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From prawn with pig tail 'mee' soup to 'laksa'-authentic Singaporean breakfast fare.

Singaporean Peter Tay's invitation to sample the breakfast specials at his restaurant, Tao Yuan at Resorts World Manila, was irresistible. The many cultures and the diversity of flavors make Singaporean breakfast fare truly exciting.

Tay could, indeed, flaunt the expertise of his compatriot, chef Kok Wing Yap, and guarantee that each dish was prepared as authentically as possible.

Many of the ingredients, the herbs and spices, which could spell the difference, were imported from Singapore.

Each dish we had at Tao Yuan was a favorite, each having its own appeal.

Prawn with Pig Tail Mee Soup was a light broth; yet the taste, derived from the prawn heads, was pronounced. The flavor lent particularly by the pig tails gave the soup depth and body.

The noodles were firm, the doneness of the prawns just right, the fish cakes smooth and delicious. Not one taste or flavor overpowered the other. This would be a good choice if you wish to awake gently your tastebuds.

Mee Siam came next. I have noticed how this dish could vary from one chef to another. The difference usually lies with the light gravy that starts off with a rempah (spice paste). Each cook has his/her own secret rempah recipe and own take on the gravy-in the balancing of sweet, spicy and sour.

Chef Kok Wing Yap's rendition was fresh-bursting alive with tamarind, lightly spiced, with a sweet finish.

This rice vermicelli dish was topped with hard-boiled eggs, bean curd, garnished with calamansi or lime and some Chinese chives.

Pieces of small fried bean curd-which, I was almost certain, were fried in pork lard-accentuated the dish. The bean curd chips tasted like chicharon, bringing life to the mee siam.

Then came Bah Kut Teh, (pork rib/meat bone tea soup) which I am a big fan of, no matter if it's pepper-flavored or herbal.

Tao Yuan's version is laden with garlic and pepper, deep in flavor, robust.

Just when I thought I had had my fill came the laksa. Tao Yuan's version was perfectly balanced, the consistency and thickness of the broth just right.

The use of real laksa leaves made it aromatic. The fishballs were soft. The fried bean curd puffs that absorbed the broth were a delight with every bite. The prawn and egg put together was enough reason I could not stop eating it.

We all shared Nasi Lemak- fragrantly delicious rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves. At Tao Yuan, you have a choice of fried chicken, fried fish or otak-otak (fish cake) to pair with the Nasi Lemak.

It comes with the traditional components to complete the dish: ikan bilis, peanuts, eggs, cucumbers and sambal chili.

I loved the fried chicken which was so tasty, with hints of curry. I also liked the sambal- it was delicious, well balanced, with just the right amount of spice to enhance the appetite without burning the tongue.

I had in one bite the coconut rice, chicken, sambal, a bit of the ikan bilis.

Just the memory of it makes my mouth water now. It was a simple yet pleasurable bite, a delightful play of tastes.

Just when the hot sambal was about to get to you, a bit of cucumber cooled you down and prepared you for the next bite. Then the peanuts lent their flavor, adding yet another dimension.

Singaporean breakfast fare is at Tao Yuan Resorts World Manila daily, 7-11 a.m. There's a dim sum selection, too.

Lantern festival

We have had our lauriat of auspicious dishes to welcome the Year of the Rooster.

We have appeased the Kitchen God with offerings of tikoy.

We have have done our Prosperity Toss through Lo Hei Yusheng.

To complete the spring festival celebration, let us partake of Tang Yuan (sweet glutinous rice balls with an assortment of fillings such as peanuts, sesame seeds, red bean, plum paste).

'Tang Yuan' has the same sound as the Chinese characters that mean 'whole family gathering together.'

As such, the balls are eaten to bring about togetherness, strong family ties and wholeness of family.

The glutinous rice balls, according to tradition, must be eaten in pairs and upon rising on the 15th day of the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 11 this year.

The rice balls are cooked in boiling water until they float. Some cook it in sugar syrup with a slice of ginger; others use coconut milk.

Let us celebrate every chance we get, for after all, life is a celebration! Let us enjoy the Lantern Festival!

Special thanks to Joseph Tiu for the valuable information on Chinese customs and traditions.

Tao Yuan is at 2/F, Newport Mall, Resorts World Manila, Pasay City. Call 8469998.

Tang Yuan Balls are available in Binondo, Manila: Eng Bee Tin, 628 Ongpin St.; Dao Eng Chay, Salazar St., tel. 845847; Shin Tai Shang, 815 Salazar St.; Shin Ton Yon, 825 Salazar St.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Feb 16, 2017
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