Sunday, February 10, 2013

Singapore Food Blog - Soup Broth Asia

Location: City Hall, Central Business District (CBD), Singapore

Updated 5-Sept 2013: Soup Broth Asia is permanently closed and no longer in operation independently in Raffles City Shopping Centre. It has instead been combined with The Soup Spoon (its mother company) and The Handburger into Unity. The name remained in this combined establishment, but the soup is no longer available.

City Hall. Raffles Place. Bugis. These are familiar hangout areas in Singapore, with very obvious reasons. This is the heart of Singapore, where the CBD (Central Business District) resides and where most money flows. But that also meant that getting good food at low price is going to be tough. And Raffles City Shopping Centre is not going to relent unless you parted with enough of your money.

There are not many shops selling Asian soup in shopping centres as high end as that of Raffles City Shopping Centre. At least not at an affordable price. So it is to my delight that I encountered Soup Broth Asia while hunting for something more affordable and still able to fill my tummy.

Soup Broth Asia, located within the basement of Raffles City Shopping Centre, is part of The Soup Spoon's range of restaurants.

The fact that there is nice and healthy dining spot in the shopping centre yet remained below the radar of most of my food hunting friends remains ironic to me. Maybe because it is not as famous, or maybe because it did not indulge in more advertisements. Soup Broth Asia seldom sees its place packed to the brim, but neither is it without its own patrons. Patrons such as me, who would like to have a taste of home in a foreign country.

Soup Broth Asia is part of The Soup Spoon, the latter offering Western soup dishes as its main product. The concept of consuming soup as part of a meal is no foreign concept to Asians, and to us, the bowl is not just an ordinary dish. Most of the oriental soups are also a herbal remedy meant for strengthening the body's immunity to ward off illness. Prevention, after all, is still better than cure.

The Couple Set and Family Set are quite inviting with their mouth-watering deals at a reasonable price for such a sumptuous meal.

If one were a fan of chu char (煮炒 in Hokkien, where dishes are prepared and served only upon order, hence fresher), Soup Broth Asia can be considered a viable option in a high end environment. Each dish is served only upon order, guaranteeing its freshness, and individual bowls of soup stewing on the stove awaits diners to order them for consumption.

For couples like us, nothing fits our appetite more than the Couple Set. At $20.90, we get to order 2 different bowls of soup irregardless of its individual price, along with another 2 sets of dishes from the listed choices, with a dessert concluding the meal (the price is $21.90 in weekends). For foreigners unfamiliar with the taste of Asia yet looking for some, Soup Broth Asia should be one of your hunting stops.

The store has its soups arrayed near the counter. No aroma inducing experience when the lid is on, and not much could be seen past the condensation filled glass though.

Our personal favorite dishes are Stir Fried Kailan with Oyster Sauce and Stir Fried Ginger Fish Slices. The former is slightly sweet and salty with the mingled oyster sauce, a taste of Chinese food in South East Asia. On the other hand, the taste is milder in the latter, with the thick sauce in the dish putting the flavor on the tip of your tongue. The other 2 choices in the Couple Set, Thai Basil Chicken and Szechuan Style French Bean with Minced Meat, are too spicy to us, numbing our tastebuds from further sampling other dishes.

Origami lovers could indulge their hobby while dining in Soup Broth Asia with its chopstick holder. The paper wrapper around the pair of chopsticks could be folded into a triangular stand for holding the chopsticks when you are not eating.

The size of a Couple Set can fill just right in a square table for 2, with little elbow space to spare. Missing from the picture is a dessert and another bowl of rice. No drinks are provided. Our favorite dishes are Stir Fried Kailan with Oyster Sauce (leftmost) and Stir Fried Ginger Fish Slices (2nd from left).

Thai Basil Chicken is another one of the choices in Couple Set, but we are not really drawn to this dish. The spiciness will be a hit with spicy food lovers, though it covered almost any other flavor in it.

Despite its look, Szechuan Style French Bean with Minced Meat is as spicy as Thai Basil Chicken. Be sure not to choose this dish with the latter, as you will have a combination that will spice up your life. Just as the latter, this is not our favorite but it is recommended for spicy food lovers.

The sole reason we are drawn to Soup Broth Asia is undoubtedly because of the soup. The offered range of soups are quite impressive, and truly living up to its namesake of Melting Pot of the East. From Chinese to Korean, from Thai to Malay, famous soups from different nations of Asia are offered here, each one meeting our approval every time we tried it.

The lack of thirst inducing MSG in the soup and dish is evident, and is also another reason why we return to the restaurant whenever we visit Raffles City Shopping Centre. Coupled with the tasty soup and delicious dishes at a low cost, I definitely recommend this restaurant to all soup lovers.

Hainanese Beef and Tripe Hotpot (海南牛肚火锅) is a pot of ruminant parts, carrots and potatoes, along with numerous other vegetables. The viscous soup is sweet with the taste of stewed vegetables and marinated beef, and the chewy beef is quite tasty in the mouth.

Hainanese Festive Fish Maw (海南鱼鳔汤) is stewed with mushrooms and carrots, with slices of fish in the company of fish maw. The soup is sweet with the taste of vegetables.

The soup contains fish maw, an ingredient prized in Asian cultural dishes as nutritious.

Herbal Black Chicken Tonic (药材炖黑鸡) will be familiar to Chinese soup drinkers as one of the popular herbal soup stewed at home. Usually known as silkie, the poultry's black meat is unusual and not consumed in the west, but to Asian culture since the past, it had been considered to have curative purposes and used in herbal soups. With various types of herbs thrown into the mix, the slightly bitter soup can be an acquired taste but its herbal ingredients lend no argument to its nutrition value.

The salty and tangy taste of Peranakan Item Tim is an acquired taste as well, but the cultural value within is not to be undermined. One of the popular oriental soup in South East Asia, it is the product of Peranakan culture. Stewed to a soft finish within the mixture of various tangy vegetables, the marinated duck thigh is not to be missed, and the tangy broth will heighten your appetite before you even started digging in.

If you think you know tom yam, think again. This Tom Yam Talay (ต้มยำทะเล) really goes off the chart in spiciness despite its nearly crystal clear liquid and lack of the usual red swirls associated with spicy soup. We almost choked ourselves on the first gulp, so better start off with a small sip and let the taste linger. The generous amount of seafood within, from the chewy squid rings to fat prawns, is quite fresh.

The only Korean soup on the list is also a famous one. Korean Samgyetang (삼계탕) is cooked in ginseng roots and assorted herbal ingredients, another one of the herbal and nutritious soup within the offer of Soup Broth Asia. The interesting ingredient in the bowl would be the glutinous rice balls in the mix.

The dessert of the set, Lemongrass Jelly, is also another dish with an acquired taste. The slice of lime will add onto the already tangy jelly, making the dessert a little unpalatable. We usually took it without squeezing the lime, and the lychee accompanying the jelly will help in sweetening the deal.

For shoppers trying to indulge in a nutritious meal and save your money on your shopping spree, Soup Broth Asia is the recommended choice. The array of meal and soups is simply a healthier choice for either a family of a couple, allowing one to savor soups from different nations of Asia. Pick a set to get delicious deals on a combination of soup and dishes, or just pick and place an order of a la carte if you are dining alone.

Suitable for:            for a usual lunch/dinner, or a hangout with friends, family or even with your significant others
Cost:                             Affordable; Lunching out or dining in Raffles City Shopping Centre is not cheap, and getting something to fill your bellies within $10 per pax is considered super rare.

Website:                    Facebook page and official homepage

Contact:                     +65 - 6338 6909
Address:                     Raffles City Shopping Centre #B1-62, 252 North Bridge Road

Operating hours:   Sun - Thu (11 a.m. - 10 p.m.)
                                       Fri - Sat (11 a.m. - 10.30 p.m.)
Parking:                   Exit at City Hall MRT and look for the entrance to basement level of Raffles City Shopping Centre. It is located at the area furthest from the MRT entrance.

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