Chicken Rice Fan

Chicken rice is very Malaysian. Everyone eats chicken rice (except of course if you are vegetarian) when:
1) they do not know what to order for lunch/dinner
2) they want something substantial (and in Malaysian terms, that means filling and what can be more filling than having rice?)
3) they want to compare chicken rice from different places
4) they help other people ‘tar-pau’ lunch/dinner and the person cannot decide what to have
5) they want some comfort food

I thought of these reasons because I don’t mind chicken rice, but I am not a huge fan of it. I’d rather have duck rice. But I must say chicken rice is a convenient comfort food that makes you salivate if the rice is just right or the chicken is smooth enough. And then there are regional differences in the way it is cooked.
What triggered this post is that I was lunching with my uncle and aunt at Fatty Loh Chicken Rice just last weekend. Fatty Loh is almost an institution in Penang. Tourists swarm Fatty Loh. But then again, locals and tourists have different ideas about what tastes good or what tastes fabulous. I guess being in Penang, we’re pampered by good food all year round, at every nook and corner so we can afford to be snooty when it comes to something as basic as chicken rice.
Let me just clarify first what chicken rice is all about. Or what it isn’t about. Chicken rice is absolutely Chinese, Hainanese in fact.
The Hainanese make really superb chicken rice, fragrant rice that’s cooked in chicken stock and chicken fat and each grain is coated with a lovely oily sheen. The steamed chicken slices are chopped just right, with the correct amount of moisture and springy-ness in each bite. (Actually, you can steam or boil the chicken.) Then there is the chilli-garlic-ginger sauce, sometimes topped with some dark soya sauce. Sometimes you get a small bowl of clear chicken soup, flavoured with watercress or Szechuan vegetable.
Of course there are side dishes which you can order to go with your chicken rice – blanched bean sprouts in a soya sauce-sesame oil dressing, a spicy-tangy kerabu of julienned unripe mango, shallots, lime juice and peanuts, blanched baby bokchoy, sliced meat roll (lor bak), chicken intestines, hardboiled eggs in soya sauce… it’s endless.
But the basic stuff must be right or the whole idea of enjoying a great chicken rice falls flat. The chilli sauce must be good too, otherwise it will spoil the taste of the chicken. My Granny makes a wonderfully yummy chicken rice too. And her chilli-ginger sauce is out of this world. But even she, the veritable chicken rice chef, has her favourite chicken rice stall.
Hers is this chicken rice stall located in an old, cramped kopi-tiam called Kheng Pin at the beginning of Sri Bahari Road-Penang Road. It’s a corner kopi-tiam which also serves, among others, satay really early in the morning (try 7am and you can really have sticks of piping-hot satay to your satisfaction), scrumptious lor bak and not too bad wantan noodles. She’s known the owner for ages. He no longer serves customers, having passed down the business to his sons but the steamed chicken, according to my Granny, aunts and uncles, is smooth at each bite. This is the fave takeaway whenever Granny feels like having chicken rice.
My fave chicken rice stall is one that is located in Jalan Kampung Jawa, Bayan Baru. It’s genuinely Hainanese. First introduced to me by a (Hainanese) friend, the stall was then located at a coffeeshop near Sunshine Square. When it moved to this place, somehow every local fan just knew and followed them here. Her stall is in the first coffeeshop, about three doors away from Public Bank. The woman who sells the Hainanese chicken rice is really Hainanese unlike others who label themselves as they wish. Her chicken rice is the real thing.

Roast and steamed chicken slices, bathed in a dark soya sauce. You can order chicken livers too.

Fragrant, oily rice to go with the chicken.
I guess I like it because it tastes authentic and homemade. The chicken is smooth and hardly oily. The proof is also in her homemade chilli sauce and garlic sauce. You can also order a side dish of mango kerabu, nyonya acar or braised chicken feet but the chicken rice can stand on its own. Heck, even the rice can be eaten on its own… it is THAT fragrant! This place is highly popular with the factory workers because of its close proximity to the Bayan Lepas Free Trade Zone.
Besides this chicken rice stall, I don’t mind chicken rice from this stall in Happy Cafe, Tmn Pekaka, Sg Dua because this is the place we often ‘tar-pau’ lunch due to its close proximity to where we live. The guy does a bustling business during lunch time. There’s one more stall located at Mandarin Cafe, Sg Dua (just a stone’s throw away from him) operated by his relative so it’s an alternative if you get the chicken rice cravings suddenly and he’s all sold out.
Another famous chicken rice stall is at Batu Lanchang (Si Yang Yang Cafe) but this one is not Hainanese though. The lunchtime crowd snakes long, all queueing to take away. I don’t particularly like his chicken rice/soup because I think it has too much MSG. I always get horribly thirsty after I eat here. The owner ladles a huge spoonful of sticky, oyster-sauce-like gravy over the chicken. Some like the gravy, I don’t.
While Penang has its share of chicken rice stalls, I cannot say the same of Kuching. But Aladdin Cafe on Carpenter Street, Kuching, is a great place to go for chicken rice. [Forget all those boring Singapore Chicken Rice (which, btw, sucks….) and the regular food court a.ka Siang-Siang Corner, Thompson Corner stalls.]
I know! What has Aladdin got to do with chicken rice? Well, I don’t know about that but I do know that the chicken rice tastes really good, its chili sauce gives such a kick and the soup is highly spiced too. One meal here and one can sweat buckets.
They have fried (belacan) chicken, roast chicken and steamed chicken to go with the rice but you can also have chicken porridge or congee too. The congee is a big hit I think because when I was there for dinner on a Sunday night, everyone just came by to tar-pau the congee.
The other key attraction of Aladdin (besides its Arabian name with a totally non-Arabian cuisine) is its owners/workers. Most of them have glorious looking Japanese style tattoos on their biceps. I guess they are better off calling this place Yakuza Cafe because they do look rather yakuza-like!
But the food here is really good so if you are near the Kuching Waterfront, just walk a bit more to reach Carpenter Street. You won’t miss Aladdin Cafe!
Whatever it is about chicken rice, I find it very much satisfying and it is such a complete meal by itself no?
Now that you’re getting hungry, tell me about your favourite chicken rice!

5 thoughts on “Chicken Rice Fan”

  1. Heading towards Tanjung Tokong along Burmah Road on the left just before Lorong Selamat is a Wan Ton Mee stall. Please tell me he’s still there.

  2. Hmmm…. ok, will check it out the next time i am in town. can it be seen from the road or do i have to turn into
    lorong selamat? let me do some sleuthing for you…wan ton mee? not a fan but Nic is. maybe he can do a review too if the stall is still around. how many years since you ate there? ๐Ÿ˜‰

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