Hello Makan Kakis! This week, our foodie friend Audrey Lee of Little House of Dreams tells us all about her favourite place for Hainanese Chicken Rice, which you’ll find at a stall in Jurong East. Xing Yun (meaning lucky) does brisk business, serving up platters of boneless poached chicken that is soft and tender, sitting atop fragrant rice. But what sets this apart from other chicken rice places is their sauce! A light, tasty, aromatic combination of soya sauce, sesame oil and other secret ingredients, Audrey can’t get enough of it and always orders an extra bowl to drench her chicken rice with.
Greetings, Makan Kakis, we start 2018 with a brand new foodie friend, one who’s no stranger to the F&B business, having successfully started his own Chinese casual dining restaurant that broke even within 3 months of its opening, probably due to their signature recipe for saucy, succulent Char Siew (which you can see and read about here). Please meet Anthony Ung of CHAR Restaurant!
CHAR Restaurant first appeared on the dining scene in Singapore in 2014 when it was launched by Vietnam-born, Birmingham-UK-raised Anthony & his brother Alvin, a chef by profession. With his 30 years of experience working in Chinese restaurants in Birmingham from dishwasher to head chef in traditional Chinese cooking, Alvin’s culinary expertise combined perfectly with Anthony’s meticulous science and IT background & passion for experimenting with Western food preparation techniques on Asian ingredients and produce. They definitely hit on a winning formula and after a wildly successful run at their original location along Guillemard Road, Anthony and his Singaporean Wife are delighted to have moved CHAR to a bigger, brighter space along Jalan Besar.
HEAR: Click here to listen to Anthony’s story about fleeing Vietnam to the UK and how Char got started in Singapore Click here to listen to Anthony’s culinary influences, childhood food memories and why he loves Chicken Rice Click here to listen to Anthony’s recommendation for his favourite Chicken Rice in Singapore
Anthony professes an obsession with our local Chicken Rice, which he ate everyday for 3 months when he first moved to Singapore, leading to a 5 kg weight gain, which also means he’s eaten his way through many plates, many brands and many types to arrive at the conclusion that this is HIS FAVOURITE Chicken Rice and in his humble opinion, THE BEST in Singapore.
This week, an unsuspecting Makan Kaki joins us with not one, but TWO delicious Eastside recommendations! I say unsuspecting only because actor Fir Rahman popped by the Gold 905 studios to catch up on his latest stage project (hot on the heels of his critically acclaimed role in Boo Junfeng’s film The Apprentice and TV’s Lion Moms) with Toy Factory Productions, called Prism. But since he’s quite the foodie, I also got him to spill some secrets…
Joo Chiat Road is a regular haunt for Fir & his family and this week, he takes us there for 2 of his favourites, starting with Hainanese Chicken Rice that is halal! This place is a must for chicken rice lovers – the chicken, roasted or poached is tender and juicy, the rice moist and flavourful, the chilli spicy and tasty, the deep-fried dumplings an absolute indulgence.
Another must-try when you’re on Joo Chiat Road is a shop that evokes a lot of memories for Fir. Conveniently ocated just outside the mosque, he remembers always stopping here to grab a hot snack after Friday Prayers. Sha Zah Confectionary serves up all sorts of crispy snacks in the form of Karipap & Epok-Epok. The latter is smaller, crispy, deep-fried and comes with different fillings like potato, chicken and vegetables.
The Karipap comes in 2 shapes – you know the large rectangles are filled with meats and the triangles are filled with potato, but Fir always zooms in for his favourite Mutton Chilli Padi Karipap!
You get chunks of mutton with searingly-hot chilli padi that makes for a super spicy but sensational snack. The Karipap is baked crisp & flaky, but make no mistake, this isn’t for the calorie-conscious! As Fir puts it, it’s the oil that makes it taste so good! Beef Rendang, Chicken Chilli Padi and regular beef, chicken and mutton variations are also available.
This first week of the Chinese New Year, what better way to usher in the Fire Rooster than with a luscious plate of Singapore’s favourite chicken rice? Our intrepid Guru of Gluttony and Makan Maniac behind the Makansutra, KF Seetoh is excited to reveal his die-die-must-try recommendation. Arguably, chicken rice is a subjective thing – everyone has their favourite, but you simply cannot dispute the fame of the Sin Kee name. Seetoh waxes lyrical about the famous stall run by the Leong family in Margaret Drive back in the 70s – anyone else remember it? Sadly it disappeared, then reappeared in Mei Ling Street under the skills of one of the sons, Benson Leong. But then again, that disappeared too. Seetoh chooses not to speculate on the story, although he was pleased to find the other headline-grabbing brother Niven Leong operating his version, called Uncle Chicken in Bedok and that’s where he found Benson helping out briefly. But foodie friends, rejoice, because Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice is back, alive and clucking in Holland Drive!
Benson Leong, like his brother Niven, with years of training under the watchful eye of his late father, has reopened in a koptiam and within the first week of his stall reopening, Seetoh was there to give the chicken rice a try. Things weren’t quite in fully operational mode then (they are now), but the chicken rice was exactly as Seetoh remembers it back in the good old Margaret Drive days.
Benson uses BIG birds (over 2kg), so that the cuts of chicken parts are chunky and substantial. He uses a bold hand and with his trusty blade, those thick, juicy chicken breasts get a special “slam & chop” that tenderizes the skin-on meat, flattening it and making it slightly crumbly and melt-in-the-mouth.
As for the rice, this is tried and true, from scratch, quality stuff! The rice is first dry-fried with chicken fat, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, pandan leaf till all the aromatics penetrate the grains, before a sinfully rich chicken stock is added. The result, a gently steamed chicken rice that’s firm to the bite, slightly oily (but not unpleasantly so) and packed with “chickeny” flavour!
The chilli is also on point. Though, watery-looking, it packs a punch with its balanced combination of dried and fresh chillis, garlic, ginger, kalamansi and vinegar. It’s tangy, sharp and spicy with a bite, all at the same time!
So if you’ve been searching for that old Sin Kee taste you’ve yearned for and you want a chicken rice that ticks all the boxes, you’ll find it in the ressurected Sin Kee Famous Cantonese (yes, NOT Hainanese!) Chicken Rice, run by Benson Leong.
Click here for the lip-smacking chicken rice on-air audio!
Our Makan Kaki Chef Seita Nakahara of One Michelin Starred Terra Tokyo Italian Restaurant returns this week and surprised all of us with this little nugget of info about his culinary past – he actually grew up in Singapore! He moved here from Japan when he was 12 and as a student, has fond memories of hitting up the hawker centres for chicken rice. It’s his favourite local dish and he recalls eating it almost everyday after school. In fact, he learnt to handle spicy food from first eating chicken rice chilli!
Now he’s all grown up and back in Singapore with his own restaurant, he still enjoys his chicken rice and the popular Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant is his favourite place to go. Certainly a familiar and popular name for us Singaporeans, Chef Seita explains that for him it’s their combination of everything, especially the sauce, the fragrant rice and even the clear soup that he enjoys so much. Plain and simple, Hainanese Chicken rice is really the most accessible local dish to start off with for visitors and a great springboard into other local delights. And if it’s a consistently delicious plate of smooth chicken with flavourful rice, soup, garlic-ginger sauce, dark soy sauce and chilli sauce, Chef Seita’s choice is Wee Nam Kee!
Our foodie friend also wants to kick off a little tour of the Balestier area and some of her favourite places for all things delicious. At our first stop today, Shermay recommends classic and traditional Hainanese-style cuisine at Loy Kee Chicken Rice. Of course, all passionate Singaporean foodies may argue that’s not the best chicken rice and sure, Shermay concedes – if you have a favourite, support it! For Shermay, Loy Kee is her go-to for Chicken Rice for these reasons:
Location – Loy Kee is in a charming stretch of shophouses, very traditional, nostalgic and even better, air-conditioned! Also, Loy Kee is not some soulless franchise, there are only 2 outlets – one in Woodlands and one along Balestier Road.
They serve both the poached and roasted versions of chicken, which means you don’t have to choose – have both!
Taste and quality, but more on this later!
The story goes that the senior Mr Loy came to Singapore from China’s Hainan Island in the ’40s and then in 1953, together with his wife, perfected their recipe for chicken rice & porridge to open a stall at Raymond Market. Since then they’ve moved to Balestier and opened another outlet in Woodlands using that same traditional recipe to great success. The business is now run by Mr Loy’s son James & his wife.
So back to taste & quality – in Shermay’s opinion, for $7+ they offer a lot. Get the Loy Kee Best Chicken Rice Set which is Item #1 on their menu. Just look at that, beautiful, smooth, tender & juicy poached and roasted chicken, along with a mound of fragrant rice, oyster sauce veggies, watercress soup and all the condiments. They have got the flavour balance just right and simply put, this is value-for-money, delicious Chicken Rice in a wonderfully historic part of Singapore with great ambiance.
While you’re at Loy Kee, you’ll get true-blue Hainanese cooking, so why not branch out from the Chicken Rice and try their porridge, signature Beef Stew and other Hainanese-style dishes off their extensive menu?
This week, I had the chance to catch up with LA-based chef David Myers, while he’s in town to check in on his gorgeous restaurant Adrift at the Marina Bay Sands.
Chef Myers is all about fresh produce from California and Japan, and at Adrift, small plates, healthy salads, seafood, and grilled meats all come together beautifully Izakaya-style. It would be hard to pick favourites, but Chef Myers recommends you try the King Crab Melt, Hamachi Salad with Ponzu Sauce & the special Omakase menu.
Click here for more on our conversation about Adrift, the must-try dishes, what inspires Chef Myers’ cooking and interesting projects he has in the pipeline.
So when Chef Myers is in Singapore, where does he like to eat? Here are a few of his favourites:
Every time he’s in town, Chef Myers has one go-to place – he makes it a point to stop by before he heads to the airport. He can’t get enough of the Black Pepper Crab at Long Beach. For him, it’s that combination of the spicy pepper and the incredibly sweet, almost buttery crab that is breath-takingly delicious.
Another chef favourite is the ever-popular Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell. Chef Myers has tried many others, but Tian Tian remains his favourite because he feels that the chicken is done just right – poached simply and when served with the pandan-scented, chicken-fat-flavoured rice with chilli, it’s a combination that is out of this world.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (天天海南鸡饭) 1 Kadayanallur Street Maxwell Food Centre #01-10/11 Open daily except Mondays: 11am – 8pm Tel: +65 96914852
When it comes to Western food, Chef Myers is partial to Angeleno, an Italian restaurant by Chef David Almany, formerly of Osteria Mozza fame. Using fresh produce from California, signature dishes include carpaccio sliced thinly from American ribeye steaks and eggplant parmigiana, Pasta is made in-house and there’s a wood grill for their amazing steaks and chops.
Angeleno Open Mon-Sat 12 noon – 11pm
20 Gemmill Lane
Burnt Ends also remains another chef favourite and for David Myers, it’s no different. He loves the atmosphere, the food and says it’s always guaranteed a good time when you dine at Dave Pynt’s modern Australian Barbeque restaurant. BURNT ENDS
20 Teck Lim Road
Lunch: Wednesday – Saturday 11:45am to 2pm
Dinner: Tuesday – Saturday 6:00pm to Late
Closed Sunday and Mondays
Tel: 6224 3933
For more on Burnt Ends, check this & this out!
Click hereto listen to this week’s episode of Makan Kakis & Chef Myers’ recommendations.
Click here for this week’s steamy good episode!
Hello Makan Kakis! This week, our new foodie friend, Awfully Chocolate’s Lyn Lee wants to share with us another hidden gem that shares the same space as another much more famous neighbour, Eng Seng Pepper Crab at the coffeeshop on the corner of Still Road & Joo Chiat Place. You’re in luck if you love chicken rice, ‘cos this little, nondescript stall serves up, what is in Lyn’s humble opinion, some of the best chicken (than some more well-known names) in Singapore. What’s also unusual is this self-confessed non-porridge-lover’s love for the porridge from this stall. Why? Read on…
Most people think porridge is something you eat when you’re feeling under the weather, but the good old-fashioned flavour and texture of Rong Ji Chicken Rice.Porridge (yes, that dot is deliberate – look at their signboard below!) has won Lyn over! Manned by an uncle who does the chopping of the chicken and two other aunties who serve up the rice & porridge, together they dish up breakfast from 7am till they sell out just after lunch. You can choose between chicken, pork or fish porridge, which are all very tasty. And the texture is just right, somewhere between the watery Teochew kind & the stickier kind you get in a dim sum restaurant.
However, Lyn recommends you go for everything, including pei tan (century egg). You have got to catch the auntie making meatballs – she’s so fast, you can’t even see her hands flying, as she flings spoonfuls of meat into her pan of boiling porridge. These are tasty little meaty morsels with good bite. For a wholesome, satisfying & complete bowl of porridge, you’ve got to have the raw egg cracked right over the top. Then it’s up to you to churn up the piping hot porridge, mix that egg right through to cook it and watch the porridge turn a golden yellow – what fun!
The piece de resistance is definitely the chicken, which as Lyn has mentioned, is really outstanding. Smooth, tender, glossy, juicy and a little chilled, it’s a beautiful thing, You CANNOT visit Rong Ji without ordering at least half a chicken. Make sure you put copious amounts of their fiery-red chilli on everything too.
The folks behind Rong Ji have been plying their trade for many years, but never at one place, in fact, they’ve only been in this location for a few years. Please, please, PLEASE go try their superb breakfast chicken rice & porridge before they up and move again! They are good people, work so hard, serve wonderful food and deserve your patronage!
TASTE: Rong Ji Chicken Rice . Porridge
247 Joo Chiat Place
Corner of Still Rd & Joo Chiat Place
Open from 7am
P.S. CHINESE NEW YEAR IS 2 WEEKS AWAY!
And Lyn’s other restaurant, Sinpopo Brand, has put together a lovely festive Prosperity Hamper that’s unique and undoubtably delicious, perfect for the forthcoming CNY celebrations.
You’ll find in this hamper the requisite eight mandarin oranges for the season, their best selling Gula Melaka cake, sugee biscuits and Sinpopo’s brand-new Salted Egg Yolk Cookies, which combines the best in a sweet butter cookie with the much loved savoury fragrance of salted egg yolk and curry leaves. Order before Friday 22nd Jan 2016 to enjoy an early bird 10% discount!
Check it all out here: sinpopo.com