The word singkit is used to describe someone who has small, slanted eyes. Of course, this obviously means that the word is used to describe virtually everyone of Chinese descent here in the Philippines (along, naturally, with those with a touch of Japanese or Korean blood). That said, it should not be a surprise that one of the most popular (yet most underrated) Chinese eateries in the Greater Manila Area should be named Singkit.
I first encountered Singkit when I was just a kid. It was summer and my mom took me along with her to the Philippine School of Interior Design where she taught. I spent the morning browsing over all the art books in the school’s small yet extensive library till Mom called me over to the faculty room for lunch. Rather than anything from the on-site cafeteria, the teachers had ordered in from Singkit which was, at the time, located somewhere along Buendia. To my curiosity, the food came in white boxes like the ones I’d seen in American films: the sort of Chinese take-away where you ordered with numbers rather than the names of the dishes. It was all good; the sweet-and-sour pork, in particular, was a definite favorite.
Fast forward to 2009: at today’s Singkit – this time, a branch at the Harbour Square near the CCP – there are no white take-away boxes in sight. Yet, as shown at the top of this post, the walls are covered with a street-scene mural done in soft, pretty watercolors and evoking a sense of New York’s Chinatown. But, of course, we’re not here for the decor – we’re here for the food!
We started the meal with the Singkit Mixed Vegetables, the house version of chop suey. While not very impressive to look at, this simple dish was composed of crisp cabbage, Savoy cabbage, green beans, and wood-ear mushrooms in a mild, savory sauce.
The vegetables were then joined on the table by a platter of crisp-skinned Lechon Macao. Alas, while the pork was tender and the skin properly crunchy, there was nothing that set it apart from the lechong kawali sold by other establishments. In fact, even the liver sauce that came with it was thinner and blander.
The deep-fried Chicken Chination, on the other hand, was a pleasant surprise. The skin was crunchy and the meat within was perfectly cooked: moist and tender, even the chicken breast which usually dries out. That it was also spiced (with traditional five-spice powder, I hope) certainly put it a notch higher than most fried chicken dishes.
And, of course, at my mother’s behest, the Sweet and Sour Pork. Notice that the sauce isn’t a raging reddish-orange like most commercially-prepared sweet-and-sour pork dishes. Yet the sauce was certainly tangier and a bit spicier, the batter-fried pork staying crisp yet tender beneath it. It was every bit as good as I remembered it.
And, of course, there’s the fried rice. Not much to write home about here, but it was good.
Singkit: Harbor Square, CCP Complex, Manila