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Feb 18, 2014 03:18 PM

Eim Khao Mun Kai: A Hainanese Chicken Rice specialist sets up shop in Elmhurst

Eim Khao Mun Kai is a small, dark store front with no outdoor signage. They do one dish and one dish only, Hainanese chicken rice. I would never had noticed them at all had it not been for the fact that I parked the car just a few paces away, on a busy stretch of Broadway that I usually look to avoid at all costs. It’s sandwiched between a pizza joint and a liquor store, and is just a few storefronts away from Ploy Thai.

The walls are brick, the ceiling one of those old-school corrugated numbers. It’s mostly a take-out joint, with two small round tables against the wall. Three skinned whole chickens hang from hooks behind the counter to the right, and there’s what appears to be a metal street food cart to the left, from which they sell cold drinks and sodas.

Again, these guys do one thing and one thing only. You have a choice of two orders, a half or whole chicken, on a pile of ginger-flavored jasmine rice, with a side of soup and a soda. The small order will hold you; it’s $8.99. The chicken rice comes with mostly white meat boneless chicken atop the rice with a few pieces of dark meat and a few small slivers of chicken liver, as well as three cucumber slices, for palette cleansing, and a thick, dark spicy sauce in a small plastic cup. There are other condiments on the table that I didn’t bother with, because the spicy sauce was enough. These guys are Thai, and the guy behind the counter told me that they do a Thai-style chicken rice (Khao Mun Kai is Thai for chicken rice), not so much that I’d notice; the sauce was what struck me as Thai, nothing else. The rice here was the clear star, fresh, aromatic, tasty, and, like I said, I liked the sauce. The chicken wasn’t so great, not when you consider that this is a place that does nothing all day but this dish. It wasn’t especially tender and, on the whole, not all that much better than what you’d get at any Malaysian restaurant in these parts. It should be better.

I actually did a double take when I peered inside this place and discovered it was a specialist restaurant, and, for that reason, wanted to like it more than I did. As it stands, although I liked the rice and the sauce, I don’t see myself beating a path back here any time soon. That said, these guys are new – they’ve been around for less than a month – and the food quality at this stage could be a variable.

The upside here is that, if these guys hit their stride - they've been around for less than a month - it could set the tone for more specialist joints to open up in Queens, which, to my taste, is a good thing. So I find myself rooting for them to succeed, and would encourage all of your Chicken Rice enthusiasts to beat a path out here and see what you think.

Eim Khao Mun Kai
81-32 Broadway, Elmhurst
(sorry, didn't get the phone number)


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  1. thank you for the head's up on this!! I will definitely check it out. Do you have any idea how late they stay open?

    1 Reply
    1. very interesting; hainan chicken rice is a very common dish in thailand i believe

      7 Replies
      1. re: Lau

        You should try it Lau, would love to hear your opinion. For me it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.

        1. re: AubWah

          ill def try it although fair warning im a bit of chicken rice snob

          1. re: Lau

            I understand, but it would be silly to judge it against international standards. Keep in mind we are in New York not Asia

            1. re: AubWah

              of course im aware of that, but i do judge things on an absolute basis. That said i almost never expect to get the same level of quality i would get in asia in NY and im not going to say something sucks if it still tastes good but is not as good as the real deal

              anyhow, ill just have to try it, only way to find out

              1. re: Lau

                It tastes good I promise you that. The condiments make it. The special unusual sweet soy, the ginger sauce, the garlic and the chilis. When mixed together with the chicken and rice took my taste buds places they'd never been in the United States. this is hainanese chicken rice from Thailand. I'm sure much better exists overseas, but in New York, this is it.

              2. re: AubWah

                I thought you said you wanted his opinion?

        2. so I went here last night. The chicken was moist, the rice was good I thought--chewy and pretty glutinous. The soup had winter melon in it and was tasty. I really liked it!
          This is the only time I have had chicken rice so I have nothing to compare it to but I'd totally come back here.

          as others have mentioned, the sauces were great, the brown one that comes with your food and also the table condiments of garlic and some kind of pepper relish thing.

          The space was nice, very clean and the people working there were super nice.

          Give it a try!

          1. "The chicken wasn’t so great, not when you consider that this is a place that does nothing all day but this dish."

            That is not exactly goading me into trying it. Am I missing something?

            2 Replies
            1. re: NYJewboy

              to be fair i care more about the rice than the chicken, the rice is harder to get right

              1. re: NYJewboy

                Yes you are. But no worries, more for me

              2. Polecat, have you tried this dish as prepared by Khao Man Gai NY, late of the Hester Street Fair, wintering in the Falchi Building in LIC:


                Their sauce is more subtle, and I think their rice is a shade better, too.

                Dave Cook

                2 Replies
                1. re: DaveCook

                  really? i tried it at the hester street fair and i didnt think it was very good

                  1. re: Lau

                    I guarantee you'll prefer it in Elmhurst