Sunday, 25 October 2015
Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball Toa Payoh 庆丰年海南鸡饭团 JK1276
The first chicken rice seller in Singapore, Mr Wong Yi Guan 王义元 peddled his chicken rice balls from two baskets on a bamboo pole slung across his shoulders. Mr Wong plied his trade in Singapore's Hainanese enclave in the Middle Road, Purvis Street and Seah Street area in the 1940s.
Sixty years on, Hainanese chicken rice has risen to the status of Singapore's unofficial national dish but chicken rice balls have practically disappeared except for two stalls, one in Toa Payoh and the other at Jalan Besar.
We were here at Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball in Toa Payoh on a Sunday afternoon for chicken rice balls - since the peak lunch hour had passed, we didn't have to wait long for our food.
The owner, Mr Hoo and his wife are both Hainanese and came from families who sold chicken rice going back to the 1940s. Mr Hoo said that during it's heydays, there were around 10 chicken rice ball shops along Jalan Besar alone.
Now, there are only two left in the entire Singapore, Mr Hoo's Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball and Mr Ba's Hainan Chicken Rice Ball at Jalan Besar.
Though some people may see chicken rice balls as gimmicky today, there were very good pragmatic reasons for them in the old days. Wives pack chicken rice balls in the morning so that the men could take the balls with them to eat in the fields during lunch. The rice balls kept warm for hours. There was no need for utensils - the rice balls wrapped in banana leaves were eaten with hands. Chicken rice balls were also eaten during festivities such as the Dragon Boat Festival and Ching Ming (Chinese grave sweeping). Rice balls were very convenient for mass feeding :-D
It was thus natural for Singapore's first chicken stall to sell chicken rice balls as there was no need then to invest in bowls and utensils. 1940s Singapore were pretty lean years.
Good Year Local Hainanese chicken rice balls were dense and had a mild chicken flavour and aroma. The rice grains were partially mashed and melded tightly in a ball. When we bite into it, the ball does not crumble and there was a slight bounce in the grains.
Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball uses a blend of starchy (young rice) and more nutty (old rice). Mr Hoo and his staff hand knead and pack the rice balls while it is hot as machines could not press the balls tightly enough. The starchy young rice grains bind the nutty stiffer old rice grains together. The starchy and nutty grains together give the rice balls an interesting bite.
The rice balls were slightly moist but not greasy. Personally, I like my rice balls to slowly leak oil when I hold them in my palm (because that was the way I remembered them from my childhood ;-p ). This is the closest one can get to old school rice balls in Singapore today.
Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball also serves rice in plates for customers who prefer to eat their rice the usual way.
In the crucial chicken department, Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball's chicken was also likeable. Our order of half chicken looked huge as it was laid on a mound of blanched bean sprouts.
(Our half chicken and 4 rice balls costed SGD18.50.)
The chicken was cut in large chunks with bone and skin on which I like. The meat was tender and juicy, and the skin was slippery smooth. Texture-wise, I love this chicken.
There was a mild natural chicken flavour which is another plus. The watery savoury sweet sauce drizzled over the chicken was slight in flavour and so did not do much to accentuate the taste of the whole dish.
Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball makes their own chili and ginger dips. The dips were blended with chicken stock and rendered chicken oil, so there was a nice savoury flavour moderating the spiciness. The flavoursome dips enhanced the rice balls and chicken though it lacked any sharp spicy sting.
For their dark soy sauce, Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball get their supply from the same sauce maker with whom they have been collaborating for over 40 years. In the beginning, the sauce maker created new blends for Mr Hoo's father to taste. Mr Hoo's dad tasted 40 different dark soy sauce formulations before he was satisfied. Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball have used the same sauce ever since. It's a nice savoury sweet syrupy dark soy sauce.
At a time when more and more chicken rice stalls are doing away with serving soup, Good Year still serves this tasty chicken soup with groundnuts with free top ups. Kudos to Good Year for the soup.
If you are into tasting tradition and history, a visit to Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball is a Must.
Also recommended for you - my encounter with chicken rice balls in Muar, Johor <- click
Restaurant name: Good Year Local Hainanese Chicken Rice Ball 庆丰年海南鸡饭团
Address: Chang Cheng Mee Wah Restaurant, Blk 111 Lorong 1 Toa Payoh #01-366 (5 minutes walk from Braddell MRT station)
GPS: 1.340788, 103.844744
Hours: 10:30am to 7:30pm (Closed on Fri)
Date visited: 25 Jun 2015
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