Considered one of Singapore’s national dishes, chicken rice is made of tender poached chicken sliced into bite-sized pieces, served with a fragrant and flavourful rice, and accompanied by dark soya sauce, garlic-chilli and ginger dips.
Given our nation’s love of food, many passionate local chefs have developed creative takes on the heritage dish, giving birth to a new category called ‘Mod-Sin’ (Modern-Singaporean).
Traditional Hainanese chicken rice is adapted from a dish called “Wenchang Chicken” from Hainan Island, which uses a particular fowl that is bony and fibrous. In Singapore, the dish is infused with local Cantonese influences, which include the tangy red chilli sauce dip and the use of tender and young chicken.
The rice itself is decadent on its own and complements the soft chicken. Cooking the rice in chicken stock and fat gives it a rich umami flavour, while ginger and pandan imbues it with an inviting aroma.
There is also a variety of chicken rice to choose from, and most eateries will give you the option of steamed or roasted chicken. Some stalls also sell another specialty called soya sauce chicken rice, which is poached chicken braised in soya sauce, giving it a darker colour.
The classic way to eat chicken rice. The chicken is steeped in boiling water or blanched till it is fully cooked, before being soaked in cold water to ensure that the meat remains tender.
Head to the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice hawker stall at Maxwell Food Centre, whose version has set the benchmark for this iconic dish in Singapore. The stall’s cook, Madam Foo Kui Lian, triumphed over British celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay during the Hawker Hero Challenge, a televised series of cooking bouts.
For only S$3.50 per serving, you get a generous portion of chicken, rice and soup.
Tian Tian Chicken Rice, Maxwell Food Centre. 1 Kadayanallur Street #01-10/11, Singapore 069184. +65 9691 4852.
For a healthier take on chicken rice, try Chicken House in Upper Thomson. Famous for their ‘kampong’ (Malay village) chicken, priced at S$28 for a whole chicken meal, these birds are sourced from the Malaysian countryside, and are corn-fed and free ranging, resulting in a leaner, yellow-skinned chicken.
Dip the tender meat into their specialty garlic-chilli and ginger sauces to add an extra punch. All their orders come with a rich, homemade chicken broth that has been boiled for over 24 hours. Grab an early lunch to avoid disappointment, as this shop closes as soon as they sell out.
Chicken House. 255 Upper Thomson Rd, Singapore 574382. +65 6440 0108.
This chicken rice is a variation of the original steamed chicken, but with a browned and crispy skin. The chicken is marinated in ginger juice, soya sauce, honey, salt and pepper before being roasted.
Loy Kee at Balestier Road is a favourite haunt for many locals, and serves roasted, fresh chicken with piping hot rice. Savour the flavours of their crispy chicken skin and tender meat. From S$6.50 for an individual portion, Loy Kee also serves other favourites, such as Hainanese beef stew and char siew (flavoured and barbecued pork).
Loy Kee Chicken Rice. 342 Balestier Road, Singapore 329774. +65 6252 2318.
Soya sauce chicken is similar to steamed chicken, except that it is braised with both soya sauce and a mixture of herbs and spices that result in its different flavour and colour. In 2016, hawker Chan Hon Meng won a Michelin star for this dish, making him one of the only two street food establishments in the world to be awarded the star.
Visit his original outlet on the second floor of Chinatown Complex, but be prepared to queue. Since the stall received the Michelin award, people have flocked from far and wide to try his dish, but we promise you, its fare is worth the wait. The tender chicken skin is glazed in a soy sauce base that will leave you wanting more. An individual serving of soya sauce chicken rice is priced at S$2.80, or you can try it with noodles, at S$3.30.
If you cannot make it to his original outlet, Hawker Chan has now expanded to several locations across Singapore and Asia-Pacific.
Chinatown Complex Market & Food Centre. 335 Smith Street #02-126, Singapore 050335.
Derived from “modern-Singaporean”, Mod-Sin is a contemporary reinvention of traditional Singaporean dishes infused with contemporary techniques. If you’re into the explorative, try shaking up your taste buds with a Hainanese Chicken Rice Risotto from Stateland Café. Originally from Italy, risotto is a rice dish that is typically simmered in a broth to obtain a creamy consistency. In this adaptation, the poached chicken lies on top of a ginger and chilli flavoured broth.
The granddaddy of mod-sin cuisine, Chef Willin Low of Labyrinth has been lauded for his creative takes on traditional local dishes. You’ll want to visit during dinner to try his Claypot ‘Ang Moh’ Chicken Rice, which is made with locally foraged mushroom, kampong chicken and a traditional chilli sauce.
Stateland Café. 32 Bali Lane, Singapore 189866. +65 9296 4997.
Mon, Wed-Sun noon-10pm; Tue 6-10pm.
Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay. 8 Raffles Avenue #02-23, Singapore 039802. +65 6223 4098.
Tue-Fri noon-2.30pm, 6.30-11pm; Sat & Sun 6-11pm.