Sio Bak & Char Siu at 88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist, Singapore

Pork is my least favourite meat. I can easily pass up on the holiday lechon (roasted suckling pig) and coffee pork ribs—and I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Blame it on childhood trauma when I’d always find pork fat cubes with pig’s hair still sticking out of them floating inside the evening’s menudo. Gross! Growing up, my dad also suffered from physical ailments because of his health (he was a heavy drinker, smoker, and meat-eater), so we needed to lessen our porcine intake as a family.

BUT. I still get my cravings every now and then, especially liempo (grilled pork belly), sisig (pig’s mask aka beer’s best friend), and crunchy lechon kawali (deep-fried suckling pig) violently drowned in vinegar from my university’s famed eatery, Manang’s. Ahhh! Thinking about it now makes me want to book a flight to Manila and satisfy my yearning. But I must resist.

And, of course, I can’t forget Hong Kong and it’s street-side eateries selling roasted goose, ducks, slabs of crispy roast pork belly, and shiny char siu (barbecued pork). I spent a lot of childhood mornings eating fish congee with you tiao (deep-fried dough) and bo lo (pineapple shaped) buns dipped in condensed milk with my grandpa, but I’d always get my secret fix of roast meat plates accompanied by double servings of Hong Kong Milk Tea (made with Black & White evaporated milk!), too.

88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist at Tyrwhitt Road makes the case for awesome, awesome roasted meats here in Singapore. While I am not much of a fan of crispy roast pork belly (or sio bak, as the locals here call it) and char siu, I find myself riding a bus just to curb my craving. It also helps that it’s a stone’s throw away from my fiancé office. But seriously, the man making these delectable porcine creations is serious about his shit.

The crispy roast pork belly doesn’t feel like it came from a reused vat of oil; rather, each bite is consistently clean and crisp. The crackling skin gives way to a juicy, super-tender chunk of pork that has a trimming of fat, but not so much that it overwhelms. What’s great about it is that it has the right balance of crunch, fat, and soft, flavourful pork.

The char siu is caramelised to a dark, sweet perfection, but keeping the meat smoky and soft. I hear he uses malt sugar, which makes the surface nicely sticky. The sweetness from the sugar seeps into the meat, providing a nice, saccharine quality to the meat.

And please, don’t forget the chilli. I always both the wet orange type (that’s vinegar based) and the dry, burning type (I’d like to think it’s his version of sambal). Roast duck is also part of 88 Hong Kong Roast Meat Specialist’s offerings, but I catch myself ordering a loaded plate of pork every damn time. And extra rice, when I’m in the mood.

153 Tyrwhitt Rd, Singapore 207566
P: +65 8225-2495

(All meals are paid for myself unless stated otherwise.)

Zenbu Ramen at Marutama Ramen, Singapore

One of my favourite ramen bowls can be found in Liang Court, Singapore, where 90% of the stores are Japanese. They have Uniqlo, a Kinokuniya, and Meidi-ya, which is a sizable grocery stocked with Japanese goods. Liang Court is my favourite mall in Singapore. And Marutama Ramen can be found on its second floor. A homey, no-frills Japanese restaurant, their menu constitutes of only six types of ramen. I’ve only tried one (and have stuck to one since)—the Zenbu Ramen.

Zenbu Ramen (S$19++)

Marutama uses chicken broth, which makes it a tamer, lighter alternative to the thick, unctuous, and almost-gelatinous tonkotsu variety. The taste is mild and glazes the palate with a harmonious blend of clean meaty flavours.

Now, not everyone adheres to chicken based broth, but I like because it makes me feel less guilty about inhaling an entire bowl of the stuff. It comes with ramen noodles that are thinner-than-usual, but are cooked until it has that nice al-dente bite. Three slices of char siu are fanned on the side; they are deceivingly pale but are packed with bold porcine flavours. The same goes with the kakuni, cubes of stewed pork belly that come with divine, alternating layers of fat and meat. You know they marinate their meat well at Marutama.

A generous sprinkling of garlicky negi is placed on the side, and opposite that rests a pristine pile of aosa, a special type of seaweed grown in very pure seawater. In the middle rests the signature ajitsuke tamago, whose soft exterior yields a creamy, golden yolk—the crowd pleaser.

They’ve got condiments such as garlic chips, but I hold back because I find the garlic flavour too pungent that it clashes with and overpowers the light chicken broth. Sides such as gyoza, karaage, and chawan mushi are also available, but I’ve been sticking to my guns and consistently ordering only this Zenbu Ramen at Marutama. Maybe I’ll try the others next time.

177 River Valley Road
#02-01/02 Liang Court Shopping Centre
Singapore 179030
P: +65 6837-2480

(All meals are paid for myself unless stated otherwise.)

Hello on a Lazy Sunday!

It’s nice to be writing online again.

In fact, this blog is actually more than five years old already. I used to have my own “official” website in two versions – a .com and a .net – but things got weird, and I lost both domains. So I just took it as a sign to subscribe to my site again, which I think works better because (1) I am no longer pressured to write just to get the bang out of my buck – a huuuuge relief, I tell you! – and (2) it was also squeamishly nice-ish to reopen the treasure trove entries that I wrote during my early 20s (I’ve kept them private already, haha). Reading about all the angst, issues, anxieties, and adventures that I had seven years ago got me all introspective and it made me reflect on the past few years growing up post-university.

Now, I am turning 30 in a few years, and life has been good.

I went for a short trip back to Manila last week to rest and spend some time with my family, my friends, and my precious little one, Rocket. He turned 6 years old last week, which was also when this photo was taken. And yes, that’s also him tattooed on my arm! That way, he can always be with me wherever I go and wherever I am in this lifetime.

I’ve been living away from the Philippines for almost a year now. Time has been moving increasingly quickly the older I get – or so it seems. I live with two of my friends here in Singapore, and it feels pretty great to live independently and expose myself to these adult-y things such as paying bills, doing the laundry, preparing my meals for the week ahead. This is a great learning experience that I wish for everyone. You’re forced to grow up, and you don’t have a choice because you need to survive.

It’s also a Sunday today, and I was supposed to have a shoot for work, but it got cancelled due to the rainy weather; hence, poor shooting conditions. It freed up my time, so I cooked some monggo (mung beans) with tomatoes and Delimondo chorizo Bilbao that I swiped from the Salcedo Saturday market during last week’s trip. I’ve been craving it for so long!

I also finished my friend Isa’s book, Found, and I’m now starting on a new one: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. I’ve stopped reading Y.A. for a while (I don’t even know why I’ve stopped), so this is the first I’m reading in a reeeaaallly loooong tiiiime.

This is just a hodgepodge of stuff that’s been going on today, but the itch to write has been nagging at me since the year started. I thought that it was about time I scratched it, and it feels pretty nice to get the cogs turning once again.

Another lesson I learned was to stop taking my writing too seriously and to stop overthinking my thought process whenever I type. It’s seriously liberating to just let the words flow and treat this as my online journal of sorts, which what it really is meant to be in the first place. So that’s a rule I give myself now – no overthinking; just write mindfully and in the moment.

Hope you are all having a swell evening! Wishing you good vibrations for the week ahead.