An Alternative to Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Road Food Centre
It's been three months since I left Singapore and I've been missing Singapore food a lot. Aside from a wide variety of noodle dishes, one of the dishes that I miss most is Hainanese Chicken Rice - a national dish of Singapore. A sinful dish, the flavourful rice is traditionally cooked with rendered chicken fat. Even though I needed to lose weight, I ate lots of chicken rice in the months preceding my departure because I knew that I would miss the dish terribly.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre (Stalls 10 & 11)
My mother and I shared a plate in late May 2017 as part of my foodie farewell tour. There was a long line as usual. After a 30-minute wait, we were disappointed by the rice which tasted more sweet than savoury. It would have been great if the sweetness had been from the chicken, but it tasted like quite a lot of sugar had been added to give it a sweet taste. The chicken was tender but we didn't like the slightly sweet and starchy gravy that coated the chicken and rice. Suffice to say Mum probably won't be eating Tian Tian Chicken Rice for quite a while.
Occupying stalls 10 and 11 in Maxwell Food Centre, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is arguably Singapore's most famous chicken rice stall with locals and tourists forming a long line daily. Aside from winning a cook-off with Gordon Ramsay in 2013 and garnering high praise from Anthony Bourdain, the stall has been awarded the Bib Gourmand in 2016 and 2017.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice was one of my preferred chicken rice stalls for many years. However, the rich flavour that I used to love has been lost in the last six years or so.
Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre (stall 40)
My mum and I are similar in many respects. When we have a craving, we will go all out to fulfill it and we both like savoury food. Knowing that mum might be disappointed by the plate of Tian Tian Chicken Rice, I went to Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice stall to get another plate of chicken rice.
There was barely a line at this stall. I snapped a quick photo of the stall from a distance to avoid startling the stall-keeper who was busy chopping chicken, so pardon the unfocused photo.
This stall may not be as famous as Tian Tian Chicken Rice but the Hainanese Chicken Rice was, in our opinion, the better tasting one.
Old School Chicken Rice
Drizzled with a light sesame oil and soy-based sauce instead of a starchy gravy, the flavours are old school with a fragrant rice that wasn't too greasy nor too dry.
Served with chicken broth that had been sweetened with cabbage, chili sauce, dark soy sauce and ginger, this is the type of chicken rice that I grew up eating. The succulent chicken was tasty and the chili was a good balance of tanginess and spiciness. I hope to try all of the other chicken rice stalls in the food center when I make a home visit.
Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice is worth a try if you're in the area.
Maxwell Food Centre
1 Kadayanallur Street,
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice - Stalls 10 & 11
Tuesday - Sunday: 10 am to 8 pm (closed on Mondays)
Phone: +65 9691 4852
Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice - Stall 40
Sorry, I forgot to ask him for his operating hours but they're likely closed on Mondays too.
Pasar Singapura in New York City on 23 September 2017
If you're in New York City this weekend and would like to eat Singaporean food, there's an inaugural SG Cares charity event happening on 23 September 2017. Called Pasar Singapura, it will be held from 10 am to 4 pm at 180 Maiden Lane, NYC. Visit the site for more details and to buy tickets.
How to get a quick chicken rice fix?
What I miss most about Singapore whenever I'm away is the easy access to affordable and tasty food. Even with the deterioration in quality of hawker food in the past decade, it's still delicious soul food - often at a low price of USD 3 - 4 (SGD 4 - 5 in most cases) for a plate that will fill you up. That's the average price of a cup of coffee in the US.
It's very difficult to get decent Southeast Asian food in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. I was glad I had a box of Prima Taste Hainanese Chicken Rice kit in my pantry for a quick fix. Though the flavour was a little too sweet for my taste, it's pretty close to the real thing. Sadly, this isn't easily available in the supermarkets close to me or on Amazon.
I could only find Asian Home Gourmet's Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice* mix on Amazon. Have you tried it? The reviews seem to indicate that it's good so I'll probably try it when the craving gets worse. Meanwhile, I'm keeping my eyes peeled for pandan leaves so I can try out the recipe in my Plusixfive cookbook.
Are you a Singaporean overseas?
I'm glad I attended the Singapore Embassy's National Day reception in Washington, D.C. as it was nice to chat with fellow Singaporeans. I made friends with a friendly lady who was visiting her undergraduate son. We went on to make a few more new friends, some of whom had lived in the US for over 20 years. One of them even travelled from Texas to attend the event.
Guess it's true that you can take a Singaporean out of Singapore but you can't take Singapore out of a Singaporean. True to our passion for food, we confessed to attending the event for a chance to savour authentic Singapore food. We had Laksa, Chicken Rice, Roti Prata, Nonya Kueh and some American food. Over the course of the evening, we swapped notes on where to get authentic Singapore and Malaysian food in the area and also shared interesting experiences such as having to explain that English is Singapore's first language and that we had to learn a second language too. Do you have recommendations for Singapore or Malaysian food in the US? I would love to hear from you.
* PS: This post is not sponsored. I may receive some remuneration (at no additional cost to you) from Amazon if qualifying purchases (plus quite a few other conditions) are made using my link, and if Amazon adds me to their affiliates program after 180 days.