These are the places to go for the best chicken rice, the ones with fragrant, oily rice, tender and flavourful meat, and sharp and tangy chilli dip.
Hainanese Delicacy has been operating since 1986 and serves a home-style version of chicken rice (from about $4). The no-frills shop, which hasn’t changed much since I started eating here in my teens, is one of the more pocket-friendly places to dine at in the area.
The rice is not the most aromatic or flavoursome. But it is significantly less oily than other stalls, which also makes it less cloying too.
The chicken is always supple and pleasantly juicy, and the chilli, garlicky and piquant.
The highlight, is the shop’s salted vegetable duck soup, which is a must-order every time I eat there. Familiar, comforting salty goodness, which goes well with the bland rice.
#05-116, Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road
The stall was named a Singapore Hawker Master in 2011, an award organised by The Straits Times and Lianhe Zaobao aimed at celebrating hawker food and giving deserving hawkers recognition. It is also listed in the Bib Gourmand section of the inaugural Singapore Michelin Guide which launched last year.
Tian Tian’s rice is discernably harder and more fragrant than many other stalls.
Its chicken is flavourful and tasty, and is served with a delicious sauce. Prices start at about $4 a serving.
Stall No. 10, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street
This chicken rice shop has a loyal following. A queue forms before the stall opens at 10.30am.Char siew sauce? You’re probably rolling your eyes.
The sauce includes ingredients such as fermented soya beans (tau cheo) and red beancurd (ang tau hu).
Owner Wong Teck Thang, who runs the shop with his wife, says he learnt to cook chicken rice from his late father, who was the chief cook at the National University of Singapore’s hostels for 49 years
The rice is wholesome, soft and aromatic, not grainy like the versions at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice or Boon Tong Kee.
The chicken is always perfectly succulent. It comes with half a calamasi – squeeze it over the meat for a little bit of extra zip. The roast meats are fairly decent too. The char siew is lean but moist, while the roast pork’s crackling has a light crunch.
#02-39, Holland Drive Market and Food Centre, Block 44 Holland Drive
The degree of oiliness of the rice is perfect. The rice is fragrant and smooth but it does not feel greasy. It also has a complex flavour and you can tell they used a lot of condiments to cook it.
The chicken is sliced generously and the amount is more than what you get at most stalls. The meat is firm, but it lacks smoothness. The chilli sauce is fragrant and well-balanced in flavour.
At $27 a serving, it is expensive, but the ambience, service and serving size justify the price.
Level 5, Mandarin Orchard Singapore, 333 Orchard Road
The roast chicken version is beautiful, appetisingly brown and its marinade permeates the meat.
Aromatic rice complements the meat beautifully but the chilli sauce could be punchier.
Prices start at $3 a plate, and $24 for a whole chicken.
#01-135, Block 146, Potong Pasir Avenue 1
The idea of eating pink chicken might send shivers down the spine.
So, we applaud Prive at The Asian Civilisations Museum for sticking to its guns with its version of Chicken Rice ($17), new to the menu.
It uses Anxin chickens raised by Toh Thye San Farm in Johor Baru, which is run by a Singapore family. These tasty birds are perfectly cooked, served a little pink and safe to eat.
The best thing is that the chickens are raised without growth hormones or antibiotics, given a special feed that includes herbs, allowed to run free in a closed pen and are bred for at least 75 days, almost twice the industry average.
All this care results in flavour, a startling – and delightful – discovery for those of us used to bland-tasting birds.
The aromatic rice that comes with the chicken is worth breaking the carb-free diet for. However, people who think the success of chicken rice depends on the chilli dip might be disappointed with this version.
It is a rough hewn one with vinegar and lime juice and tastes a little too sharp. However, the chicken is so good that it seems a shame to drown it in sauces and dips.
Only 20 portions are available every day, so let the staff know how many you want when making a reservation.
#01-02, Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place
If you’re in the Orchard Road belt, and hankering after some comfort food, go to Lucky Plaza. Tucked away in a humble, old-school corner shop space on the second floor of the building is Lucky Chicken Rice, which serves value-for-money chicken rice.
Rice is fragrant and chewy (though not as hard as that of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice), and the ginger and chilli sauces are sharp.
The eatery offers both roast and steamed chicken – both styles are tender, supple and plump – laden with a generous amount of soya sauce dressing.
The sauce is salty and there’s a tad too much of it, but that’s a small matter, given the chicken’s smooth texture.
The chicken is served atop slices of crunchier Lebanese cucumber, instead of the usual, more limp local cucumber which soaks up more of the sauce.
Side dishes to order include stir-fried bean sprouts, kai lan and dumpling soup.
A serving of chicken rice starts at $4.80.
#02-110, Lucky Plaza, 304 Orchard Road
Sometimes, a simple question about food can unleash all sorts of fiery opinions.
One of these provocative questions is: Which place serves the best chicken rice in Singapore?
Kampong Chicken Eating House in Outram Road is one of those places.
Although the bird is lean, the meat is tender and better yet, flavourful. The aromatic rice is not too greasy. What seals the deal is the kicky chilli sauce, which is properly thick and spicy.
Prices start at $4.70 for a single serving.
They do offal well too. The chicken liver, for example, is luscious.
247 Outram Road
The reason we love going to Loy Kee is that the rice always comes out piping hot.
Perhaps the reason why the rice retains its heat so well is because it is served in a heated bowl. And what’s not to love about hot, steamy and fragrant chicken rice?
The corner chicken rice restaurant is an institution. It’s been around since 1953 and is frequented by many, including multi-generation families.
It serves good, wholesome chicken rice (from $6.50 a serving). Loy Kee’s chicken rice ticks all the boxes -aromatic rice with texture and bite; smooth and supple chicken; and decently punchy chilli and ginger.
Another thing to tuck into while eating here is its Hainanese-style beef stew (from $10 a serving). Stewed radish adds sweetness to this hearty and robust stew that also comes with carrot and bamboo shoot.
Chicken rice starts at $6.50 a serving.
342 Balestier Road
Don’t be deceived by what may look like a plate of bland chicken rice. The tender chicken meat is juicy and well-cooked (sometimes just slightly pink). The fragrant rice is not too oily and goes perfectly with the spicy chilli sauce.
Prices start at a very affordable $2.50, but trust me, you will want a half chicken portion ($12).
#01-202, Block 347, Yuhua Market and Food Centre, Jurong East Avenue
Foodies travel across the island to tuck into the chicken rice from Chicken House in Upper Thomson.
The shop uses kampung chickens, which are leaner and less meaty, but oh so tasty. They have a deeper and more distinct flavour than factory-reared chickens.
The chicken skin, which is bright yellow, is slippery and slick.
The rice, as well as the other condiments such as chilli and ginger, is adequately fragrant.
255 Upper Thomson Road
Everything about the dish is done right here. The rice is full of flavour and each glistening grain is delicious. The chicken does not need soya sauce and sesame oil to make it taste good.
A meal with half a chicken, tofu topped with floss, a plate of greens and three plates of rice costs about $26. A serving of chicken rice starts at $3.
Even the soup is not a throwaway component. It is not just water with MSG but tastes of the chickens that have been cooked in it.
#01-415, Block 37, Jalan Rumah Tinggi
Text and Photos: The Straits Times