ahhh.....so good! Then go for the next one.

I met this guy in the restaurant who came in after me...also eating by himself and also addicted to these heavenly buns. I think he might be more serious about it than I am. I say this because he placed one of the buns on his plate and I hate it when people waste the juice, so I advised him to put it on his spoon or the soup might spill. His reply was not for me to worry because he pops the whole bun in his mouth!! He doesn't even need to cool down the soup! I was amazed.

This was one of the best meals I've had in Singapore. It's not a Singaporean specialty, but it's not something we have in the Philippines so I had to go. I've been to Din Tai Fung in Taiwan, Shanghai, and Japan. It's all been a good experience and the food has been consistent no matter where you are. It's definitely a place that cares about the quality of their food. I wish they would open one in the Philippines!

Breakfast at Chin Mee Chin, Singapore

Is it just me, or do you find that many of the best restaurants are those hole-in-the-wall places that only serve a few items and are still run by the families that opened it?
There is such a place in Singapore that I went to for breakfast this past Holy weekend. The shop is called Chin Mee Chin and it is been opened more than 65 years ago. It is a small humble place that is still run by the family, you'll find ladies that are over 60 years old, whose been there since it opened, as well as, younger family members now helping out.

The place doesn't look like it's 65 years old, because over the years they've re-tiled and re-painted, but if you go into their kitchen, it looks like it hasn't changed over the years. It's small, yet efficient.
The food they serve is limited and simple, yet so full of flavor that it can change your gloomy morning mood. For breakfast, I had the buns with kaya, soft-boiled egg, and coffee.

Their specialty is the grilled home-made buns and home-made kaya. Kaya is a jam-like spread made of coconut milk, eggs, and pandan leaves. It is made by slow-cooking the ingredients using a bain-marie. In this restaurant, they submerged their container in hot water to cook and used a bamboo stick to stir occasionaly. The warm bun was crisp on the outside and soft in the inside, which helps soften the butter for easy spreading. After spreading the butter, close the bun, and take a bite. As you bite, the kaya and butter will ooze into your mouth. The flavor isn't so strong as I expected and it was rich and creamy. It was so good!

The soft-boiled egg was something I didn't expect. When I cracked it open, I was worried that it would all spill out in a mess so I popped it all in my mouth. Soft-boiled eggs is something I used to eat when I was young, it was delicious. However, about 10 minutes later, I watched other people eat their egg. The way to eat it is to crack open the egg into the small plate. Use the teaspoon to stir it and add some salt, pepper, or soy sauce. I can imagine it would also go well with the buns. Maybe I will try that the next time I go there.

Their coffee was good also, it was not bitter. They use condnesed milk for the creamer and sweetner. The way the coffee is made is unlike how we make it in the Philippines. They used two containers to make the coffee, I think they pour it back and forth. When the coffee is made, they put a spoon of condensed milk in the cup, fill it halfway with coffee and fill the cup with hot water. It was interesting, unfortunately, they wouldn't let me take more pictures in their kitchen.

This was one of my most memorable breakfast experience I have had. I'm not usually a breakfast person, but if I lived in Singapore, I'd probably make a trip to Chin Mee Chin once a week.