SINGAPORE - Chicken rice is one of Singapore's most iconic dishes and everyone has an opinion about their favourite place for the meal.
And it can get rather controversial.
Some say it is about the rice - how fragrant, flavourful and oily it is. Others argue that the chilli is more important.
Some like their chicken roasted, others prefer poached white chicken.
What about the soya sauce and sesame oil dressing that's poured over the chicken? Is ginger a must-have or an unnecessary condiment?
There are so many factors that contribute to a good plate of chicken rice.
The Straits Times' food critics share their favourite places for the dish.
The eateries are listed in no order of preference.
TAN HSUEH YUN RECOMMENDS: PRIVE ACM
The idea of eating pink chicken might send shivers down the spine. So I applaud Prive at the Asian Civilisations Museum for sticking to its guns with its version of Chicken Rice ($17), new to the menu.
It uses Anxin chickens raised by Toh Thye San Farm in Johor Baru, which is run by a Singapore family. These tasty birds are perfectly cooked, served a little pink and safe to eat. I am still alive, just so you know.
If you are of a certain age, like I am, the chicken might remind you of the kind you ate as a child.
They are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics, given a special feed that includes herbs, allowed to run free in a closed pen and are bred for at least 75 days, almost twice the industry average.
All this care results in flavour, a startling - and delightful - discovery for those of us used to bland-tasting birds.
The aromatic rice that comes with the chicken is worth breaking the carb-free diet for. However, people who think the success of chicken rice depends on the chilli dip might be disappointed with this version. It is a rough hewn one with vinegar and lime juice and tastes a little too sharp. However, the chicken is so good that it seems a shame to drown it in sauces and dips.
Only 20 portions are available every day, so let the staff know how many you want when making a reservation.
Where: Prive ACM, 01-02 Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, tel: 6776-0777
Open: 8.30am to 10.30pm (Mondays to Thursdays), 8.30am to midnight (Fridays and Saturdays), 9am to 10.30pm (Sundays)
WONG AH YOKE RECOMMENDS: TIAN TIAN HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE
The stall was named a Singapore Hawker Master in 2011, an award organised by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao aimed at celebrating hawker food and giving deserving hawkers recognition. It is also listed in the Bib Gourmand section of the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide which launched last year.
Tian Tian's rice is discernibly harder and more fragrant than many other stalls.
Its chicken is flavourful and tasty, and is served with a delicious sauce. Prices start at about $4 a serving.
Where: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur St, Stall No. 10
Open: 10.30am to 8pm, closed on Mondays
REBECCA LYNNE TAN RECOMMENDS: LUCKY CHICKEN RICE
If you're in the Orchard Road belt, and hankering after some comfort food, go to Lucky Plaza. Tucked away in a humble, old-school corner shop space on the second floor of the building is Lucky Chicken Rice, which serves value-for-money chicken rice.
Rice is fragrant and chewy (though not as hard as that of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice), and the ginger and chilli sauces are sharp.
The eatery offers both roast and steamed chicken - both styles are tender, supple and plump - laden with a generous amount of soya sauce dressing.
The sauce is salty and there's a tad too much of it, but that's a small matter, given the chicken's smooth texture.
I like that the chicken is served atop slices of crunchier Lebanese cucumber, instead of the usual, more limp local cucumber which soaks up more of the sauce.
Side dishes to order include stir-fried bean sprouts, kai lan and dumpling soup.
A serving of chicken rice starts at $4.80.
Where: Lucky Chicken Rice, 304 Orchard Road, Lucky Plaza, 02-110, tel: 6738-4175
Open: 10.30am to 7.30pm (Thursdays to Tuesdays), 10.30am to 3pm (Wednesdays)
EUNICE QUEK RECOMMENDS: XING YUN HAINANESE BONELESS CHICKEN RICE
Roast chicken is my usual option when eating chicken rice - mainly because I like to eat the roasted skin.
But I am more than happy to make the exception at Xing Yun Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice. After all, white chicken rice is no less flavourful when cooked properly.
This is my go-to dish on weekends and what I crave whenever I am overseas.
Don't be deceived by what may look like a plate of bland chicken rice. The tender chicken meat is juicy and well-cooked (sometimes just slightly pink). The fragrant rice is not too oily and goes perfectly with the spicy chilli sauce. I also liberally drizzle ginger sauce and dark soya sauce over my rice and chicken.
Prices start at a very affordable $2.50, but trust me, you will want a half chicken portion ($12).
Where: Xing Yun Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, Yuhua Market and Food Centre, Block 347, Jurong East Avenue 1, 01-202
Open: 7am to 2pm daily or until sold out
TAN HSUEH YUN RECOMMENDS: FOOK SENG GOLDENHILL CHICKEN RICE
If there is one Singapore dish I cannot go too long without eating, it is chicken rice. It looks plain but when properly made, this is the best kind of soul food.
When I have a hankering, I go to Fook Seng GoldenHill Chicken Rice. Everything about the dish is done right here. The rice is full of flavour and each glistening grain is delicious. The chicken does not need soya sauce and sesame oil to make it taste good. A meal with half a chicken, tofu topped with floss, a plate of greens and three plates of rice costs about $26. A serving of chicken rice starts at $3.
I tuck in and sigh with pleasure. Even the soup is not a throwaway component. It is not just water with MSG but tastes of the chickens that have been cooked in it.
Where: Block 37, Jalan Rumah Tinggi, 01-415, tel: 9777-3318
Open: 10am to 4pm, daily
REBECCA LYNNE TAN RECOMMENDS: HAINANESE DELICACY
There are two places in Orchard Road that I head to for the iconic Hainanese dish, one of which is located on the fifth floor of Far East Plaza.
Hainanese Delicacy has been operating since 1986 and serves a home-style version of chicken rice (from about $4). The no-frills shop, which hasn't changed much since I started eating here in my teens, is one of the more pocket-friendly places to dine at in the area.
The rice is not the most aromatic or flavoursome. But it is significantly less oily than other stalls, which also makes it less cloying too.
The chicken is always supple and pleasantly juicy, and the chilli, garlicky and piquant.
The highlight, for me, is the shop's salted vegetable duck soup, which is a must-order every time I eat there. Familiar, comforting salty goodness, which goes well with the bland rice.
Where: Hainanese Delicacy, Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road, 05-116, tel: 6734-0639
Open: 10.20am to 8pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays
TAN HSUEH YUN RECOMMENDS: KAMPONG CHICKEN EATING HOUSE
Sometimes, a simple question about food can unleash all sorts of fiery opinions.
One of these provocative questions is: Which place serves the best chicken rice in Singapore?
I like to hem and haw and not give a straight answer, but the two places I go to most often are Fook Seng GoldenHill Chicken Rice in Jalan Rumah Tinggi and, more recently, Tanjong Pagar Plaza, and Kampong Chicken Eating House in Outram Road.
Despite the surly service, I keep going back to the latter just because I enjoy the chicken so much.
Although the bird is lean, the meat is tender and better yet, flavourful. The aromatic rice is not too greasy. What seals the deal is the kicky chilli sauce, which is properly thick and spicy.
Prices start at $4.70 for a single serving.
They do offal well too. The chicken liver, for example, is luscious.
Where: Kampong Chicken Eating House, 247 Outram Road, tel: 6221-2522
Open: 10.45am to midnight, daily
REBECCA LYNNE TAN RECOMMENDS: TECK KEE HAINANESE CHICKEN RICE
This chicken rice shop has a loyal following. A queue forms before the stall opens at 10.30am.
Maybe it is the nostalgia that surrounds this shop: I have been eating here since I was a child back when the stall was located in a coffeeshop around the corner. But what I love most about the version here, is its thick and delicious char siew sauce, which I used to, and still do, slather over my rice.
Char siew sauce? You're probably rolling your eyes. But I assure you this sauce is oh-so savoury and addictive.
The sauce includes ingredients such as fermented soya beans (tau cheo) and red beancurd (ang tau hu).
Owner Wong Teck Thang, who runs the shop with his wife, says he learnt to cook chicken rice from his late father, who was the chief cook at the National University of Singapore's hostels for 49 years.
The rice is wholesome, soft and aromatic, not grainy like the versions at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice or Boon Tong Kee.
The chicken - I prefer roast chicken - is always perfectly succulent. It comes with half a calamasi - squeeze it over the meat for a little bitof extra zip.
I like that the chicken doesn't come drenched in soya sauce - just a splash of seasoning before it is served.
The roast meats are fairly decent too. The char siew is lean but moist, while the roast pork's crackling has a light crunch.
But the real reason I order the roast meats? So that I can justify asking for the char siew sauce with my rice.
Prices start at $2.50 a serving.
Where: Teck Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice Holland Drive Market and Food Centre, Block 44 Holland Drive, 02-39, tel: 9455-3747
Open: 10.30am to 7.30pm, closed alternate Tuesdays
WONG AH YOKE RECOMMENDS: CHATTERBOX
The degree of oiliness of the rice is perfect. The rice is fragrant and smooth but it does not feel greasy. It also has a complex flavour and you can tell they used a lot of condiments to cook it.
The chicken is sliced generously and the amount is more than what you get at most stalls. The meat is firm, but it lacks smoothness. The chilli sauce is fragrant and well-balanced in flavour.
At $27 a serving, it is expensive, but the ambience, service and serving size justify the price.
Where: Chatterbox, 333 Orchard Road, Mandarin Orchard Singapore, Level 5.
Tel: 6831-6288 or 6831-6291
Open: 11am to 11pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 11am to 2am (Fridays, Saturdays and public holiday eves).
REBECCA LYNNE TAN RECOMMENDS: LOY KEE
Ok. I'm going to be very honest.
The real reason why I enjoy going to Loy Kee in Balestier Road is the rice.
It comes out hot.
And I mean piping hot, not warm like at most other restaurants. Perhaps the reason why the rice retains its heat so well is because it is served in a heated bowl. And what's not to love about hot, steamy and fragrant chicken rice?
The corner chicken rice restaurant is an institution. It's been around since 1953 and is frequented by many, including multi-generation families.
It serves good, wholesome chicken rice (from $6.50 a serving). Loy Kee's chicken rice ticks all the boxes - aromatic rice with texture and bite; smooth and supple chicken; and decently punchy chilli and ginger.
Another thing to tuck into while eating here is its Hainanese-style beef stew (from $10 a serving). Stewed radish adds sweetness to this hearty and robust stew that also comes with carrot and bamboo shoot.
Chicken rice starts at $6.50 a serving. Where: Loy Kee, 342 Balestier Road (near Shaw Plaza), tel: 6252-2318
Open: 10am to 10pm, daily
TAN HSUEH YUN RECOMMENDS: SHI MEI RESTAURANT
The eternal quest for good chicken rice never ends for me, so when a friend tells me about a stall in Potong Pasir, I hightail it there.
The chicken here is one of the better ones I have had.
I order both the white and roasted versions and it is the latter I prefer. The skin is a beautiful, appetising brown and its marinade permeates the meat.
Aromatic rice complements the meat beautifully but the chilli sauce could be punchier.
Prices start at $3 a plate, and $24 for a whole chicken.
Where: Shi Mei Restaurant, Block 146, Potong Pasir Avenue 1, 01-135, tel: 9733-2655
Open: 9am to 8pm, daily
REBECCA LYNNE TAN RECOMMENDS: KAMPONG CHICKEN RICE CHICKEN HOUSE
Foodies travel across the island to tuck into the chicken rice from Chicken House in Upper Thomson.
I even have friends from Malaysia who swear by the chicken rice here, which says a lot, given how fussy most Malaysians are when it comes to their food.
The one thing that keeps me coming back time and time again, is the chicken - the meat is so much more flavourful than many other stalls.
The shop uses kampung chickens, which are leaner and less meaty, but oh so tasty. They have a deeper and more distinct flavour than factory-reared chickens.
The chicken skin, which is bright yellow, is slippery and slick.
The rice, as well as the other condiments such as chilli and ginger, is adequately fragrant. I always order half a chicken ($13) when I dine there - one serving just isn't enough.
Where: 255 Upper Thomson Road, tel: 6456-0698
Open: 11am to 8.45pm, daily
This article was first published on Jan 31, 2017.
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