Boon Tong Kee sells over 4,500 plates of chicken rice in Las Vegas in its opening week

PHOTO: Boon Tong Kee

Singapore’s hawker culture can’t be brought up without the mention of chicken rice, and Boon Tong Kee is arguably one of the most popular names in the country when it comes to the dish. The brand specialises in tender juicy chicken that is cooked Cantonese-style, and has multiple outlets islandwide.

Recently, it has also joined Springleaf Prata Place and Geylang Claypot Rice to team up with the Zouk Group and debut in Vegas at Famous Foods Street Eats, a hawker-inspired food market at Resorts World Las Vegas.

Boon Tong Kee director Jason Thian takes The Weekly through the experience, how they retained the consistency and authenticity of the dish overseas, and shares his take on Singapore’s hawker scene.

How did the partnership between Zouk group and Boon Tong Kee come about?

Jason Thian (JT): Chicken rice is essentially the national food of Singapore. For us, we’ve been known as the Home of Famous Chicken Rice in Singapore since 1979, and we’re entirely home-grown. I believe this is one of the key reasons the team at Zouk reached out to us about this partnership at Famous Foods.

We had no hesitations. One meeting led to another, and the rest is history.

What dishes were served, and how have visitors taken to the dishes so far?

JT: We served only chicken rice. There seems to be a keen interest in Singapore’s hawker fare. We sold over 4,500 plates of chicken rice in the first week of opening!

How were authenticity and consistency ensured if recipes were shared remotely? How were the Vegas chefs chosen?

JT: Recipes and processes — including preparation of raw materials — were shared virtually, and also digitised (video recordings) for ease of reference. We also provided photos of all raw materials to ensure consistency. The selection of chefs was done by the Vegas culinary team managing Famous Foods.

The chefs chosen have worked in Asian countries previously and I believe a couple of them are Malaysian, which has greatly helped preserve the authenticity of the dishes. Safe to say, the whole team in Singapore is looking forward to trying it for themselves.

ALSO READ: Geylang Claypot Rice's owner on debuting in Las Vegas & preserving hawker culture

How has Boon Tong Kee been coping with the pandemic so far?

JT: The collaboration with external delivery platform vendors made a big difference. The lockdown measures greatly affected the way consumers get their food and delivery seems to be the only way to facilitate this phenomenon.

Have there been new innovations in the past couple of years?

JT: The reliance on manpower for the labour-intensive food and beverage sector, which requires service, made us relook into our workflow to improve the productivity of each employee.

In one of our outlets, we will be implementing a mobile ordering service, which requires scanning QR codes from the table and orders will be placed directly with the point-of-sale system. There will also be self-ordering kiosks for takeaway services.

The dining concept will gear towards quick service as opposed the conventional concept of being seated and waiting for food to be served.

Your favourite Singaporean hawker dish is...

JT: My favorite would be nasi lemak as it is not only delicious but is also hearty, and there is a rich culture and heritage behind the dish.

How can we preserve hawker culture and ensure it gets passed down to the next generation?

JT: Succession planning is very important. Recipes and techniques will need to be digitised via electronic documentation or video recording.

ALSO READ: 'Standard drop like a rock': Netizens divided on Hawker Chan losing Michelin star

This article is first published in The Singapore Women's Weekly.