HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >


Hainan Chicken Rice or Khao Man Gai Recommendations in the Bay Area?

With the cold weather and inspired by this LA board post on the best Hainan Chicken Rice in OC/LA (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/397881), I did a search on the SF boards and came across Kopitiam in Lafayette a few times. As luck would have it, they've closed and I missed the earlier announcement on the boards.

Does anyone have any recommendations for Hainan Chicken Rice in the Bay Area? Or better yet, the Thai variation, Khao Man Gai? I tried KMG it for the first time in Portland at Nong's on 10th and Alder, and am craving more.


Edited to Add: ...still getting used to search - just ran across this recent Khao Man Gai thread (http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/664191), so maybe more Hainan Chicken Rice recs.?

Kopitiam Restaurant
3647 Mt Diablo Blvd, Lafayette, CA 94549

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I've always enjoyed the version of HCR at Cafe Salina, in Millbrae, but haven't had any others in the Bay Area for comparison's sake. Actually, we usually order the Hainan chicken a la carte, and then have it, along with other dishes, with an order of their excellent fried rice (the one where they just use the egg whites).

    Cafe Salina
    235 Broadway, Millbrae, CA 94030

    1. I was disappointed by Kopitiam's Hainan rice. I liked Singapore-Malaysian's version better, the rice is really rich with chicken fat and juices. I'm pretty sure they don't make it in the traditional way, where the chicken and rice are cooked together, but to me it's all about the rice anyway.

      Damn, my impression was today was going to be Kopitiam's last day and I was thinking of going. But they're not answering their phone, so I guess that's that.

      Singapore Malaysian Restaurant
      836 Clement St, San Francisco, CA 94118

      8 Replies
      1. re: Robert Lauriston

        I second Singapore Malaysian's Hainan Chicken Rice! The rice is so flavorful and the chicken is tender and fantastic (I like both the fried preparation and the steamed). I've never tried Kopitiam's chicken rice, but having spent a lot of time in Singapore, I found that the Singapore Malaysian's version is better than most that i've had in Singapore.

        1. re: Noodlebabe

          I have some pics of the hainan chicken rice from singapore malaysian, abc, and san sun.


        2. re: Robert Lauriston

          " they don't make it in the traditional way, where the chicken and rice are cooked together"
          Are you sure about that? In Singapore and Thai not done. In Malaysia never seen it done, always in the broth.

          1. re: celeryroot

            The way I was shown it was not cooked together. Unless there is another way.

            1. re: celeryroot

              I just read that in a cookbook so maybe I was misinformed, or maybe some families do it that way.

              1. re: Robert Lauriston

                When I learned to cook this dish from a friend and from watching someone on Food Network make the chicken they were not cooked together. But there may or may not be a recipe in which they are cooked together.

                1. re: yimster

                  Wikipedia entry for hainanese chicken rice implicitly describes the method of cooking the chicken and the rice as separate entities. This is more obvious with the Chinese entry where they go into further specifics with regard to cooking time and the exact name of certain Chinese spices/herbs.

                2. re: Robert Lauriston

                  My SO makes a homestyle Filipino recipe that is net similar to Khao man gai, but with the chicken cooked in with the rice, and the rice overall seasoned with spices and additionally flavored with the chicken broth/fat. But I agree with others that the restaurant-style so much discussed has always been described to me as the chickens cooked separately and the resulting broth used to make the rice. Also KK's post below referring to the other Hainan Chicken makes a lot of sense, as that is very common in Chinese restaurants. Actually, I would say that I see it more often described as Hainan chicken the Wenchang chicken, and in that context it is usually poached chicken, relatively salty, often served with ginger-scallion sauce and sometime with pickled vegetables, but doesn't generally involved seasoned or chicken-broth cooked rice.

            2. I know this sounds crazy, and there are probably (a lot) of people who will disagree, but I think the chicken rice at ABC in SF Chinatown is not bad. The accompanying soup is not my cup of tea (tastes strongly of iron with all the giblets), but the rice and the chicken are comforting. And the ginger-garlic sauce is pretty much spot on to the places I've been to Singapore. Take this with a grain of salt, I've only spent about four weeks total in Singapore, so I'm not an expert, but I did eat chicken rice regularly at various hawker stalls.

              Now if I could find some good nasi lemak and Malaysian fried chicken! And while we're at it, some laksa and carrot cake!

              1 Reply
              1. re: david de berkeley

                How is the HCR at Penang Garden on Washington in Chinatown ? Any inputs ?

                I had the laksa there a few years ago and it was a reasonable substitute- nowhere close to the one I've had in Singapore and Malaysia .

                Penang Garden Restaurant
                728 Washington St, San Francisco, CA 94108

              2. Apart from the places mentioned in the other thread you've already seen, you might consider looking at Vietnamese places. They often have similar chicken rice dishes. I had a good one, with a lot of chicken flavor in the rice, but also a lot of black pepper, at Noodle Trends, on International Blvd in Oakland. (at about 4th or 5th avenue, I'm not sure).

                4 Replies
                1. re: twocents

                  Makes sense, since many Vietnamese restaurants are owned by ethnic Chinese Vietnamese. San Yang(?) on Stockton St. in Chinatown (next to Little Paris) has a good version of Hainan Chicken Rice, and a noodle counterpart too.

                  1. re: soupçon

                    That would be San Sun at 941 Stockton St. But are they still there? I thought one of the restaurants on that block had turned over last year, but don't recall which one.

                    San Sun
                    941 Stockton St, San Francisco, CA 94108

                    1. re: Chandavkl

                      They're still there. I just went today.

                  2. re: twocents

                    com ga hai nam vietnamese version was good at Com Ga Nam An in SJ (rice light but sauces good)

                    Nam An Restaurant
                    348 E Santa Clara St, San Jose, CA 95113

                  3. Kopitiam's chef is now doing delivery for Organic Chicken Rice. Their website, http://organicchickenrice.com/ lists only limited delivery locations.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Mul

                      Fantastic, thanks 'hounds for all of the tips so far!

                      I emailed organicchickenrice.com to see if they allow pickup - unfortunately, I don't live within the delivery areas but could drive to Berkeley...can't wait!

                      A co-worker mentioned that Thai House Express off Larkin in SF has a good rendition of KMG - has anyone tried it?

                      Thai House Express
                      901 Larkin St, San Francisco, CA 94109

                      1. re: e_tsai

                        I'm not in their delivery zone either, would be interested to know if they'd allow pick up or meeting point in the area they have.

                        It looks like the chicken rice now has a soup; previously at Kopitiam they don't serve it w/ soup. Their facebook page has some pictures.

                    2. The Hainan Chicken Rice at Straits Cafe (San Francisco, Palo Alto and San Jose) is the only one we have found that is similar to the stuff my husband loved in Singapore. Not exactly the same, but a decent rendition.

                      1. I just reread this post and after dinner last Friday night with friends I was remind that Hainanese Chicken is a Singapore dish unknown in Hanan China. So I will do quick search on the board for Singapore places and check them out.

                        This is one our favorites but we make our own. That way I get the pink at the bone chicken. Good luck.

                        3 Replies
                        1. re: yimster

                          We never really cared for Kopitiam. Nothing wrong with it, just not special. We really like Singapore Old Town Cafe in Ulferts Center in Dublin. Their Hainanese chicken rice is great.

                          1. re: chow_eb

                            While I am a semi-regular patron of SOTC, I've gotta say their Hainanese Chicken Rice is pretty dull. Have tried it 3 times now, each successive time hoping they 'come through' for me. It seems to me they do not cook-to-order the rice and it might have been cooked amongst a very large batch at the beginning of the evening.
                            I dont' believe they really wish to 'feature' this dish amongst their many other offerings, and thus just *kind of* phone it in, so to speak. That being said, since SOTC is somewhat closeby and I if am jonesing for HCR again, there will likely be a 4th try!

                          2. re: yimster

                            Interesting that the wikipedia entry for Hainanese chicken rice describes that while HCR is mostly a Singaporean/Malaysian dish, the chicken, perhaps not the direct prep itself, was derived from Wenchang chicken 文昌雞 (from Hainan) that bears a striking resemblance.


                            and appears very similar in prep/overall look to Cantonese "bak cheet gai" and perhaps a long lost cousin of empress chicken.

                            I think there are places that do the rice quite well, but might not have the chicken or the sauces down.

                          3. Went to Shiok in Menlo Park last week, have to give the Hainan Chicken Rice there (both chicken and rice, and the trio of sauces, of particular note the dark soy sauce was quite syrupy thick in a good way) thumb up. Good quality, but small portion especially for $8.75.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: K K

                              I've had it at the rebuilt Saigon Seafood in El Cerrito (next to Daimo). Unfortunately, I can't tell if it's "authentic," never having had it anywhere else. It's a lunch special at Saigon on a separate menu on the table.

                              1. re: K K

                                Glad to hear that K K. I tried their Hainan chicken rice like ten years ago, when it was required to call in for a reservation of that dish, and it was just very so-so in every aspect. Maybe it's time for my revisit there.

                                K K Cafe
                                3095 McKee Rd, San Jose, CA 95127

                              2. I really enjoy the khao mun gai from Thai Thai Noodle in the Nob Hill. For under $10, they give a giant serving, especially if you get it for take out. The rice and chicken are very flavorful and come with a generous amount of dark garlicky gingery sauce (no hot sauce/dark soy sauce served here. This is not like the light colored ginger sauce that comes with your singaporean rice in small amount). Beware of smelling very garlicky after eating and that it does not taste as "clean" as a singaporean hainan chicken rice and feel ike it's heavier in spice. I don't really know what this is, but I always associate hainan chicken rice as one of the simpler tasting rice plate - but i really like this thai version of chicken rice as well.

                                * Chow keeps adding this link to thai thai restaurant, which is still related to thai thai noodle but has a different menu. Thai Thai noodle is on Hyde and California (1400 California Street).

                                Thai Thai Restaurant
                                653 Clay St, San Francisco, CA 94111

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: chocomel

                                  I enjoy Chai Thai Noodles' version of the Thai dish you're describing--love the garlicky rice and the addictive vinegary dipping sauce. They use strips of boneless chicken breast, though, rather than the pieces of bone-in chicken you get w/ Hainan chicken. Not sure if that's just standard protocol with the Thai dish, but it's still good.

                                  Chai Thai Noodles
                                  545 B International Blvd, Oakland, CA 94606

                                2. I recommend the Hainan chicken at Lime Tree. There are 2 locations in SF. The one in the Richmond should be much less crowded (linked below). They serve the poached chicken with a very fragrant, flavorful ginger rice.