Tiong Bahru Bakery in Singapore

I am never one to resist a French carb, so when one of my friends suggested going to Tiong Bahru Bakery during my Singapore trip last week, I was definitely up for it.

Officially named Tiong Bahru Bakery by Gontran Cherrier, TBB is named after the relatively quiet neighborhood where its first branch opened early last year. I honestly have never heard of Gontran Cherrier before this, but according to my research he’s a third generation boulanger with a few bakeries in Paris. Apparently he is the “Brad Pitt of the Paris bakery scene” known for spicing up his breads with miso and other flavors. However, I put more stock in the fact that Dorie Greenspan called his chocolate tartlet “lovely“.

The smaller of the two branches, the original branch, was packed on Saturday lunch, but my friend and I only had to wait a short time for a table to clear up. We needed the time to decide what to have for lunch anyway:

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My friend and I decided to split a Specialty Bun with Bacon (right) and a baguette with Arugula, Prosciutto and sun-dried tomatoes:

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The baguette for the prosciutto sandwich was lightly spiced with curry, providing another layer of flavor after the saltiness of the prosciutto and the peppery kick of the arugula. If I had known beforehand that the bread was curry-flavored, I might not have gotten the sandwich, since I would have thought that there would be too many clashing flavors already. But surprisingly, it works. And even more surprising: a light smudge of apricot jam (made available by TBB in little dishes, along with strawberry jam and French butter) just ties everything together. The bright sweetness of the jam is just a great counterpoint for all the savory flavors the sandwich has going on.

The bacon is, in a lot of ways, similar to the prosciutto sandwich, just with varying degrees of flavors. The watercress is less peppery than the arugula, but the bacon is saltier than the prosciutto. The bun is less savory than the baguette, but it compensates for that with the sprinkling of curry powder on the the top bun. It all works together though, and, as with the previous sandwich, it’s even better with apricot jam. I just might start putting apricot jam on everything.

Jam aside, though, the real reason I agreed to go all the way to Tiong Bahru was for, of course, the desserts.

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My friend decided on an Almond and Chocolate Croissant (bottom right corner). I chose the Lemon Tart, a vanilla choux pastry and a Kouign Amann for the road (not pictured).

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The vanilla choux pastry (i.e. cream puff for the rest of us) filling was delicious and tastes just as you expect cream puff filling to taste: creamy, velvety and lush. The choux, though, is slightly different from what I expected: slightly heavier, denser and drier than your average cream puff. It also came with a strange crust on top, like the ones you would usually have on a coffee bun. Not a dealbreaker for me, but still strange.

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Also slightly non-traditional would be the crust for the Lemon Tart. TBB uses a crust that is more like shortbread, versus a tart shell. No biggie for me, really, because I care more about the filling. I would have preferred the lemon filling to be a little silkier, smoother, to be honest. But what it lacks in the texture department, it more than makes up for in taste. If you like your citrus flavors subtle and mild, then I would not recommend this tart to you. Gontran Cherrier meant business when he made the filling for this: bold, strong, tart… almost too tart, and that’s something, coming from me, a lover of all things lemon-y and lime-y. But he just takes the lemon flavor up to line of “too much” without crossing it and the result is citrus-y heaven.

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My favorite thing from the Tiong Bahru Bakery, though, is the one thing I don’t have a proper photo of: the Kouign Amman. Crisp, flaky, sweet, salty awesomeness. Traditionally a cake made with layers of salted butter, sugar and dough (don’t you just LOVE the French for thinking up things like this?), Monsieur Cherrier’s version is of the rolled type, like a cinnamon roll. I’ve never had the traditional version of this Breton dessert (something that will change on my next trip to Paris, obvs), so he won’t get any complaints from me. TBB’s Kouign Amman is wonderful: with the inside sometimes doughy and sometimes flaky, and a crispy outer shell topped with clear, buttery caramel. Le sigh. I’m getting depressed by the fact that I’m just writing about it and not actually eating it.

On the merits of the Kouign Amman alone, I highly recommend Tiong Bahru Bakery. But if caramelly, buttery French carbs are not your thing are you human?!?! there are still other things from TBB that would make it well worth the trip to the neighborhood (or Raffles City).

Tiong Bahru Bakery
56 Eng Hoon st. #01-70
Singapore 160056
Daily: 8am to 8pm

252 North Bridge Road
#B1-11/12 Raffles City Shopping Centre
Singapore 179103
Daily: 9am to 10pm

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Random Singapore Photos

Although it may seem otherwise, I didn’t just eat the entire time I was in Singapore. I was there for work, but did manage to walk around the city a lot (to burn all those Bon Chon calories).

So below is just some pictures I took of my trip, the things I saw that caught my fancy…

Good morning to you, too, Ronaldo!

I passed this advertisement every day on the way to work and to Orchard. There are worse ways to start your day, no?

And it's a registered trademark!

And I thought only Filipinos copied foreign brands (Charles’ Junior and Mang Donald’s, anyone?). But look at this! They even have the exact same font! Anyway, this store sells taro-based drinks, as far as I can remember.

Startin' them early

I saw this little girl in the underpass from Orchard to Scotts Roads. Geez, Louise. She’s no more than five years old and she’s already wearing Longchamp. When she’s a teenager, her parents have no right whatsoever to complain about her expensive tastes.

The Anti-"It Bag"

I finally saw the Loewe Papelle bags in person. These caused a stir when they first came out because, well, look at them. I knew they looked like paper bags, but I was amazed at how close the looked like the real thing (although, wouldn’t be these leather versions be the real “real thing”? Arrrgh. I’m giving myself a headache). Naturally, of course, the leather’s thicker and heavier-looking than actual paper, which take away from the illusion. But still.

The Human Tiles at Marina Bay

The Human Tiles is an art installation my friends and I came across while walking along the Marina. I’ll take a shot at explaining it, but if I don’t do a good job of it, just click on the hyperlink to go to the installation’s website. Basically, people step in front of a light (the corner of which is barely visible in the right bottom corner of the picture) and your image is captured by a video camera from behind. That image is then manipulated somehow (mirrors? I don’t know) then reflected hundreds of times on the wall whose picture you see, forming “tiles”. As you move about, walking or waving your arms, in front of the light, the pattern on the tiles changes with your movement (get it?). The effect is quite dazzling, and it’s fun to watch how the pattern changes while you move.

Light "plants" at the Marina

These giant, plant-light fixtures at the Marina made us feel like we were in the movies “A Bug’s Life” or “Avatar”. And the “stems” actually swayed with the wind, which could either be cool or a little creepy, depending on your point of view.

I want thiiiiiiiiiiiis!

These, though, were my fave. I think they look like permanent fireworks. These would look pretty in a garden for a party, don’t you think?

I feel like, any moment, legs will sprout from the bottom of this

Saw this at the Chanel window at Ngee Ann City. One word: yeeeucchh. Seriously, Karl Lagerfeld? This bag seriously reminded me of that book in Harry Potter, the one Hagrid assigned his students for his class, the one that bit and chewed everything and needed a belt to secure his mouth shut. Seriously.

The infamous Chewbacca boots

After the bag above, the infamous Chewbacca boots (displayed in a tropical country such as Singapore, no less) look almost normal. Almost.

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA.

Sorry, but once is not enough. Ahahahahahahahahaha. Awesome.

And finally, I shall leave you with pics of my other non-Din Tai Fung, non-chicken meals…

Breakfast of (fat) Champions

This was my last breakfast at the hotel, when I finally had the time to have more than fruit and bread. Really yummy waffles with generous dollops of whipped cream and syrup, steamed barbecue pork buns and dumplings (which is why I love breakfast at Chinese/Chinese-influenced countries), turkey bacon and some fruit (part of my futile attempt to justify this breakfast as “healthy”).

Well, whaddya know. That's chicken on the left...

And, last, but not the least, my set meal from Ramen Santuoka at Central.

Ok. Enough na muna about food. My arteries/wastline/weighing scale are all begging me to stop.

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).

Din Tai Fung: Dumpling Heaven!

I was in Singapore last week, and what I ate of my own discretion (as opposed to work-sponsored lunch and hotel buffet breakfast) could be classified into two major food groups: Din Tai Fung and chicken. I’ll get to the chicken soon enough, this one’s about Din Tai Fung.

Although Crystal Jade has finally come to Manila and, to some extent satisfied my cravings for the world-famous soupy dumplings, there’s nothing like Din Tai Fung Xiao Long Bao. So much so that we went to DTF twice over a five-day period.

Din Tai Fung at the basement of Paragon Orchard

And the Xiao Long Bao was as good as I remembered. The dumpling wrappers were so thin, you could see the broth through the skin of the dumpling.

Little pockets of soupy heaven. Yummm...

The pork meat inside was juicy, flavorful and tender. But anyone will tell you that it’s the broth that makes or breaks a Xiao Long Bao. And though I sang praises of Crystal Jade’s, the broth in DTF’s dumplings tastes purer, cleaner and more flavorful.

Inside the DTF Xiao Long Bao

It’s hard to make the comparison if you’re not having the dumplings together, but with one sip of that fragrant, steaming hot broth, I knew (drama! Haha): that DTF’s Xiao Long Bao are the best I’ve ever had. I was actually even nodding my head while going “mmmmm…” with that first slurp, as if confirming to some invisible higher being that, yes, DTF if the king of Xiao Long Bao (consequently prompting a raised eyebrow from my mom).

I even prefer their ginger, vinegar and soy over Crystal Jade’s, where they give you the sauce ready-made in those small sauce bowls. In DTF, you get to blend the soy sauce, black vinegar and chili sauce to your own preference.

Sawsawan heaven!

Their soy sauce is really mild, and the ginger is cut into such thin strips, the taste does not overpower the soup at all. Add a touch of chili sauce, and I’m in sawsawan heaven.

Salty sour ginger-y goodness...

We also had their beef noodle soup, which was good, warm and comforting, although it has to be said, Crystal Jade’s noodles win the noodle battle.

Perfect for a rainy day

I also ordered their steamed yam dumplings for dessert, which weren’t bad but were still disappointing, given how good I remember the ones I had in Taiwan were.

Definitely not disappointing, on the other hand, was DTF’s fried porkchop. I wanted to order this with rice (apparently, the rice is very, very good), but my mom wanted noodles, and it didn’t make sense to order both. It’s a good thing you can order the porkchop alone, because I really had my heart set on finally trying this. It’s perfectly tender and juicy, and they trim the fat from the chop, so it’s not oily at all.

Next time, I will order this with the rice!

I don’t know how to describe the flavor, because it’s not something I’m used to, but there was definitely a little spice to it, and a lot of very Chinese flavors. Not very helpful, I know, but take my word for it and order the porkchop rice the next time you’re in Din Tai Fung.

But it’s not like I need the porkchop as further motivation to eat at Din Tai Fung. If they only sold Xiao Long Bao, I’d still go and come back again and again.

Can I go back to DTF tomorrow?

Now who do I talk to to finally get DTF to the Philppines?