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Real Hainanese chicken rice?

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So I admit I have never been to Singapore but I went to Hong Kong last year and had Hainanese chicken rice at a couple of different places and thought it was great. The way I had it in Hong Kong and confirmed by No Reservations and Wikipedia among others involves steamed or boiled whole chicken, dipped in ice water after. The rice is cooked in a chicken stock and the dish is served with dark soy, chili sauce and ginger sauce with the chicken served sliced and boneless. Sounds simple but I have tried to get a decent version in Boston but have struck out completely so far.

So far i went to:

Pearl Villa served plain white rice with basic BBQ chicken on top but did serve the correct condiments. Chicken was chopped and not boneless. It was pretty tasty but not what I was hoping for

Vinh Sun called it Hai-nam chicken and I assumed it was the same thing but in retrospect I don’t think it was. Again, basic chopped BBQ chicken and the rice was dark from some sort of soy-based sauce. No condiments. Overall it was ok but again not what I was expecting

Truthfully, I forget the 3rd place. What I do remember was that the chicken was served on the bone. I swear it was never served this way in HK.

I was going to go to Penang and their description sounds promising

Chicken rice subtly flavored with steamed chicken (with bone & skin on) served with Chef's special soy sauce

Except the damn “with bone”! 

Maybe I am misremembering what I had in HK but I really don’t think so.

Does any place around serve a real deal rendition of this dish?

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  1. have had the Hainanese chicken at Penang and thought that the Empress Chicken at Best LIttle REstaurant, although on the bone and not authentic Hainanese chicken w/ rice, was better. Perhaps Limster or somebody can weigh in...

    1. I like the Hainanese at Penang but haven't been in several years . . . .

      1. What you've described in your post is what the Penang version is. I never even realized Vinh Sun or Pearl Villa served Hainan Chicken Rice. I would not fault Boston, so much as I think it's odd looking for more of a Malaysian dish in a Cantonese restaurant.

        1. 1. I would've assumed that any HK style place (Vinh Sun, Pearl Villa) would make it the same way it is usually served at a HK cha chaan teng, which is with bones, over a lightly-flavored (or unflavored) rice, and with scallion oil. Weird to hear that the rice was dark-colored.

          2. The "traditional" version does have bones, I think it is correct to say it's kind of a modern Singapore variation to have it boneless, there are certainly plenty of both kinds available there.

          3. I had it at Aneka Rasa (same owners as Penang I think) a few years ago and I found it really lacking in flavor... though I think it came with both a soy sauce and a scallion oil. Right style but not actually good.

          2 Replies
          1. re: Luther

            I remember a friend from Singapore telling me that the Penang way was the traditional style. She really liked their version, for what it's worth.

            1. re: midcity

              I remember liking the version at Penang, but it's been a few years. Having skin and bones on the chicken is pretty standard, and in good versions, the centre of the bones should still be red (if they're gray, the chicken is overcooked).

          2. It's not called that, but I have had the steamed chicken over rice at Rod Dee many times, it is a rendition of Hainanese chicken rice and is excellent. It is served boneless, and with what I think is the correct sauce. They have this as a special every Thursday, and include a light soup with winter melon which is also fantastic.

            I've had the one at Pearl Villas too, it was ok.

            1. Try Island Hopper on Mass Ave between Newbury and Commonwealth. The version we had there is on the bone, IIRC. The rice is wonderful and they offer it all the time as a side dish.


              Remember the bone gives flavor to the dish. That may be why it is on the bone.


              4 Replies
              1. re: BostonZest

                Second Island Hopper. Penang's version seems to be overcooked to me.

                1. re: nasilemak

                  BTW, Island Hopper also serves a pretty good Pie-Tee, which is super hard to find in the US.

                  1. re: limster

                    I agree about the Pie-Tee appetizer. So yummy!

                    1. re: limster

                      I also love Islandhopper's Roti with chicken curry.


                2. hainan chicken is always served with bones and skin, that is the standard way! if you want it boneless, go to WaiWai ice cream in chinatown, they make it boneless if you want. just tell them.

                  1. i tried the version at Bubor Cha Cha (new place in Chinatown), it was pretty bland imo

                    1. I hope that people don't get annoyed if I suggest that you try to make it yourself. This dish, hainan chicken, khao man gai (in thai, which is the version I'm used to) is deceptively simple in ingredients, but the technique is where the recipes vary according to country, and even by family.

                      If you make it yourself you get to do everything to your own liking and also provide your own garnishes.

                      there's so many versions online of this recipe, so find one that's the easiest for you.

                      Hope this adds something to the discussion!