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Mar 22, 2012 11:19 PM

Kuala Lumpur - Is there *NO* good Hainanese chicken rice in KL?!

1 year on, and I still haven't come across a single good Hainanese chicken rice spot in KL, in fact *any* which can hold a candle to the versions which I can find easily in Singapore (think Boon Tong Kee at Balestier Rd, Wee Nam Kee at Novena Ville, Yet Con on Purvis St, Mandarin Chatterbox, Chin Chin at Purvis St, Sin Kee @ Margaret Drive, etc etc).

I was introduced to the most famous KL stalwarts like Nam Heong and Kam Kee (, but the rice served there were dry, bland and definitely worse than even the worst chicken rice I'd had ANYWHERE in Singapore!

The best Hainanese chicken rice I'd tasted in Malaysia, in fact, were from Malacca, Penang, Ipoh, and (surprise, surprise) Kota Bharu, Kelantan.

Anyway, a well-meaning office colleague took me to Restoran Ng Kim, this old-style Hakka-owned (not Hainanese, hmm) chicken rice spot in Seri Kembangan today. The roast chicken was delightful, the roast pork was nice but not of Wong Kee's standard ( and the barbecued char-siu was respectable, though still lagging far behind Soo Kee's (

The rice was, as I'd feared, pretty plain, with none of the fragrance I'd expected of Singapore-style Hainanese chicken rice. In fact, it was more similar to versions in HK, or Chinatowns in Sydney & London.

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  1. hi yeoh ... back in my university days (circa 2000-2002) i would constantly argue with my singaporean friends about which country had the better hawker food ... since i've tasted the singapore version , nothing in the past 10 years in kl-pj has come close to their hainanese chicken rice standards. its quite a wonder why none of the kl-pj chicken rice vendors has tried to replicate it - perhaps ego or even culture maybe? only gripe about SG chicken rice is most of the places the chicken meat dont have a good enough ermm ..'chicken' aroma ...

    2 Replies
    1. re: cyberK13

      Too true about Singapore's mushier chicken, which are all farm-bred from French (not Bresse) chicken strains.

      Singapore does the following hawker food better than Malaysia, IMO:
      - Hainanese chicken rice
      - Fried carrot cake
      - Kaya toasts
      - Fish-head curry
      - Chilli crab
      - Fruit rojak (called Penang rojak in Malaysia)

      Malaysia, on the other hand, does EVERYTHING else better than Singapore ;-)

      1. re: klyeoh

        out of the pantheon of sg/my hawker food, i am most interested in chicken rice, fried carrot cake, rojak, fried hokkien mee, and rojak.

        since singapore does 3 out of the 4 well out of your list (and i actually prefer the sg style of hokkien mee to the darker kl version), i seldom have the urge to travel up north for hawker food.

        (or perhaps i haven't had decent versions of the rest in singapore, so naturally i don't have the urge to try them elsewhere? hmmm.)

    2. Interesting coda to the HCR tale.

      I wonder if KL tastes nowadays actually *do* prefer blander rice, rather than the vendors not bothering or not trying? One's personal taste and all that, y'know. ;-)

      I do remember Nam Heong's rice as fairly unctuous, yellowish and tangy, chicken fat in evidence, umami-laden – at least at one time. I also do have a recollection that it was not always so even when I was still living there... but that's been years and years. What say your old-timer KL foodie friends?

      4 Replies
      1. re: huiray

        All my oldie-foodie KL friends here had (would you believe it?) *never* tried Hainanese chicken rice from Singapore! I gotta get them down south and across the Causeway, so I can get their honest feedback :-D

        1. re: klyeoh

          Agree completely that Singaporeans rock when it comes to Hainanese chicken rice. And when I lived there many years ago I ate my way through Singapore's best regarded stores only to leave feeling vaguely disappointed and homesick. And I think the real issue is that Malaysian hawkers make chicken in so many more delicious ways that well, who cares if it's Hainanese chicken rice. There is a great chicken rice store near the Seapark market that was run by a cranky old couple where there'd be long lines during lunchtime that use to come to my mind every time I ate Hainanese chicken rice in singapore. I am sure the yellow rice they served had a nice dose of lard or something in it because it was super addictive. Anyway, just my two cents - lots more choice in KL, doesn't have to be Hainanese chicken rice.

          1. re: klyeoh

            Interesting explanation I got a while back from Penang friends regarding the drier, blander "Hainanese" chicken rice in Penang. When the Hainanese immigrants arrived in Penang around the 1920s, they were the latest dialect group to come. By then, Penangites were already largely used to Cantonese-style "pak cham kai" (poached chicken) which is usually served with plain, boiled rice - Cantonese-style, of course. The early Penangites (mainly Hokkiens) could not quite adapt to the oilier, stronger-flavored Hainanese chicken rice, hence the Hainanese cooks made their chicken rice blander, less-oily to suit local tastes.

            Very interesting explanation.

            1. re: klyeoh

              Hmm, that seems to be not inconsistent with what I speculated about in my previous post...

              I am glad to see the phrase "pak cham kai", which is what I automatically think of. :-) So many Cantonese folk around these parts (US) use "pak chit kai" instead and blink a bit when I say "pak cham kai".

        2. Just watched "Taste with Jason" (by that irrepressible Malaysian TV food critic, Jason Yeoh aka Axian) on the Food Channel last night - the episode on Hainanese chicken rice. He featured Loke Yun in Ampang, regarded by many as serving the *best Hainanese chicken rice in Malaysia*:

          Hey, it does look good! The preparation method, the look of the yellow-skinned, free-range "kampung" chicken used. Now I know where my next dining destination is going to be!

          P.S. - Jason's definitely my go-to guy for finding good chow in Malaysia, and also highlighting the history behind each dish, and who/where does it best.

          3 Replies
          1. re: klyeoh

            I shall look forwards to your report in due course!

            What other places, if any, were mentioned in the TV show?

            1. re: huiray

              Only this one restaurant - Jason Yeoh is pretty specific and detailed, just like his episode on Kim Lian Kee's Hokkien mee.

              In this Hainanese chicken rice episode, he delved into its origins: Wenchang chicken rice on Hainan Island. I'd sure like to visit Hainan one of these days, and try the *real* thing.

              I still remembered watching a local Chinese TV program about Wenchang chicken rice during one of my business trips to Shanghai a couple of years back - apparently, the local Hainanese would prefer to order the chicken's left leg/drumstick - softer flesh, according to local beliefs, since chickens "used their right legs to scratch/scavenge for food on the ground". ROFL!!

              1. re: klyeoh

                I see.

                For myself I tend to think of Wenchang chicken rice on Hainan Island as something that is different, the "ancestor" of chicken rice in M'sia and S'pore rather than the "real thing". But that view is subject to change especially as I have never had Wenchang chicken rice. :-)