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Hainanese Chicken Rice in To

kpzoo Jul 26, 2008 03:02 PM

Greetings from a Montreal 'hound. I'll be visiting family in To next week and since we have two days in the city before heading to the country, I thought I'd try to explore a little beyond my usual favourites.

Ever since seeing the Singapore episode of Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, I've been fantasizing about Hainanese Chicken Rice, without ever having had it. (Montreal is known for many culinary delights, but the depth & breadth of its Asian food - particularly anything Singaporean/Malaysian - is unfortunately not one of them.)

So, my fellow hounds, is there somewhere in To that has an amazing Hainanese Chicken Rice that will quench my fantasies? Somewhere easily reachable by public transit is ideal, but car might be OK too as we may be able to swing a lift.

I searched the board and found a couple of references: Restoran Malaysia (Richmond Hill), Merlion (Dundas), Phoenix Restaurant (Markham), Mum's (McCowan and 16 Ave.), but nothing definitive, and the only really positive review is the one out in Markham - perhaps a bit far?

Thank you in advance, hounds! I am very happy to return the favour should you visit our fair Montreal.

  1. Charles Yu Jul 26, 2008 06:40 PM

    During a recent chow-meet with Singapore Chowhound - Fourseasons in NYC, the topic of Singapore Hawker market Hainanese Chicken rice was actually brought up during our chow discussion. I was told that ever since establishments start using NON free range chicken, quality is no longer the same. The rice still uses chicken fat, chicken broth, spices and coconut milk/water in their preparation, however, the taste and texture of the chicken is no longer appealing.

    Back to TO, None of your afore-mentioned list of restaurants that serve the dish uses free range chicken in their preparation!. That being the case, the TO versions are bearly passable. However, if you really want to try one, then I'd go to Phoenix Restaurant ( either the McCowan or Woodbine locations ). The rice is fairly aromatic, the chicken passable tasty, but the chewy texture and real 'chicken' flavour is sadly lacking.

    Surprisingly, the best Hainanese Chicken rice I had recently was at 'Dai Pa Yoh' in Hong Kong! Really authentic! Best of all, the 'de-boned' free range chicken really tasted amazing!!

    11 Replies
    1. re: Charles Yu
      skylineR33 Jul 26, 2008 10:46 PM

      Yes, free range chicken is a must for authentic Hainanese chicken rice. Sometime if the free range chicken is too thin, the texture of the chicken won't be good too.

      Most of the chicken in Hainanese chicken rice nowaday is just plain chicken. But actually it also has to go through a complex process. Before cooking, the chicken has to be stuffed with wok-fried raw garlic and ginger, together with pandan leaf. Then the stuffed chicken has to be cooked in boiled salted water and cooled with cold water "repeatedly".

      In Toronto, I agree that Phoenix is good. And actually, Mums and Phoenix belongs to the same group of ppl.

      1. re: skylineR33
        vincechan Jul 27, 2008 08:26 AM

        I second Phoenix's chicken.. but just the chicken! The rice is ok, but not the best I've had... my mother and I (both Singaporean-Canadian) both recently went on a HCR tasting spree in Toronto and Vancouver... Prima Taste in vancouver has the best soya sauce for HCR. Hawker's Delight was a real bargain.... but my mother absolutely loved the texture (opinions differ I guess), and springiness of the deboned Phoenix version. In Toronto, the only place I go when I'm in need of an HCR fix is Phoenix. And since it has 2 locations, I prefer the original Phoenix at McCowan and Highway 7.

        1. re: vincechan
          kpzoo Jul 27, 2008 08:55 AM

          Thanks a bunch to everyone for your suggestions - and the note about free-range chicken is an interesting one. Vince, you just gave me an idea - I'm actually going to be in Vancouver at the beginning of September - I might give the chicken rice a try over there, especially if I'm not able to make it out to Markham this week to get to Phoenix.

          One follow-up question - are there any other recommended dishes at Phoenix? I may be going with some folks who are not as obsessed with chicken rice as I am, and it would be nice to know what else they do well.

          Thanks again, all!

          1. re: kpzoo
            skylineR33 Jul 27, 2008 10:44 AM

            Other than the HCR, the HK style Milk Tea is a must try as well. If you drink in house, they keeps it icey cold without using ice cube to keep it with a low temperature, so it will not alter the taste of it without any melting of the ice, the flavour of the milk tea is intense and good. It is nearly as good as HK's Phoenix ! Others are more or less standard fare, baked rice is also worths a try if you are there. It is always busy at Phoenix because it has a big menu like 200 items in there ?!, there is always something for everyone.

            1. re: skylineR33
              kpzoo Jul 27, 2008 01:30 PM

              Great, sounds like there'll definitely be enough variety for my gang! Very excited about the HK milk tea - this is another one of my obsessions, actually, but I've only ever tasted it hot. The iced-tea variation sounds good, I'll have to try it. Baked rice sounds intriguing too. Thanks again for all your help. I'll report back if I'm able to get to Phoenix on this trip.

            2. re: kpzoo
              vincechan Jul 28, 2008 09:02 AM

              kpzoo.. actually.. I think Vancouver has a more lively Singaporean cuisine scene than Toronto does.

              Check out this thread for the Vancouver HCR info.. enjoy!
              http://www.chowhound.com/topics/468656

              1. re: vincechan
                kpzoo Jul 28, 2008 02:42 PM

                Thanks a lot, Vince - I may postpone my HCR quest til I'm out in Van - I'll report back in either case!

        2. re: Charles Yu
          e
          esf2003 Jul 27, 2008 07:56 AM

          Charles, would you mind telling me where "Dai Pa Yoh" is? I'm currently in HK and desperate to find a good Hainanese Chicken rice, good as I've has it in Singapore many times before.

          1. re: esf2003
            Charles Yu Jul 28, 2008 11:51 AM

            The restaurant is on the 1/F Whampoa Plaza, Site 8, Hung Hum, Kowloon directly across from 'Jan Dao' one of Hong Kong's BEST Wonton Noodle house!

            1. re: esf2003
              Charles Yu Jul 29, 2008 03:40 PM

              Hello esf2003. Correct spelling of restaurant is 'TOA PAYOH'. Tel is 2832 9862 just in case you need it. Enjoy!

              1. re: Charles Yu
                vincechan Jul 29, 2008 10:15 PM

                LOL.. they even spell it like they do in Singapore.. since Toa Payoh is a municipal district in Singapore.

          2. Teep Jul 27, 2008 09:08 PM

            I had it in a couple of places downtown but they are not that good. E.g. Pho Saigon on Spadina (yes a Vietnamese resto) and Hong Kong Harbour restaurant on Dundas West.

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