Hai Nan chicken rice is probably my all time favorite dish in Singapore. I literally ate chicken rice 4-5 times per week for lunch when I studied abroad in Singapore. Tian Tian Hai Nan Ji Fan (天天海南雞飯) is located in Maxwell Food Center, a well known hawker center. It is very famous in Singapore and probably even somewhat known in the US know since Anthony Bourdain went there on his trip to Singapore. There is always a line in front of it even when we went which at an off hour (the lunch line is crazy). You can see a video of the line in full effect here.
Hai Nan chicken rice originated from Hai Nan 海南, which is a Chinese island province in Southern China. I believe that Singapore has quite a few immigrants from Hai Nan. Hai nan chicken rice is based on an original dish called wen chang chicken 文昌雞 although I heard that it tasted different than what you get in Singapore. The chicken is cooked by boiling in water flavored with garlic and ginger with the resulting stock used in the preparation of the rice and also in the accompanying soup. The chicken is then immediately put into ice cold water and then hung up, it results in the skin separating the meat. The rice is sautéed in garlic, ginger and chicken lard then they boil the rice in the chicken broth they got from boiling the chicken. You can see the whole process here (go to about 1:30).
So, I always separate the rice from the chicken when thinking about how good it is. The rice here is unbelievable. It’s so light, fluffy and flavorful, not oily or heavy or stuck together. I can’t say enough about how good the rice is. The condiments are very important as well. You drizzle a dark very thick soy sauce, homemade chili sauce and a ginger sauce on it. Each of these condiments is exceptionally good here as I believe they make all of them. The chicken itself is good clean chicken, given the way it is prepared don’t be expecting some bold flavor, but just good chicken. I like the chicken, but to me the rice has always been the star and the chicken is effectively a condiment in my mind. You also eat it with sliced cucumber slices that are served cold and really go nicely with the dish. This is a mind blowing dish for me and it was so good that we came back twice. 9.5/10
This is a must try dish and a must try place in my mind when you visit Singapore.
77 Maxwell Road Food Centre