Where to eat the best Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore
We’ve scoured Singapore in search of the best Hainanese chicken rice on the island.
- November 2017
Singapore is a famously hungry nation and its residents are some of the world’s most committed foodies. Few dishes arouse more passion amongst them than the ostensibly humble Hainanese chicken rice. This simple but delicious staple is often the subject of passionate debate as locals scour the island in search of the best Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore.
A Singapore icon
Although the roots of the dish can be traced to the Chinese island of Hainan (it is also popular around Southeast Asia), Hainanese chicken rice has come to be most closely identified with Singapore. The island nation has adopted the dish—a perfectly simple combination of poached chicken with rice cooked in chicken stock, served with a chilli dipping sauce—as its very own. It is often showcased at international expositions and global events abroad and is served everywhere from school canteens and hawker stalls to world-class restaurants.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice: a Bourdain-approved classic
An endorsement from globetrotting celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain is a reliable stamp of quality. And this stalwart in Chinatown’s Maxwell Food Centre is a favourite haunt of the TV star. Connoisseurs are particularly partial to the rice here, which is warm, firm and fragrant, with just the right amount of oiliness. Smooth, slippery chicken pieces are soaked in an ice bath after cooking to give them a firmer texture and lock in the natural juices. The venue is hardly a secret, and lines are usually long, but it’s a taste sensation that’s worth the wait.
Location:Stall Number 10, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur Street
Loy Kee: a much-loved favourite
A true Singapore institution, Loy Kee has been serving up its signature Hainanese chicken rice since 1953. As you might expect from such a venerable establishment, all the components of the dish have been honed to a fine art. The chicken—there’s a choice of roasted and boiled here—is tender and juicy. Its dipping sauce is punchy with ginger and chili, and a hint of rich sweetness from dark soy sauce. Many say the secret to its success is its rice, which comes out piping hot in heated bowls.
Location: 342 Balestier Road
Our favourite link: Loy Kee opens in new window
Kampong Chicken House: free-range flavour
It takes a bit of effort to get to Upper Thomson in the north of the island, but Singaporeans will stop at nothing to find their new favourite spot for Hainanese chicken rice. The big selling point at this popular place is the use of free-range kampong chicken, a smaller, leaner breed said to possess a richer and more distinct flavour. For maximum enjoyment, make the minor investment of ordering half a chicken—it’s that moreish.
Location: 255 Upper Thomson Road
Our favourite link: Kampong Chicken House opens in new window
Wee Nam Kee: the big dipper
Some Hainanese chicken rice lovers get worked up about the tenderness of the meat at their favourite restaurant. Others boast about the fluffiness or oiliness of the stock-cooked rice that accompanies it. Another contingent of chicken-rice obsessives will tell you that it’s the balanced flavours of the dipping sauce that puts their place above the competition. It’s this latter argument that many make when they talk about Wee Nam Kee, favoured for its piquant condiment, a blend of spicy chilli sauce, ginger paste and dark soy sauce. The restaurant also rates a mention for the quality of its roast chicken.
Location: 101 Thomson Road, #01-08 United Square
Our favourite link: Wee Nam Kee opens in new window
Boon Tong Kee: post-party gathering place
As it’s one of Singapore’s ultimate comfort foods, cravings for a plate of Hainanese chicken rice may strike at any time. That’s why Boon Tong Kee’s generously long opening hours (it closes at 4.30am) have made it a legend with the country’s party set, who troop here for some much-required post-clubbing sustenance. This is Singapore, so there’s no scrimping on quality even at the most unsociable hour. And Boon Tong Kee ticks all the boxes with its juicy poached chicken, flavour-rich rice and punchy dipping sauce.
Location: 399/401/403 Balestier Road
Our favourite link: Boon Tong Kee opens in new window