Through the Senses – SINGAPORE #fieldtrip

For years, I have spent my holidays at home as we plan out our menu for our Christmas dinner. It’s traditionally grand. We cook food that usually lasts us AT LEAST three days (not even joking). 2016’s Christmas was a very different setting though. With all the changes that happened on the first two quarters of the year, we were led to having our feet touch an unfamiliar land to celebrate Christmas. So, having the spirited food enthusiast inside of me, I just had to make sure that I got my camera ready, lists of must-try foods and some comfortable shoes for all the walking (and eating) that I’ll be doing. I just cannot miss the good food the world has to offer, and this time, from the fast-paced world of Singapore.

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Wide roads, high rise buildings and people of different races immediately faced me as we were on our way to our accommodation for our short stay in Singapore. Having been so used to the crowded streets and roads of Manila, Singapore effortlessly struck me with its fast-paced lifestyle that definitely rubs off on foreigners who come in to their rather small but packed vicinity. We arrived at Changi Airport a couple of hours before dawn of Christmas Eve. I knew there was so much in store for us so a good rest was just too perfect.

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Christmas Eve, I woke up to a very chilly morning that was screaming for a holiday-style breakfast and steamy morning bath. With our friends having kilos of Excelente ham, which is very prominent in the Philippines especially during the holidays (BUT BOY, 1,300.00 PER KILO SHOULD GIVE YOU GOOD MEAT), I thought it’s not a bad idea to have it glazed and serve it with sunny side up eggs with runny yolks (CHOLESTE-ROLLIN’). Besides, what better way to have our Christmas Eve breakfast than having legit ham, right? So if my first morning in Singapore was any indication of how my food trip in their land would turn out, I definitely should have known that it wouldn’t be less than interesting.

SENSES OVERWHELMED

I flew to Singapore with no expectations at all which was very much unlike when we flew to see Bangkok. I knew I was in for possibly the most interesting food trips of my life then so it was different setting in Singapore. I may have had bits of information and probably small hints of how it would be but there was no clear expectation. And that is probably the exact reason why I was so overwhelmed every time I see stalls serving food I haven’t seen or heard my entire life. My feet just wanted to keep walking just to see how far I’ll go while following the food stalls lined up in most of the areas we went to.

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Just across the place we stayed in were series of hawkers serving pretty legit Cantonese food. I couldn’t complain. I was raised in a household that deeply celebrates Chinese (and a little Cantonese) cooking so my system may never hate it. My first shot at Singapore’s food was a clear soup with dumplings served with a smaller bowl of flat egg noodles in a rather sweet sauce (very much like the sauce of the canned pork and beans we have in here in the Philippines). It was simple and straightforward food. Maybe nothing special too, but for 3 dollars (SGD), how can I demand for more? At the late afternoon of Christmas Eve and the sun shining like it normally does in our country, I found myself craving for something sweet — and cold (or literally just anything I could eat). We were in the middle of the Chinatown near Bugis station so I was in a crazy line of food stalls (unfortunately, I didn’t get to try any of them anymore) where we found a small place that served bing su (a Korean shaved-ice based dessert). I ordered Passion Fruit flavored bing su and Red Bean Rice Balls. The bing su was nothing special but the rice balls were pretty good. I’d love to write about everything I ate in Singapore but I want to minimize the length of this post so I’ll be writing that in a different entry!

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CONVERSION MADNESS

If there was any problem that I faced whenever I ordered food, it was my innate sense of converting currencies. The conversion of our local money with Singapore’s is at (approximately) 43PHP to 1SGD. So, obviously, foods priced more than 20SGD is already a huge deal for me. I kept telling myself to stop converting currencies because I wouldn’t get to enjoy my food trip if I’ll always focus on finding how much it costs in the Philippines but I just couldn’t fight the urge to. Much more since we were running on a slightly budgeted trip so I needed to make sure that I do not overspend on food.

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BUT this does not mean that foods in Singapore are generally expensive. Of course there are pricey ones but if you’re just zealous enough then you’d definitely find food at really good deals. For example, there is this hawker near our place that already went down as one of my most favorite food places of all time. It was simple, nothing grand but really good. Reminiscent of the kind of food my mom prepares during celebrations back when we were kids. For about 50SGD you’ll already get 4 different Cantonese dishes (and I mean really good ones) with really good servings.

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So, the point is, if you want to get more out of your money, you just have to keep looking for places with good food with good prices. That means walking along the streets, maybe searching online and basically not eating at first options right away. There’s even this considerably cheap Michelin-star restaurant along Chinatown near Bugis station (but you may have to tolerate a pretty long queue). That’s definitely a good sign!

VIVID DIVERSITY

We spent about 4 full days in Singapore and I know that there’s definitely a lot more to extract out of their culinary identity. Walking the streets, you will be caught following aromas of foods being cooked that are rooted from different neighboring countries and some Western and European influences as well. It is not difficult to be overwhelmed as that would be the exact thing that could happen to anyone who would dare to understand Singapore’s diverse culinary gems. Within the span of 4 days however, I understood Singapore’s culinary identity as something that flows according to the people’s lifestyles. Foods are cooked fast and customers consume their food even faster. Most of the time, the food, regardless of its roots, aren’t too difficult to understand. They’re straightforward in terms of how they’re served but definitely complex during the preparations. Having different nations (on my observation mostly Indians and Chinese folks, so Malaysians too!) contribute to the population of their country, it is understandable that their culinary heritage has also adapted the culinary traditions of these varied cultures.

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I’ve been told that Singapore has very little to no exporting power (correct me if I’m wrong) so it’s incredible how they managed to climb up the ladders of a powerful country while relying largely on their business sectors. And that idea is very evident not just in their lives, their ethics, their habits but also in their way of enjoying food! My stay was short but packed with good food finds. I’m definitely going back soon to try out more food but my next destination (or destinations *wink*) is really interesting too!

MARCIANO’S NIGHT!

My holiday celebrations finally started last Saturday with a dinner I arranged with few of my college block mates. To be honest, we didn’t decide on where to eat before we met up at the mall in Makati so deciding where to eat that night was considerably spontaneous. While I was waiting for them to arrive (COS THEY WERE ALL LATE, LIKE 3 HOURS LATE… I AM NOT KIDDING) I had a couple of hours to spare to check some good places around although I really didn’t get to explore the whole area as there were a lot of people there (it’s Saturday night so you know what I mean). When nearly half of the people I expected to join for dinner arrived, I made sure to encourage them to decide where to eat already. We roamed around for a bit but ended up eating at Marciano’s at the second level of Greenbelt 3.

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Their place wasn’t too filled with people yet but by the time the rest of our bunch arrived, it was so full already that the area where we were eating had nearly no space left for walking servers. The interiors were home-y enough which my good friend and I would rate on a scale of “1 to Mary Grace home-y” at around 6 or 7.

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We ordered two 16″ pizzas for everyone to share and I ordered their Shirley Temple Truffle Mushroom Burger  for myself which was layers of bun, lettuce, tomatoes, burger patty, cheese and mushrooms (in what seemed like light coating of truffle oil), and served with potato wedges. The patty was pretty straightforward as I didn’t get any prominent spices from it which I would always prefer than “overly dressed” patties. At first, I thought the truffle oil was a little too overwhelming but trying out all the components together (LIKE HOW I SHOULD HAVE EATEN IT IN THE FIRST PLACE, I KNOW… I KNOW) mellowed it down quite a bit. The bun they used were almost similar to the dough bakers use for Ensaymada (not too familiar with it) which seemed a little unusual for me but it wasn’t much of an issue to be bothered about.

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The burger wasn’t my first choice though. I wanted to get either their Houston Porchetta or 200-gram Beef Tenderloin with Sausage which were unfortunately unavailable that time. To sway away from my frustrations, I ordered Marciano’s Spinach, Artichoke and Mushroom Dip that was served with a couple of crostini. The spinach, artichoke and mushroom as fully softened and disintegrated leaving a rather smooth texture that just fits so well with the creaminess of the sauce. Their crostini were a little staler than I’d hope and I definitely missed a little of that olive oil taste you’d normally baste the bread with when drying it off.

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We finished the crostini before the dip so I tried to slather the potato wedges that were served with my burger on the dip and boooy it worked so well together. That was as if I didn’t have enough food yet considering the pizzas (Spinach Prosciutto and Truffle Mushroom) I ate PLUS the servings of Joey Tribbiani Meat Lasagna (yes, a friend told me it’s a F.R.I.E.N.D.S. reference) I got to try. The pizzas were okay and to be honest, the lasagna wasn’t too great but I totally like how they stayed true to a typical and straightforward lasagna. Besides, meat sauce, bechamel and loads of cheese are enough to drool over right?

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Closing the night out, I asked for a glass of Sangria which I ended up not finishing up. I am trying to get myself get used to wines and other liquors so I could hopefully understand them better in the future but I’m just not quite there yet.

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Over-all, the experience was great. The whole feel of their place in Greenbelt 3 wasn’t too overwhelming and the interiors surely encouraged people to stay in and get some good conversations going. The price range maybe on the expensive side specially for students with meals ranging from as low as 300.00 to as high as 1,500.00 (goes nearly the same for their drinks and liquors). I personally wouldn’t mind spending some money considering the warmth of the place which is definitely a nice haven to catch upwith friends and/or family (OR maybe romantic dates with special someone). Also, that night I got to catch-up with few of my really good friends, celebrate a rather fruitful year and had a toast for the years after. So there really wasn’t anything that could make the experience less than appropriate. What a way to kick off the holiday celebrations!
Just a tip: they have pretty decent portions for their meals. Their solo option for pasta may be more than enough for one (*coughs* my sister) so choosing the right meals to share could definitely make your experience their a little less pricey. 
Marciano's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

VEGETARIAN WHO?!

I know I have talked about this before (maybe a little more than I should) but now that I’m getting close to some real holiday celebrations, I might as well write something about it again.
About three months (?) ago, I decided to get into something I never thought I’d ever get myself into. I’ve always been an absolute carnivore and it’s always been a struggle to eat vegetables. But having a small part of me that is always curious over a lot of things which leads me to try different stuff on the most random times, I ended up deciding on getting myself into vegetarianism.

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If you’ve been with me since I started the journey, you should know how days went and how much of a struggle the first few days have been. I must admit that right now, this whole system’s not too difficult for me anymore. Yes, there are days when I find it hard to find something to eat but I have this new found excitement to find good food without meat (exploring different food places is super fun too). BUT as exciting as the last few months have been, I know I cannot forgive myself if I let the holidays pass without enjoying the celebrations completely. And honestly, I don’t think I would enjoy the celebrations to the fullest if I would continue depriving myself of meat.

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So with all the holiday dinners, vacations and (possibly) family reunions that are lined up for the weeks ahead, I just know that I need to allow myself to eat meat again. But that does not go without any challenge at all. The challenge for me would be to control the amount of food I’ll be taking in. I have lost a good amount of weight already (blog for that coming soon) so I need to make sure that I don’t gain them back just because I allowed myself to eat meat for a couple of weeks. I don’t know how the next few weeks would go but you can bet that I cannot wait to enjoy the celebrations with all the meat already. I’ll think about how I’ll transition back to vegetarianism (or if I would) once the celebrations are all over. I honestly can’t be bothered to think about right now.

So for the next three (?) weeks ahead, I’ll try my best to write about how the festivities would go for me. Hopefully, I’ll get to sneak in some exciting food features in between too! Right now, I need to start calming myself down because my carnivorous self is just so ready to be unleashed!

 

GIFs are from giphy.com

 

OKONOMIYAKI VIRGIN NO MORE!

I have to admit that I had to let my excitement to review go down a notch first before attempting to write this. I didn’t want to have my excitement affect the way I will be reviewing the first restaurant I’ll be writing about so I needed to calm myself over the last few days. Although, the last weeks have been pretty hectic I still needed to make sure that I’ll be as impartial as possible. So let’s g!

I first passed by Chibo Okonomiyaki when I hunted Uma Uma Ramen down at Maison Mall just across SMX Convention Center in Mall of Asia Complex. I didn’t bother peeking inside their place because I just had my lunch so all I did then was look at the menu and see if I’d want to get something when I come back. And I did without even looking at their entire menu (which is super big by the way). So when I had a set-up at SMX Convention Center again, I didn’t have second thoughts about eating at Chibo Okonomiyaki anymore. I went there alone and I remember being very VERY hungry!

When you first come in to their place, you’ll realize how limited the seats are in a rather dim-lighted place. It can probably fit a little more than 50 people? (I can’t be sure.) But soon you’ll notice the teppanyaki griddles they have installed on each table. When I saw the griddles my fascination escalated quickly. I am such a sucker for places where you can cook your own food. The second time I ate their, it wasn’t any different

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NEW FAVORITES

I never had any experiences with okonomiyaki before so I was very interested in trying one out during the first time I visited the place. I ended up getting their Vegetable Yakisoba, Cheese, Spinach and Asparagus Teppan, and Mattari Okonomiyaki. (Click here to check out how my day went on my daily blog for that day!)

Their Cheese, Spinach and Asparagus Teppan’s pretty straight forward. Half-cooked asparagus stems and spinach are covered with chunky tomato sauce and finished off with melted cheese on top. For sure I have had meals with tomato sauce and cheese but never over vegetables and leafy ones. But I actually enjoyed it although if you do not put it over the teppanyaki griddle you might eventually notice the cheese sitting on top of your vegetables pretty solidly so that’s not too nice.

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Serving the Vegetable Yakisoba, they put it straight on your teppanyaki griddle. But, it’s not for you to cook it. I guess they just put it there so it won’t get cold while you’re eating it. Upon your approval, they will finish it off with some bonito flakes and seaweeds which are both part of the seasonings and condiments on each table. I personally prefer having the yakisoba sit on the griddle for a few minutes so some of the noodles could be toasted a bit more (but make sure to mix it from time to time). It’s a good yakisoba, probably not the best but I love how they’re very liberal with the rest of the components of the noodle dish. I suggest you let them (or do it by yourself lol) add bonito flakes and some seaweeds on your yakisoba because it’s giving more depth to the flavor of the dish. PLUS it’s super cute when bonito flakes dance through the heat!

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And as I have said, I needed to make sure I try one of their okonomiyakis out. I ordered their Mattari Okonomiyaki which had some asparagus, cheese, mochi and pork (which I had them take out). To put this as simple as possible, I LOVED IT SO MUCH. I seriously didn’t realize before how good okonomiyakis can be (I am dreaming of tasting one from Japan soon!). The softness of the pancake with the savory sauces and the ingredients inside it is just so good. It has definitely gone down to be one of my most favorite Japanese dishes of all time!

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The second time I visited their plate, I ordered the same set but added Mushroom with Garlic Sauce and Soba Meshi. My mom said their Soba Meshi is pretty good with very good servings but comparing it to our family’s all-time favorite rice from Kamemeshi, it’s falling a bit short. Their Mushroom with Garlic Sauce is a different story though. I personally loved it even if I wasn’t too sure what species were the mushrooms they served. (Click here to check out how my day went on my daily blog for that day!)

BETTER REASONS

My mom may not have enjoyed eating there as much as I did but I still think it’s a pretty good restaurant especially if you want to stay there longer than normal. Their teppanyaki griddles would make sure your food won’t go cold while you’re having good conversations with your friends and their dim lighting makes the ambiance more relaxing compare to other Japanese restaurants.

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Their servings are relatively good and one order can possibly fill you up pretty well especially their okonomiyaki. The price may not be too cheap (possibly on a mid-level price points) but they’re not using basic ingredients so you know it’s well worth it. Of all the Japanese restaurants there are (and more coming) it’s really hard for any Japanese place to come out as strong as others but I honestly think Chibo Okonomiyaki is a pretty decent competition for others. Just as their name suggests, make sure to try out any of their okonomiyakis and let me know what you think. I cannot fully compare it because it’s the first one I’ve tried so I’ll definitely need your thoughts on this (and of course, I need to try more).

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Over-all it’s a great experience and I’ll most likely come back soon with some friends so I can try the rest of their okonomiyaki offerings!

Chibo Okonomiyaki Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Day 40 – LAST DAILY POST!

We’ve arrived to the day when I’ll write my last daily post. This does not mean though that I will be abandoning this blog anymore. As hassle as this whole thing is, I know I’m doing something I truly enjoy so I wouldn’t let go of this anymore…

My mom and I had a pretty good breakfast. She had fried rice with longganisa and dried fish while I ate our leftover Mattari Okonomiyaki from our dinner at Chibo Okonomiyaki last night. We didn’t bother preparing anything else because we’ll be heading out for a surprise birthday celebration for one of our family friends. When we got there though, I didn’t get to eat much (I think) because, obviously, they wouldn’t adjust their menu for me. Luckily, they had penne with white sauce and mixed vegetables with quail eggs so I still got to eat something. It was a rather intimate party (considering how big our community is) and it seemed like everyone had a lot of fun. Maybe I did to because the time went by so fast. After the party, mom and I headed to the closest mall to finish up on our Christmas gift list which we packed when we got home a couple of hours ago. Before heading home, we grabbed something to eat at Project Pie (again cos mom’s total sucker for good pizzas). We had the usual… mom had all-meat pizza while I had no-meat pizza and we ordered our favorite James’ Project. It’s a salad with mixed greens, candied walnuts, feta cheese, craisins and raspberry vinaigrette. The sweetness of the raspberry is very subtle and getting a serving of all the components makes everything so much better.

It’s been a really good weekend. Probably one of the best in a very long time. There is just something about the holidays that makes me really happy and spirited and excited for a lot of different things. I don’t know how to feel about the fact that I am not longer gonna be posting everyday but I guess this is all for the best. I want to stop compromising my posts just to meet my daily requirements. Keep watching out for my future posts. I’ll make sure to make them better in terms of content and flow. Sleeping happy tonight, yehey!

Day 38 – LIKE MY MOTHER’S COOKING?

I woke up to a very chilly weather. That should give you an idea how difficult it was for me to get myself out of the bed. When I finally did, I prepped and headed straight to the office. I had a lot of things to accomplish for the day so I needed to get to the office as soon as I can. I skipped lunch but I didn’t feel too hungry probably because of all my preoccupations. My boss and I headed to Bonifacio Global City to attend a meeting where I told him to just leave me there since I’ll still have to eat my late lunch (that was around 4 in the afternoon already).

 

I met with my office mate who also had a meeting around the area and we both decided to get something to eat first before heading back to Alabang. We ended up eating at Kabisera which’s a Filipino restaurant that transforms into a nice and cozy bar at night. She ordered this Vigan Power Bowl that had toasted Vigan Longganisa (local sausage), some cucumber, pickled onion (super loved it), salted egg and fried rice. She seemed to have enjoyed it a lot but she ordered a serving of their Kwek-Kwek (quail eggs in orange batter) which she shared with me. I had their Pancit Luglug and Laing (taro leaves cooked in coconut milk). Their pancit tasted so good with its thick sauce that coats the rice noodles really well. The star of the meal though was their Laing which tasted a lot like the one my mom makes (that’s a compliment). The taro leaves were well cooked and the spiciness from the red chilis made it so much better.

 

Since that was my only actual meal for today, I’d say I enjoyed it more than I should. Their serving maybe a bit small but it’s a darn good restaurant if you wanna get some good Filipino food. I specifically loved the whole ambiance of the place even with their rather dim lighting. Maybe when I come back and I’m not on a strict vegetarian diet anymore I’ll try their meat dishes as well.

 

That was a pretty good end to my work week. The next two days, I’ll be posting my last two daily blog. As I have mentioned last night, it’s not just about being too time-consuming or hassle for me. I just don’t want to compromise the quality of my posts just to get to post something daily. On Sunday, I’ll be posting my 40th and last daily post. From there, I’ll be preparing a list of contents to release a good number of times in week featuring really different stuff. Stay with me, it’ll be fun.

Kabisera Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Day 37 – CHANGE IS COMING!

I couldn’t be happier for everything I ate today. It might have been too much but they’re all pretty good stuff so that’s really good for me (I guess).

 

Today, I had to skip work because I needed to attend to a couple of personal errands and because I try my best to not burn myself out from work. My job requires me to put in some extra hours in a lot of different circumstances so I make sure to use my offset whenever I could so I don’t end up tiring myself too much. Before heading out, I didn’t get to eat something so by the time I got back from my morning errands I was already feeling super hungry. On the way home though, I bought Spinach Lasagna from Sbarro which they served with their garlic bread (I don’t remember having one before but boy it was sooo good!) and Starbucks’ Cinnamon Sticky Buns. I don’t mind spending some credits for food, okay? The Spinach Lasagna was a little bland so I had to sprinkle some iodized salt and add some Sriracha (don’t judge) on it. It’s not even because there wasn’t any meat at all. It’s more of the fact that it really lacks seasoning because I taste the tomatoes and the cream from its sauces but it just didn’t seem like it had the right amount of saltiness to it. Overall though, I totally enjoyed it. A little seasoning would have just made it perfect.

 

After eating, I rested a bit before sneaking in a couple of hours of sleep. It just wouldn’t be an appropriate rest day without some good nap. I had to wake up few hours after though to attend to my lola and make some snacks for my mom (I still had the Cinnamon Sticky Buns so I ate that then). Our afternoon snacks were a little heavy that I decided to just heat some Cream of Asparagus Soup (Campbell’s) and cooked some small pieces of eggplant with oyster sauce, butter, garlic and Sriracha. It was a nice way to cap this night off.

 

Again, I’m super happy that I am finally getting to eat better. Although the past days weren’t the best circumstances in terms of chances to eat but at least I had this day to kickstart my attempt to make my eating habits better. I’ve also been thinking a lot about posting everyday. I’m considering limiting my posts to maybe 2 to 3 times a week. It’s not just about the lack of interesting stuff everyday (although, it’s true that my days aren’t really interesting). It’s just that I feel like I am compromising the quality of my posts because I am too pressured to post everyday. So I am seriously thinking about slowing easing out of posting every night and planning my posts to make it 3 posts weekly at most. It’ll cover restaurant reviews (new category yey), weekly weight updates (hopefully I get to fix our weighing scale already) and basically the changes that are happening to me and my eating habits (if I end up losing the motivation to continue being vegetarian then at least I have other uses for this blog with the new categories coming… but hopefully I won’t quit too soon). Changes are always exciting for me so I’ll push myself to stay in the system for as long as I can. If not, we’ll see how things will pull through.