The recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice is adapted from early Chinese immigrants originally from the Hainan province in southern China. The dish is simple: bite-sized pieces of steamed or blanched white chicken, fragrant rice (often cooked in chicken broth with pandan leaves added), light or dark soy sauce, and a delicious ground chilli and ginger paste.
For the dish to sizzle, the accompanying ground chilli paste has the ability to make or break it. Too hot will make for an uncomfortable dining experience, too mild will leave the dish tasting bland as a whole.
A lot of effort goes into the preparation of this flavourful dish, with chefs slowly steaming or blanching the chicken until it is fully cooked, before immediately soaking it in cold water. This stops the cooking process and ensures that the meat remains tender, and is also why the meat is usually served at room temperature.
Usually accompanied by a bowl of light chicken broth, thin slices of cucumber, chilli mixed with dark soy sauce, and ginger paste, a good plate of chicken rice can easily be found at many hawker centres in the city, including Maxwell Road Hawker Centre for Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (天天海南鸡饭) and restaurants like Boon Tong Kee (文东记), Big Bird Chicken Rice Restaurant (大鸟鸡饭店) at Balmoral Plaza. Wee Nam Kee (威南记海南鸡饭 )at Marina Square and United Square and the more luxurious and up-market version at Chatterbox at Mandarin Orchard Hotel (乌节路文化酒店). Simple yet tasty, Hainanese chicken rice is Singaporeans’ choice comfort food and a national dish, making it another must-try.