12 best places for chicken rice in Singapore

PHOTO: The Straits Times

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.

Read also: Chicken rice with edible flowers? Culinary 'innovations' that leave foodies in tears

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.


Photo: The Prive Group

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)

Info: theprivegroup.com.sg


Photo: The Straits Times

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


Photo: The Straits Times

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)


Photo: The Straits Times

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


Photo: The Straits Times

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

Info: http://www.fookseng.oddle.me


Photo: The Straits Times

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


Photo: The Straits Times

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


Photo: The Straits Times

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


Photo: Mandarin Orchard

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).

The beginnings of Chatterbox Chicken Rice revealed

  • Did you know that the famed Chatterbox chicken rice was first introduced by a German, and not a local chef?
  • According to Mandarin Orchard Singapore, the famous Chatterbox Chicken Rice was introduced by then Executive Chef Peter Gehrmann who was inspired by the local hawker dish.
  • Chef Gehrmann noticed how chicken rice was eaten whole by locals at hawker stalls, and decided to introduce it to the hotel, but as a premium dish.
  • He decided to serve it as individual portions in a boat-shaped bowl along with rice, soup and condiments like chilli and ginger, all presented on a tray.
  • The Mandarin Chicken Rice was born.
  • The chicken rice dish made its debut on the menu of the coffee house when it opened at Mandarin Orchard Singapore on Aug 1, 1971.
  • The Chatterbox Chicken Rice was named after the coffee house at Mandarin Orchard Singapore.
  • Today, 42 years on, the dish is still a firm favourite among Singaporeans and foreigners alike, despite its steep price. The Mandarin Chicken Rice costs $23.80.
  • Chef Gehrmann, who visited Mandarin Orchard recently, was highly-instrumental in dictating the strict breeding process of the Chatterbox Chicken Rice, said the hotel. He trained in the Savoy in London.
  • Over the years, chefs who have worked at the hotel have left and opened their own stalls to ride of the popular chicken rice's fame, said The Straits Times report. These include Mr Chicken Rice in Pasir Ris, Sheng Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice in Bedok Reservoir Road and Jiang Ji Traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice (pictured here) at Havelock Road. Sergeant Kiang Joon Toh was part of the pioneering batch of chefs who started the legendary Chatterbox chicken rice at Mandarin Hotel four decades ago.
  • What: The Chatterbox chicken rice is named after the hotel coffee house at the Mandarin Orchard hotel. Since the eatery opened in 1971, the dish has been a firm favourite, despite its steep price. Over the years, chefs who have worked at the hotel have left and opened their own stalls, riding on its fame. These include Mr Chicken Rice in Pasir Ris and Sheng Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice in Bedok Reservoir Road.
  • Who: Chef Han Seng Fong, who is in his 60s, was formerly the executive sous chef at Mandarin Orchard and had worked in the hotel for more than 30 years. He is now the group culinary director at Niche Group, which owns various eateries such as PappaSan and TapaSan at Dorsett Hotel, as well as the Cafe Niche chain in China.
  • He knows the secret to Chatterbox's chicken rice, but has made some changes to it.

    The chilli sauce, for instance, has a more spicy kick. He also uses 90-day-old chickens from Malaysia which have firmer meat and are not too oily, as well as fragrant Thai jasmine rice.

    He says: "I am very particular about the quality of the chicken rice. When I worked in Chatterbox, I would taste the chicken rice every day. If it didn't taste right, we would cook another batch."

  • After leaving Mandarin Orchard, chef Han worked as a food consultant for restaurants in Hong Kong, Malaysia and, most recently, Indonesia.
  • But it was a call from his former boss, Mr Alfred Lien, managing director of Niche Group, that convinced him to return to Singapore. Mr Lien, who is in his 50s, started at Mandarin Orchard in 1981 as a management trainee and was the hotel's general manager from 1996 to 2005. Like chef Han, he left the hotel to work on his own projects and do restaurant consultancy work.
  • The chef is responsible for PappaSan's full menu, which includes Richman Fried Rice ($38) topped with lobster; Signature Fried Koay Teow ($18.50) with clams, prawns and scallops.
  • He says: "Back at Mandarin Orchard, Mr Lien always gave me opportunities to travel and gain more experience. So when he asked me to return to Singapore, I didn't say no. Plus, I still get to travel."
  • What: Popular eatery Ming Kee Live Seafood at Macpherson Road is a draw for night owls and chefs after work. One of its signature items is the crab bee hoon ($54 a kg).
  • Who: Jiangsu-born head chef Deng Yan, 37, was with Ming Kee Live Seafood from 2006 to 2010 and returned to China when his paternal grandmother died.
  • He came back to Singapore and was hired as chef of zi char eatery 7th Mile Seafood at 7th Mile Coffee Shop in Bukit Timah when it opened a year ago.
  • The coffee shop's owner, Mr Ken Lim, 42, says he was a fan of the dishes at Ming Kee and praises chef Deng's "skills and reputation". So when he decided to open his first coffee shop, he managed to track down the chef, whom he knew had returned to China. Mr Lim, who also owns Spanish restaurant Don Quijote at Dempsey Road, says: "When they knew that chef Deng had returned to Singapore, the former Ming Kee owners did try to contact him to go back to them. I left the decision to him."
  • Besides the signature crab bee hoon ($58), chef Deng also whips up a variety of dishes, including steamed squid with golden garlic ($15) and Hong Kong-style fried fish ($22). Prices are subject to market prices and weight of the seafood.
  • To spice up the menu, he also launches new dishes every month and is currently working on items for next month.
    He says: "Not many diners know I've moved here, but some regulars from Ming Kee have dined here before. They will always order the crab bee hoon."
  • What: Soon Heng Restaurant at Kinta Road, which closed in October last year due to manpower woes, was famous for its fish head curry. The restaurant, which began in 1975, was first known as Chin Wah Heng in 1951. It has gained a loyal following throughout its 36-year history, spawning a second branch at Prinsep Street in the 1980s, also selling the Chinese-style fish head curry. It too has closed.
  • Who: York Hotel's executive chef Charlie Tham, 50, was with the coffee shop in the 1970s for two years; and junior sous chef Jordan Liang, 28, was with Soon Heng from 2008 until it closed.
  • Guangdong-born Liang, who has been with York Hotel since April this year, spent the past three months recreating the fish head curry, which uses red snapper. It costs $28 (half head, for two to three people), or $42 (whole head for up to seven people). The dish was priced from $22 at Soon Heng.
  • As part of the hotel's permanent Treasured Flavours Of Singapore menu, Liang also whips up other special dishes from Soon Heng. They include sambal king prawns ($8 a piece), black ink sotong ($12), crab masala ($32) and chicken masala ($12).
  • While chef Liang may be his junior in the hotel, chef Tham says with a laugh: "It's been a long time since I left Soon Heng, so I have to re-learn the recipes from him."
  • What: The famous crispy roasted chicken and deep-fried quail that were speciality dishes at Chef Chan's Restaurant, headed by Chan Chen Hei. He opened the original one at Safra Toa Payoh 11 years ago. Then he moved it to Odeon Towers in 2004. Both have closed. Chef Chan's Restaurant at the National Museum closed in November 2010 and was reopened in May 2011, by its current chef-owner Wong Hong Loong.
  • Who: Master Chef Chan Hwan Kee, 40, was assistant sous chef from 2002 to 2007 at Chef Chan's Restaurant; while junior sous chef Tang Jian, 34, worked at Chef Chan's from 2006 to 2010. It took two years of training for China-born Tang to perfect the cooking of the crispy chicken under chef Chan Chen Hei's tutelage.
  • On the cooking method, chef Tang says: "Its unique selling point is the wafer-thin crisp skin covering the meat, which remains moist and succulent. This requires continuous bathing of the whole chicken in ladlefuls of searing hot oil."
  • At the current Chef Chan's Restaurant, a whole chicken costs $34, while at Min Jiang, it is priced at $70. Both chef Tang and chef Chan Hwan Kee confirm, though, that the chicken recipe has not changed from their time at the restaurant.
  • The other highlight is the whole quail marinated in garlic, ginger and chillies and deep-fried to a crisp texture. It is garnished with deep-fried spring onions, garlic cloves and calamansi limes. However, the quail dish used to be braised with red wine instead of being deep-fried. Each quail at Min Jiang costs $10, the same as at Chef Chan's.
  • What: Flaky Teochew yam paste mooncakes from the former Crown Prince Hotel in Orchard Road used to be an annual hit during the Mid-Autumn Festival. The hotel was bought over by the Park Hotel Group in 2005 and renamed Grand Park Orchard.
  • Who: In 2009, SundayLife! reported that six of the hotel's former chefs had joined Peony Jade, a Chinese restaurant with branches in Keppel Club and Clarke Quay. All have since left.
  • This year, Peony Jade's plain Original Ex-Crown Prince Flaky Teochew "Orh Ni" Mooncake will cost $57 for four pieces while the double yolk ones will be priced at $35 for two pieces or $62 for four. In 2009, prices started at $20 for two mooncakes.
  • While the Park Hotel Group does not have any of the sought-after chefs, it does have the original recipe. Mooncakes made from it are available at the hotel group's Grand Park Orchard, Grand Park City Hall and Park Hotel Clarke Quay.


Photo: The Straits Times

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

Info: http://loykee.com.sg


Photo: The Straits Times

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


Photo: The Straits Times

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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Popular chicken rice in Los Angeles with a Singapore connection

  • If you are in Los Angeles and hanker for Hainanese chicken rice, be warned: It is harder to find the dish here compared with cities such as London or Sydney, where big communities of Singaporean expatriates ensure a ubiquitous supply.
  • But as the city's dining scene and foodie culture blossoms, this humble dish is finally ready for its close-up, thanks to a chef named Johnny Lee.
  • He has a monthly pop-up stall in the city's Chinatown, which he launched a few months ago to test the waters before setting up a restaurant later in the year.
  • Snaking queues wait patiently for an hour or so for one of his US$7 (S$9.65) boxes of chicken rice.
  • The crowd is mostly Asian American with a smattering of non-Asian friends in tow, plus a few passing hipsters wondering what the fuss is about.

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