I remember the first time I tried Hainanese Chicken Rice.
It was my 25th birthday and I was in Singapore with the man who would become my husband.
It wasn’t my first trip to Singapore- that had been a few years earlier, and wasn’t made with the man who would become my husband. That first time we didn’t really venture too far culinarily from the ubiquitous satay sticks and rather mild curry dishes.
This time with Grant, though was an eye opener. It was also the first time I tried chilli crab at an outdoor hawker market, and the first time I experienced laksa. Not the watered down versions we often get here, but the real full-bodied, spice rich Singapore laksa.
From that day, on my 25th birthday, Hainanese Chicken has been my ultimate comfort food. I can’t remember the number of times I have had it in Singapore over the years, I’ve tried it in Kuala Lumpur and Penang, and I’ve even found it in Hong Kong. I’ve had some good ones here in Sydney, some great ones in Melbourne and had a dreadful imitation in Perth.
I regularly prepare it at home- sometimes the whole she-bang with the chicken rice cooked first in rendered chicken fat, and sometimes a substantially healthier version in skimmed chicken stock, but I’ve never forgotten that first one.
Of all the Chicken Rices in Sydney, Temasek in Parramatta does one that’s closest to the Singapore original. The stock is full of flavour, the chicken tender and clean and the rice slightly oily with the right amount of texture. They also do an amazingly good laksa- although next time we go, I have my eye on the assam laksa- a Malaysian version full of the wonderful sourness of tamarind.
Just as not all chicken rices are created equal, nor are all chicken rice recipes. Kylie Kwong does a great White Cut Chicken, but my favourite is Adam Liaw’s Hainanese Chicken Rice– apparently how his grandmother made it. As an aside, his book Two Asian Kitchens is inspired.
Try it some time…
If anyone has a great Hainanese Chicken Rice that they can recommend, please let me know! Especially if it’s in Sydney…