Right after I posted the picture above on Facebook, someone actually freaked out and sent me a PM sort-of-screeching, “When did you move to Singapore?!?” The truth, dear Midge in the Kitchen readers is that I haven’t moved to Singapore; I just moved to a new office in another part of the Philippine NCR that just looks and feels like it isn’t part of the Philippines. This, folks, is the Bonifacio Global City, or BGC. It’s in Taguig, a southern suburb of Manila, and it’s pretty much a place that looks considerably more progressive and cosmopolitan than the rest of the Philippine capital. It’s home to numerous multinational corporations, BPOs, and creative enclaves – including the wee but thriving ad agency I now have the privilege of being a part of.
The BGC is also where some of the best restaurants in town are along with numerous local and international resto chains, so you have Starbuckses and KFCs on one end and swank new establishments such as Niner Ichi Nana and Wrong Ramen on the other – and all within walking or shuttle distance of each other. And, down at the corner of Rizal Drive and 31st Street is one of my favourite local kopi tiams: ToastBox.
ToastBox, the cafe partner of Singaporean bakery chain BreadTalk, was one of my favourite restaurants during the time I was still working in Quezon City and the only branch they had was at the TriNoMa. Later on, when I worked in Makati, the only time I could get a ToastBox fix – usually rose-infused bandung and malty Horlicks toast – was on weekends when I could head over to the branch at the Alabang Town Center – and that, alas, was a rare treat. Luckily, the ToastBox here at the BGC is just a short walk away from my office, so I can grab a nice Singapore/KL-inspired meal every once so often. Case in point: this morning’s breakfast.
Those of you who live in the Philippines can sympathise with me on the fact that the traffic situation in our neck of the woods is at its utmost worst since the days of the first Aquino administration in the late 1980s/early 1990s. And, alas, the Philippine government is being utterly tuned-out and stupid by telling the people “Oh, be patient; it’ll pass.” But, meh, what do you expect from politicians who were only voted in because of their famous surnames or the “heroic” feats of their forebears? As a result, people have had to leave home extra-early and get home extra-late just to be able to avoid the CAR-maggedon in the city as well as the frequent breakdowns of both the MRT system and the PNR commuter trains. In my case, I had to leave southern suburbia at 6:30 this morning (trust me: I was groggy throughout the bus ride) and got into the BGC at 8 – a trifle early for work – indeed, the office was still closed when I got there – but early enough to grab a table at ToastBox for breakfast – and, oh! What a breakfast!
This morning’s nosh was a nice platter of nasi goreng and all its nifty sides. What I got was a highly flavourful platter of just-fried rice spruced up with caramel-sweet shallots, finely-chopped birds-eye chilies (siling labuyo), kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), tamarind, and sambal belacan (fermented shrimp paste/bagoong). The spiced rice was tossed with crunchy strips of fresh cabbage and chunks of ayam goreng or curried chicken breast. The rice itself was delicious: every spoonful was perfectly seasoned and punctuated with the fiery kick of the chilies or a salty punch from the bits of sambal belacan scattered throughout the dish. The sweet crunch of the cabbage provided a nice balance, but I am of the opinion that the chicken was totally unnecessary: it was quite dry, wasn’t properly seasoned, and pretty much lowered the full awesomeness of the nasi. The fried dried anchovies (ikan bilis) added a bitter-salty crunch while cucumber slices brought in a welcome, fruity sweetness that was somewhat melon-y. There was an additional dollop of sambal belacan, but I felt that was also a bit much.
One would think that the proper drink to go with such a repast would be a hot kopi c (coffee cut with tinned milk) or teh tarik (aerated milk tea), but I wanted something different. For this morning, to both stave off the chill of the stormy day and to wake me up, I had the hot Horlicks which came to the table in a handled Ball jar. The rich, malty flavour brought back memories of the crunchy Horlicks tablet-sweets my brother and I ate as kids and it provided a good energy boost to help me face my day – despite, alas, the traffic that plagues me before and after the work is done. But, hey: at least the food was good. Besides, it was like having breakfast in Singapore – without actually leaving the country. ;)
ToastBox @ BGC: Ground Floor – Bonifacio One Technology Tower, Rizal Drive cor. 31st Street, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig