Singapore has seen a growing trend of Mookata sprouting in even the smallest of coffee shops; it is one of the most popular get-together meals in Thailand and I can see why it’s getting popular in Singapore. I love Mookata, even more so than regular steamboat as the meat juices being grilled drips into the soup which adds to the richness, and the grilling beforehand enhances the meat’s natural sweetness. ‘Moo’ in Thai means pork, while ‘kata’ means skillet. Hence the pig imagery in so many Mookata restaurants, including Mook’s. Legend has it that the dome shaped hotpot came from a soldier in Chiang Mai who grilled meat using their helmet.
Opened on 7 April, 2015, Mook’s Thai Mookata BBQ is just opposite Bugis Junction near the ever popular Ah Chew Desserts. Mook’s has a down-to-earth interior with wallpaper in a brick design and plenty of space aligned between tables to facilitate comfortable groups. I believe I was lucky that there was no queue outside (because of all the Grouponers!), I have read that it could get quite nasty with the queuing but luckily I went at ~6pm sharp and there was still space available.
When I first ate Mookata, I had no idea what the white pieces of chewiness were and was taken aback to discover it was lard! On first chew I thought it was squid but realised it was too chewy/greasy to be so. Luckily the waiter had been nice and helped place it on the skillet to grease it first. Eventually I took away the lard because the meats were already fatty enough, although I guess this may be one reason the surface of the grill became a bit browned due to slight sticking of the meat (I’ve heard that it happens regardless though unless a non-stick grill is used! So, no excuses not to healthify a meal!)! They use a gas stove and their hotpot doesn’t have any grill holes, allowing all the meat juices to roll into the narrow moat of broth. While this made the soup quite tasty, the tight moat made it difficult to scoop out the noodles or vegetables inside, and the tongs were quite difficult to manoeuvre as they were very tight!
There were a choice of two soups to be poured into the moat: chicken soup or tom yum (we chose tom yum, although we got a taste of the chicken soup when I requested a bit of plain soup when it started to evaporate out). The Thais traditionally use water but Singaporeans loving their strong-flavoured food of course opted for interesting soups instead. I thought the tom yum soup at Mook’s was quite nice, not too spicy. It was the tomato-based style one with less lemongrass inside; I felt it was not using the real ingredients itself but made from a paste, although I know many Thai restaurants also use a paste as the base. I personally prefer it to be more strong on the herbs/lemongrass though. The chicken soup was light and pleasant; it didn’t leave a strong MSG aftertaste in the mouth. Although they placed a whole metal jug of the soup on our table, the waiters were quite attentive and helped us pour in the soup every time they noticed the supply was evaporating too quickly or when the fire was out. I had adjusted the fire to try and get the lightest one possible as the heat was really blazing out intensely!
The food itself came in platters of assorted meats: fatty pork collar and pork belly, garlic marinated chicken thigh, flower clams, fish ball and a few pieces of the lard (I requested for no hot dog and crab sticks because I prefer unprocessed foods more; they gave us more pork to substitute). On another basket was an array of cabbage, buk choy, enoki mushrooms, kang kong and tung hoon (bean thread vermicelli). It would have been nice if they had provided an egg to provide some dipping to smooth out the meat.
The food was fresh and decent with very tender meat, although I do prefer leaner pork. The wide variety of the vegetables was also a nice touch. I ordered an extra plate of tung hoon ($2) because it soaked up the yummy soup so nicely and also because the portion was too small for two hungry people. I’m not sure if it was really the two pax set meal or whether it was a slightly smaller version because I got the Groupon deal. Well I can’t say I’m unhappy considering I only paid $16.80 for the Groupon voucher ;). The original set meal is a reasonable $29.90 for two pax as well, not too bad considering the quality of the food but I do hope the portions would be bigger if paying full price.
The chilli sauce at Mook’s is apparently a specialty there, although I didn’t find it amazing… it tasted a bit like (according to RX who is quite the chilli expert) Yong Tau Fu sweet sauce, sesame and a bit of chilli. I found the meat was already very well-flavoured with the marinade (a bit too salty actually!) so I didn’t find any need to dip it into the sauce.
Other than the set meal, they have some a la carte finger food like pork nuggets ($5.90) and sotong balls ($5.90); or a customised DIY selection of different types of meat and veg to suit your tastes.
It was a fun experience and we enjoyed cooking the food together. The place was clean and neat, and importantly, air-conditioned (although not quite as strong as we wished as the stove’s heat was blazing outwards! I honestly don’t know how people manage to do it in hawker centres!) but there were no individual ventilation hoods for each table. Unfortunately, that means your clothes will stink after coming here!
Even without the coupon, Mook’s is a rather affordable and comfortable Mookata experience with good service and a good location, and with their late opening hours, I think they will become a popular dining spot with some fine-tuning of the recipes/equipment/portion sizes.
Mook’s – Thai Mookata BBQ
2 Liang Seah Street, Bugis, Singapore
Tel: 6334 6270
Mon – Sun: 3:00 pm – 11:00 pm
Closest MRT: Bugis