Chicken rice is one of Singapore’s most well-known national dishes, ranking #45 on CNN’s list of the World’s 50 Best Foods in 2011. Not only is the humble dish on the menu of school canteens, hawker centres and even restaurants across the island, it is also one of the few local dishes served on Singapore Airlines flights. What makes it so popular amongst Singaporeans and overseas visitors?
History of Chicken Rice
The recipe for Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore is adapted from the Wenchang chicken, a dish from the Hainan Island in China. The Hainanese Chinese population in Southeast Asia adapted part of their recipes to suit the preparation methods available in Singapore, giving rise to the chicken rice we know today. Traditionally, the entire chicken is steeped in bone stock, and the broth is reused and only topped up with water when needed. Older, plumper birds were also used to maximise the amount of oil extracted. The stock used to steep the chicken is not used for preparing the rice; chicken stock is specially created for cooking the rice, producing an oily and flavourful rice.
Image Credit: Happy Chicken
As time passed, other cultures and cooking styles influenced the preparation methods of chicken rice. Younger chickens were used to produce meat that was more tender. Some recipes call for the chicken to be placed in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and keep the meat tender. Other recipes require the chicken to be roasted or braised; variations of the usual chicken rice. The practice of long-term storage and reusing of stock was also phased out. The meat is now steeped in water flavoured with garlic and ginger, and the same stock used to prepare the rice and soup.
Local Cantonese influences also inspired the accompanying chilli sauce served with chicken rice. While Wenchang chicken was originally eaten with a ground green chilli dip, the chilli dip for Hainanese chicken rice evolved into a sauce made of freshly minced red chilli and garlic, usually topped with dark soy sauce and freshly pounded ginger.
Chicken Rice on our Menu
A staple hawker fare that can be found in almost every coffee shop or hawker centre in Singapore, Hawkers Singapore offers a selection of favourites from 2 stalls selling Hainanese chicken rice. Take a look at the rave reviews they have received on the web.
Poh Poh Roasted Chicken & Duck Rice (Serangoon Gardens)
Poh Poh has been touted to have the best roasted chicken around the area, with tender and juicy meat while maintaining a thin layer of roasted skin. The rice is also fragrant but not too oily. Many agree that the chicken rice at Poh Poh is a must-try.
Tong Fong Fatt Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice (Kovan)
The owner’s vision is to make a chicken rice to appeal to the younger generation. With tender meat and slippery skin, the chicken has wonderful texture and is sure to appeal to young folks. Coupled with their secret sauce, it is no wonder that they have won numerous culinary awards, all displayed prominently on their signboard.
Chicken Rice Catering for Events
Chicken rice may be relatively easy to find in Singapore but a famous one will set you back a few hours just to queue for it. Having chicken rice for your corporate events will bring out that special flair to your guest, especially if you are having foreign visitors. Why not let them try some of our local hawker fare?
Featured Image Credit: chicken rice.jpg