Singaporean street food : Hainanese chicken rice


Singapore is one of those countries where everyone is obsessed with their food, which is good for transient foodies because standards are high and choices are vast.

Follow the general rule of go where the locals go and get in line. You will be rewarded with either the cheapest, or the tastiest place, but the locals obviously know something and that’s why they’re queuing. Singaporeans are very patient, especially it seems when it comes to food queues.

Chicken rice, one of the national dishes of Singapore with thousands of stalls, restaurants and places to eat it. Everybody likes it a certain way and has their favourite place. Ask a group of Singaporeans where to go and they will argue amongst themselves about the best place including the merits of the food, opening hours and location for an unnecessarily long time – I know this, because I asked.

The meal consists of chicken, slowly poached (never boiled) in a fresh ginger and spring onion broth to flavour the meat. Sometimes when it is cooked it will be put into ice water to firm up the skin and create a bit of jelly, the chicken is served cold in this instance, but can be served warm too. Sometimes the chef serves it up sliced on the bone, and sometimes without.

The meat is served with aromatic rice, flavoured with fried garlic and cooked in chicken stock, to enrich the rice and gives it a glossy appearance & slightly oily texture, but in a good way.

The chicken and rice is served with sliced cucumber and a side of chilli sauce, spiked with fiery heat and flavoured with garlic.



Most places offer the chicken rice combo for around the $5 (Singaporean) mark which includes a soup also, made from the chicken stock poaching liquid.

By means of observation, there seems to be no ordered or standardised way for Singaporeans to eat chicken rice. I tend to eat the soup first and then everything else together. Some people pour some of the soup over the rice and others eat the soup in between mouthfuls of the chicken & rice.

It’s always nice to know that you’re not breaking some unwritten cultural code or social taboo by eating in the wrong order. We’ve learnt from experience that it’s embarrassing to be told how to eat correctly.


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2 thoughts on “Singaporean street food : Hainanese chicken rice

  1. We LOVED the food in Singapore, but I have to admit, Hainanese chicken rice kind of left me cold. Which is perhaps because the chicken was always served cold! And I just can’t get behind cold or lukewarm chicken, especially when everything else on the plate is served hot. I just felt that there were so many other dishes in Singapore that were positively packed with flavor that it didn’t make sense to devote stomach space to chicken rice, which seems kind of bland compared to things like Laksa or Murtabaks!

    • I get what you mean, but it’s just such a national dish – we were foolish enough to ask the guys in a camera shop the best place for chicken rice and they argued amongst themselves for TEN MINUTES!
      I quite like it, but you need a super good one & hot as I’m with you 100% on cold chicken/hot rice. It’s all about the quality and richness of the rice and the kick of the chilli. for me, the chicken is the most standardised bit. Where are you at the moment? Did you get a chance to try asam laksa? Heaps better than a curry laksa for me!

      Thanks for checking out our little page, enjoy your travels.

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