They’re here!!

Wee Nam Kee opened today and for some reason, my mom just had to go TODAY. So off we went to the Ayala Triangle Gardens and had this:

And so, we meet again...

With this… (and the ginger’s more subtle than the Singapore version. Yey for me!)

It's not Hainanese Chicken without this

And of course, this…

Kanin pa lang, ulam na!

But Wee Nam Kee chicken wasn’t the only thing that clogged my arteries last night. As we were walking to WNK, I saw this:

Oh be still, my heart...

I could not resist, so I bought these. Not my first choice, but they ran out of chicken wings (how does a chicken wing place run out of wings?)…

Whoever invented these deserves some sort of award.

I resisted the urge to eat them while walking back to the office (haha!) and had them at home. They were as crispy as I remembered them to be, so crispy that my brother and sister actually turned to look when I bit into the drumstick. I’m not sure, though, if it’s because I ate them almost 2 hours after getting them, or because they were drumsticks (but aren’t they supposed to be more flavorful?) or because they were still on soft-opening (their first full day), but I remember the ones I had in Singapore to be more salty and overall more tasty. I’m all for giving them a second chance, though.

The Ayala Triangle is becoming the worst possible place to jog. Will you be able to resist rewarding yourself with  Bon Chon, Wee Nam Kee or Golden Spoon after your run?

Wee Nam Kee and Bon Chon Chicken is located at the Ayala Triangle Garden, behind the Philippine Stock Exchange. Bon Chon will also be opening it’s Greenbelt 1 branch soon, and a Libis branch in the near future.

Chicken!

(Remember the show Tropang Trumpo and their expression, “Chicken!”? Haha.)

I’m sorry I couldn’t come up with a cleverer title for this post, but, really, this is what this post is about. In my previous post, I already wrote about the first major food group of my Singapore trip, Din Tai Fung. The second major food group was, well, chicken.

Everyone knows that, apart from Chili Crab (which I don’t eat), the other dish Singapore is famous for is Chicken Rice or Hainanese Chicken. And, y’all know how much I love me some Hainanese Chicken. So it was definitely one of my goals to eat Chicken rice as many times as I reasonably can over a 4-day period.

So how many times was that? Two. It doesn’t seem like much, but you must take into account that I only had office-imposed food for lunch, and I had to eat DTF and Bon Chon (more on that later) as well. And, first up was Sergeant Chicken at Food Republic at Wisma Atria Orchard. I ate here at the recommendation of Chuvaness’s blog, she rated this as her favorite in Singapore. And also because it was walking distance from my hotel.

Naturally, my expectations were high. My thinking was, if this was Chuvaness’s favorite in a city with Wee Nam Kee, Pow Sing and Boo Tong Kee, then it must be good. But, sadly, those expectations weren’t met. Don’t get me wrong, the chicken, both the white and roasted varieties, was tender and tasty.

Sergeant Chicken set

I particularly liked the skin of the roasted one. The rice was good, too. But none of them were mind-blowingly good. The ginger sauce, I have to admit, was a little off with a strange aftertaste. It didn’t taste fresh (a Tagalog word comes to mind: starts with a “pa” and ends with an “s”) and I’m not entirely sure if that’s how it’s really supposed to taste.

Overall, Sergeant Chicken was a good chicken rice experience. But was it definitely not the best Singapore had to offer.

And that brings me to Wee Nam Kee, touted by some as the best chicken rice in the city-nation. I apologize in advance for the poor quality of my photos, since when I left for work that day, I didn’t know we were going to have dinner at Wee Nam Kee (my plan was to have lunch there the next day). Consequently, I didn’t have my camera with me and was only able to take pics with my Blackberry. But I digress.

With all the hype in Manila over Wee Nam Kee and the opening of its first foreign branch at Ayala Triangle this month, I’ve heard all the raves about this restaurant and its superior chicken rice.

The best of Singapore (?) coming soon to Manila!

Naturally, with such high praise coming from everyone who was any sort of a foodie, my expectations for WNK were high. And this chicken rice institution did not disappoint. The Hainanese Chicken was tender, juicy and flavorful. The same is true for the roast chicken as well, which was moist throughout and had the perfect crispy skin.

WNK Cereal Prawns

While I’m not really a shrimp/prawn fan (unless they’re cooked in a TON of butter and garlic), I enjoyed the cereal prawns, which were unlike any prawn dish I’ve ever had before. Why are they called “cereal” prawns, anyway? What is that stuff they call “cereal”?

Tom Yao/Noble Greens

And I’ve always liked Tom Yao (?), which I think are called Noble Greens (Banana Leaf has an equally yummy version).

My ONLY complaint (and I always seem to have one, no?) is that the ginger sauce was waaaaay too strong for me. Everyone else doesn’t seem to have a problem with it, but personally, I prefer a subtler version, one that doesn’t overpower the flavor of the chicken.

WNK was definitely the best chicken rice I’ve had over my trip. But is it the best in Singapore? I can’t say. A sample size of two isn’t enough to make that assessment. So my delicious research will have to continue.

The second part of this major food group was 4 Fingers Bon Chon Crispy Chicken (try saying that four times fast!), which I also heard about from Chuvaness and from colleagues who have visited Singapore. My online research yielded rave reviews from New Yorkers (including  Esquire Magazine), a bunch that are generally difficult to please food-wise, so I was sold.

Bon Chon is located at the imposing ION Orchard Food Hall. The place was so huge, we consulted a map to find Bon Chon as I didn’t want to wander around aimlessly, hungry and in heels with my heavy laptop bag. The place was tiny, with seating capacity for only 12 people on one big, wooden table. We got lucky, though, since there were 2 available seats and the people seating across from us kindly moved to the side to accommodate the third person in our group.

Soy-garlic on the left, spicy on the right

*Apologies again, for the picture quality. This was taken with a phone again

My mom and I split a dozen wings, 6 soy-garlic and 6 hot and a chicken Caesar salad (to allay the guilt of having fried wings for dinner). I had the hot wings first, which turned out to be a mistake, since they were so hot I think they numbed my taste buds. They were absolutely yummy, make no mistake, but I had to take gulps of my drink and huge bites of my salad to rid my palate of the spice, so I could properly taste the soy-garlic wings. Lesson learned for my next Bon Chon trip: have the soy-garlic wings first before having the spicy ones.  On the other hand, the soy-garlic wings were a curious mix of sweet and salty, the taste unlike anything I’ve ever encountered on a chicken wing before.

Another wonderful thing about these wings, apart from the flavor, is their crispiness. Despite being glazed with the sauces, the paper-thin skin remains awesomely crispy. And the other thing to rave about is the lack of overall greasiness. The wings are fried, so of course, there will be some oil involved, but the amount is surprisingly minimal. There’s none of that kilig­-inducing gelatinous fat between the skin and the meat.

So, to recap: the wings are addictingly delicious, they’re crispy and less greasy than the average fried chicken wings. In other words, Bon Chon chicken wings are perfect. AND, THEY’RE COMING TO MANILA, TOO!

Wee Nam Kee and Bon Chon, both in Manila. I. CAN’T. WAIT (although my arteries will beg to differ).

The long weekend of gluttony: Hanobe

I’m not really a fan of Chinese food. I have nothing against it, it’s just not my favorite thing in the world. There are, however, a few Chinese dishes that I do go nuts about and am willing to stand up in line, travel across the city or wake up early on the weekend (like, at 10 am) for. I’d do this for really, really good dimsum (Xiao Long Bao!), really good noodles and, my favorite, Hainanese chicken.

And it’s precisely this dish (and another, but more on that later) that brought me and my family to Hanobe restaurant in Quezon City. We’ve had food delivered from the restaurant to my aunt’s house before, with excellent results, so we figured it was high time we actually went to the actual restaurant. We finally went last Friday, the holiday, and what a difference it made.

While Hanobe’s Hainanese was good when we have it at home, the fact that it doesn’t have to travel on the back of a motorcycle to get from the kitchen to my plate makes a world of difference. This is, so far, the best Hainanese Chicken I’ve had in Manila (full disclosure: I have yet to try Chef Stevie’s). The meat was tender and juicy but cooked through, with none of the potentially-dangerous pinkness of uncooked poultry. It’s lightly flavored with the ginger, leeks and broth it’s cooked in, it’s good enough to eat without the ginger oil.

Hainanese Chicken heaven...

But any self-confessed Hainanese chicken lover worth his or her salt knows that this dish is only as good as the sauce it comes with. And Hanobe’s ginger oil is perfect, the ginger is not coarse at all, and the flavor is perfectly balanced between the oil and the ginger.

Hanobe, though, is not just about the Hainanese chicken. I also happen to love minced pork in lettuce cups, and Hanobe’s is outstanding. The combination of the pork, the veggies (carrots, and singkamas, I think) and fried noodles lends the perfect crispiness to the whole thing, even without wrapping the meat in lettuce. But of course, you HAVE to wrap it all in lettuce, that’s the point of the dish. But not without a few drizzles of sweet hoisin to bring it all together. Yum.

Crispy, crunchy and sweet. Yummmm.

But Hainanese Chicken and pork lettuce cups isn’t all Hanobe has to offer. Their Yang Chow rice is good, and their steamed fish with garlic was a hit, even with my sister who generally doesn’t like fish. Their broccoli with garlic was great too with the broccoli rightfully the centerpiece of the dish, whereas other place just bombard the veggies with fried (and occasionally bitter) garlic.

Gotta have your veggies!

So, I guess you could tell that our Hanobe experience was a good one and definitely one that I’m keen to repeat. The only bad thing I can say is that we ordered waaaaaaaaaay too much food. We had containers filled and heavy with leftovers to take home, particularly of the chicken and the pork (the fish and broccoli, which I ordered in smaller quantities, were wiped out). So, wait, I take that back. I don’t have anything bad to say.

Hanobe Asian (but actually, it’s just Chinese) Restaurant is located at Maria Clara corner Banawe street (near Jollibee), Quezon City