Friday, February 19, 2010

In the Orchard

I’ve always been a sucker for Chinese food back in India. The very thought of Hakka noodles and chicken Manchurian throw my taste buds into a mad tizzy. I could eat Chinese everyday and my friends from college will testify that we almost did. From sharing Schezuan triple fried noodles to chicken lollipops and sweet corn chicken soup, Indian Chinese never failed to hit the spot.

So its little wonder that I landed in Manila, widely touted as home to exotic cuisines from across the world with vivid pictures of ginger-garlic and soya sauce based delicacies dancing in front of my eyes. Within the span of few days I realized how limited my love had been. There, awaiting my taste buds were dishes from Malaysia and Singapore, Cambodia and Vietnam and of course the Philippines itself. (I will be writing more about the Chicken Adobo- my favourite Pinoy dish soon)

Suffice to say that I’ve been immersing myself in these flavours that range from the super spicy of the Schezuan style to the light, subtle flavours of noodle soup. Which is why my husband and me were amongst the first to sample the wares of Orchard Road, a restaurant named after that famous street in Singapore.

The heady fragrances wafting from the restaurant was more than enough for us to ignore the ‘We are on a dry run’ sign and walk straight in. Built with a large open kitchen in the centre, and the tables set around it, Orchard Road resembles a food court. On walking in, we were handed an order sheet that urged us to “Enjoy our Singapore food trip.” Our eyes lit up at the dishes on offer, from a variety of Congee to hot desserts named Bubur Cha Cha and Dimsums of all kinds and preparations with exotic names like Mee Reebus and Char Kway Teow. Though there are inviting and illuminated pictures decorating the top walls of the kitchen, I was still lost without translation.

Ever ready to experiment, my husband ordered Singapore fried Bee Hoon, while I chose the rather conservatively named Black Pepper Beef and Rice. Twenty minutes later we were looking at the most appetizing looking plates of Asian food we had seen in a while.

Bee hoon turned out to be stir-fried rice vermicelli mixed with generous portions of mushrooms, carrots and garlic and marinated in quite a number of sauces. Diving into it with forks, we soon found out that the dish had a generous hint of flavours and not overwhelmingly so. The vermicelli is delicate, yet gives out a barely noticeable crunch. The vegetables retain their identity, despite being mixed in with soya and oyster sauce. It’s a must try! And for those who cant make it to Manila or Singapore, I’ve found a recipe that will get you a close approximation of the dish, here.

Black Pepper beef and rice was just that, with a bull’s eye or a sunny side up accompanying it. The beef was tender and the preparation seemed pretty straightforward with the flavours of garlic, onion and capsicum making their presence felt. The pepper and the stir-fry sauce perfectly complimented each other and I ended up leaving the plate squeaky clean. In my search for replicating the dish, I’ve found a pretty close recipe here. While it’s traditionally served with rice, I can totally see the dish making an excellent combo with noodles as well.

Our first visit was on a weekend and was such an excellent experience that we headed there yesterday as well. While we repeated the Bee hoon, we decided to go with Hokkien Mee (A version of prawn noodles) and fried Dimsums for variety. Sadly, while the Bee Hoon was still delicious, the other two dishes did not rise to our expectations at all. We’ve decided to find out who the chef who makes Bee Hoon is, and to figure out what else he dabbles in.

So for those in Manila, and heading towards Orchard Road, I recommend the Singapore fried Bee Hoon as your safety dish, while you experiment with other side dishes. This way you won't leave totally unsatisfied.

And for those who’re following the blog from India and elsewhere, check out the links to the recipes. A change in our usual style of cooking is mostly always good.

So till next week, here’s wishing you all a lot of yum-yums in your tum-tums.


(Orchard Road is located in the Second Floor,Mega Mall, Ortigas, Pasig City)