Thursday, March 6, 2014

Chicken and Rice

Written by Karen.
It seems like an inconsequential dish.  But, cold boiled chicken and warm rice seems to be a staple of Singaporean food and a must try dish to eat, especially at the hawker center.  The hawker center is like a food court, with multiple small businesses lined up in tiny stalls offering their particular version of smoothie drinks, Indian food, Chinese food, Malay food, chicken and rice, pulled tea, and other types of street food.  But, unlike the reputation of a typical food court, this food is really delicious.  At least the food that we tried.  Not fatty or greasy, just well made and very tasty.  

We had first heard about chicken and rice from the Singapore edition of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain. We wrote down Anthony’s recommendation of the best chicken and rice and headed off to the Maxwell Road Hawker Center to taste this dish for ourselves.  We found what we thought was the recommended hawker stall and ordered up two plates.  Despite its bland presentation, it was delicious. And, as we had previously noticed about the people of Singapore, everyone had an opinion about what to eat and how to eat it. 

While we were ordering, two people came up and suggested different plates to try.  We should try one plate with the dark meat, and one with the white meat, one man suggested.  We said, okay.  Another woman who was passing by jumped into the conversation and said, no, we should only try the white meat.  Oh dear.  Both people were looking at us knowing that their suggestion was the correct one, and wondering which suggestion we would try.  We tried a page out of King Solomon’s book.  We would split things down the middle.  A third person came by as we started walking towards an empty table, and suggested how to drizzle the soy sauce and hot sauce over the chicken and rice. 

It’s true.  Everyone does have an opinion about this dish. We dug in to our plates piled high with cold chicken and warm rice and loved it.  The cold boiled chicken was delicious and the warm pilaf-like rice was perfect, especially with the garlic hot sauce and thick soy sauce dribbled over the entire plate.  We ate and ate.  After our plates were clean, we continued walking through the Maxwell Center looking at the other options.  We noticed a very long line at another chicken and rice stall and came in for a closer look.  To our surprise, we saw Anthony Bourdain’s face.  We had unintentionally eaten at a different chicken and rice stand! 

We got into the queue and waited for another full order of chicken and rice.  We found another table and drizzled on the soy sauce and poured the ginger and hot sauce as we had been recently taught and dug in again.  But, now we had also formed our own opinion about this dish and what we liked - and didn’t like - and we liked our first dish of chicken and rice better.

Over the next week or so, we wound up eating chicken and rice about six different times in different places.  We have developed pretty concrete opinions about which version we like better. With food as good as this, it's pretty easy to have opinions.  I guess that makes us honorary Singaporeans!  

View of the interior of Maxwell Hawker Center in Singapore.  There are several aisles of food vendors on both sides offering a variety of Indian, Malay, Chinese, drinks and desserts.  It's like a long line of food trucks being brought inside under one big roof.  The food is really good and each vendor has posted food ratings of either A or B.  You walk up and down the aisles and order your food and try and find a table.  
Our first hawker stall of chicken and rice.  We had thought this was the stall that was recommended by Anthony Bourdain, but it turned out not to be the case.  After eating at both stalls, we realized that we preferred the first stall.  You can see both the white and dark chicken meat hanging on hooks.  When you order, the chef/cook takes down a chicken and places it on a round piece of wood and takes a cleaver and starts to chop the chicken into pieces.  Everything gets chopped up and placed on a plate with a big scoop of rice.
Adam is drizzling soy sauce and ginger/hot sauce as we were just showed by a passer-by.  We also ordered steamed bok choy topped with fried onion pieces.  This was our favorite chicken and rice plate out of the six different versions that we tried.  
This vendor offered fruit smoothies.  I had a fresh mango smoothie that tasted like golden sunshine.  
You can see the A rating in the top of the picture.  This vendor's specialty was avocado smoothies as is shown by the menu.  I chickened out and had the mango smoothie!
After eating our first portion of chicken and rice, we discovered Anthony Bourdain's hawker stall recommendation and waited 45 minutes in line for our second lunch.  This vendor has become so successful, he now has two stalls to handle the demand.  There were both locals and non-locals waiting in line.

Our second chicken and rice lunch.  We ordered raw bean sprouts with this meal.
While our first lunch didn't include the bones and tendons, our second lunch included both bones and tendons.  This was one of the reasons why we preferred our first lunch over the second.  In addition, we both felt that our first lunch had a better flavor. But, overall, after six days of sampling this dish, chicken and rice is phenomenal.   


Takeshi said...

I've been to there!! The food market in the china town , isn't it!? Also I love the curry in the little india..

Observers of Life said...

Hi Take!

Great to hear from you! Yes, that's exactly where it is....great food! I loved the curry as well.