Why is Singapore’s National Dish…Hainanese Chicken Rice?
Did Singapore import its National Dish?
Heralded as Singapore’s “national dish”, Hainanese chicken rice is one of the local dishes tourists must not miss.
But, why is it that Singapore has a Hainanese dish as its ‘national dish’. Did Singapore just import it straight from Hainan Island?
Not to add to the “Singapore-is-not-in-China” confusion, Hainanese chicken rice was not invented in China but by Hainanese chefs in Singapore. Early Hainanese immigrants infused the Hainan’s wengcheng chicken recipe with local influences to create the Singapore’s version.
One main difference between the Hainan’s version and Singapore’s version is the stock used – chefs in Hainan use pork-bones and chicken bone stocks, while the Singapore’s version avoids the pork base.
Apparently, the Cantonese too played a role in the evolution of the Singapore’s version – the chicken rice features younger birds cooked Cantonese-style, unlike the wengcheng version.
That being said, it’s interesting to know that you will not find Hainanese chicken rice in Hainan Island. It is truly an uniquely Singaporean food.
Where to find the best chicken rice in town?
Enough of history? You just want to get on with finding the best chicken rice in town. Got it.
The good thing to note: you can easily find decent chicken rice in just about any food courts, hawker centres and coffeeshops in Singapore. And better still, they do not cost a bomb. A decent plate of chicken rice for one pax will only cost SGD $3- $6.
However, if that is not enough for you and if you must hunt down the acclaimed ones…
1. Tian Tian Haianese Chicken Rice Singapore
Widely regarded as Singapore’s best chicken rice, Tian Tian has been flying the flag for Singapore’s culinary scene.
In 2016, Tian Tian was one of the 17 hawker stalls granted a Bib Gourmand award in the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide.
Tian Tian has also enjoyed its fair share of celebrity fans. In 2008, it was featured in the late Anthony Bourdain’s show No Reservations; and in 2013, Tian Tian even went up against Hell’s Kitchen’s Gordon Ramsay in an intense cook-off.
Order a plate of Hainanese chicken rice here to see what the hype is all about!
The chicken is first poached in boiling water, and then immersed in ice water to ensure that the meat stays juicy and tender. Meanwhile, the rice is fried with chicken fat and then boiled, creating a fragrant and slightly greasy dish.
Finally, Tian Tian’s signature chilli sauce is prepared using fresh chillies, ginger, garlic, and chicken stock.
What must you do at Tian Tian?
Join Singaporeans’ hobby of queuing for good food, and then wait.
There is almost always a queue at Tian Tian. So, just queue and wait! Maybe it’s part of the trade secret – the queues and the waiting time make the tummy so hungry that you are guaranteed to wolf down anything by the time you get your food!
To dispel your boredom while waiting, check out Tian Tian’s distinctive blue menu displayed on the storefront. Have a good look at the menu. If you are eating in a big group, it is recommended that you order a whole chicken (S$22), which can feed 6-7 people.
Get a big dollop of chilli sauce
Tian Tian’s chilli sauce is specially formulated to complement its chicken rice perfectly. Help yourself to a generous amount!
Practice your Mandarin
Here’s a good opportunity for you to practice your Mandarin! Can you place your order in Mandarin? Say “Auntie/Uncle, wǒ yào yì pán jī fàn.” (Auntie/Uncle, I would like a plate of chicken rice.)
Address: Maxwell Food Centre #01-10/11, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184
Operating hours: 10am – 8pm (Closed on Mondays)
2. Chin Chin Eating House Chicken Rice
One of the local’s favourite haunt for chicken rice, Chin Chin Eating House is conveniently located in Bugis area and is a short 250 m walk from the Bugis MRT. So for you shopaholics – it’s the ideal place to grab a bite of the famous Singapore chicken rice, in between your shopping!
Chin Chin Eating House is more of a Hainanese eatery than just a chicken rice stall. It serves delicious Hainanese pork chop, as well as other Hainanese dishes. So if you want to try more than just the famous Singapore chicken rice, this is a good place to also try Singapore styled Hainanese food!
Address: 19 Purvis Street, Beach Road Conservation Area, Singapore 188598
Operating hours: 7am – 9pm Daily
Nearest MRT Station: Bugis Station
3. Wee Nam Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice
Wee Nam Kee is another household name and has remained a local favourite for more than 2 decades now. It serves delicious fragrant chicken rice with tender chicken meat.
And another good reason for it making this list- it has many outlets islandwide, two being in locations easily accessible from main attractions in Singapore. If you are visiting the Merlion, you can make a detour to its outlet in Marina Square’s Level 4 Food Court. And if you are staying in Orchard Road, you can take a short MRT ride to Novena MRT station and take a short walk to its outlet in United Square.
For those who like a variety of dishes, you can also try other dishes like the wanton or dumpling soup and Cantonese styled roast pork.
Address: 6 Raffles Boulevard, #04-102B Marina Square, Singapore 039594 (Marina Square), 101 Thomson Road, #01-08 United Square, Singapore 307591 (United Square)
Operating hours: 1030pm – 9pm Daily
Nearest MRT Station: Esplanade MRT (Marina Square), Novena MRT Station (United Square)
Locations of Famous Chicken Rice in Singapore
Who is the Hainanese in Singapore?
In case we left you wondering, the Hainanese refers to the Hainanese community, a Chinese dialect group in Singapore. They are Singaporeans, but whose ancestors had migrated from the Hainan province in China.
The Hainanese came to Singapore as early as 1821 for trades. Today, the Hainanese community is the is the fifth-largest Chinese dialect group in Singapore.