Sunday, 1 November 2015
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice - Bib Gourmand Awards 2016 Singapore 天天海南雞飯 JK1282
Just the other day, I dropped by Tian Tian Chicken Rice after a 2 year break. Tian Tian's chicken rice is still delicious and remains firmly among the public's top favourites in Singapore.
I went to eat chicken rice at Tian Tian again today (twice in less than a week) :-D
There is always a snaking queue at Tian Tian. Once prominently featured in Anthony Bourdain as well as Gordon Ramsay's shows, Tian Tian is a destination for tourists wanting a taste of Singapore's national dish. Perhaps half the customers in the queue this Sunday morning were Japanese, Korean, Chinese or Caucasian.
As it was a Sunday morning, most of the stalls here at Maxwell Road food centre were closed or not yet opened. Most of the tables were taken by people eating Tian Tian chicken rice.
Tian Tian has a very systematic queueing system, so the queue clears very fast - place your orders at the first stall, and step forward to collect your food at the next stall. We always get our food within 15-20 minutes even when the queue is long.
We all know how competitive a business chicken rice is in Singapore. Chicken rice is Singapore's unofficial national dish and many Singaporeans eat it more than once or twice a week. (I am guilty of this too.)
Singaporeans are blessed in that many chicken rice stalls in the sunny island have honed their chicken cooking skills to a fine art. It is quite easy to get excellent chicken rice in any corner of Singapore as the overall standard is very high here.
So much so that there is precious little to tell the best chicken rice stalls apart, especially at the top band.
Most chicken rice stalls use the same or similar breed of American broilers 肉雞 trucked in live from Malaysia and slaughtered in Singapore. Most chicken rice stalls use the same cooking technique of poaching followed by dunking in water.
Tian Tian's poached chicken is chopped with a cleaver in large meaty chunks, which I like. Needless to say, at Tian Tian, the chunks of chicken flesh were tender and juicy, though American broilers in themselves are typically weak on natural flavours (compared to free range kampung chicken).
Tian Tian's approach is to take the generic weakly flavoured American broiler to a higher level of taste with their signature dressing sauce.
To up it's game, Tian Tian has come up with a signature dressing sauce that reminds me of "superior broth 上湯" usually used to dress premium seafood dishes like abalone, sea cucumber or lobsters. The sauce has good heavy body, deep layered savouriness balanced with a mild sweetness. It made many people fall in love with Tian Tian chicken rice - including Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay no less - the dressing sauce setting it apart from the rest. (I did detect a bit - not too much - of flavour enhancer similar to MSG in the sauce.)
Tian Tian is also strong in the rice department. The good quality rice grains were cooked to the right nutty tender texture. Each grain cooked in chicken broth was sealed with a very fine film of chicken oil. Rich chicken and garlic flavours and aromas greeted our noses and taste buds.
Tian Tian's chili is ground slightly grainy and suspended in a watery sauce. It has quite a sharp spicy sting balanced with tanginess from lime and with savoury flavours.
The ginger was also ground roughly, which I like. The ginger was mildly spicy in the way ginger is spicy. A bit a savouriness balances the ginger dip.
The gooey dark soy sauce was thick and syrupy. It was a blend of savoury and sweet.
No soup is served. I wish a simple chicken soup is served as that would complete the dish (as in the old days).
Tian Tian sells this half chicken which comfortably feeds 2-3 people at SGD12.00 - that is very reasonable pricing. (Rice extra at SGD0.70 per bowl.)
If you are a visitor to Singapore, don't leave the island without eating chicken rice - and, at Tian Tian you will experience a fine example of Singapore style Hainanese chicken rice at an authentic Singapore hawker centre in a very accessible location. (Plentiful metered parking at the adjacent URA building and 15 minutes walk from Chinatown MRT station.)
Recommended for you - a short history of Singapore chicken rice <- click
Restaurant name: Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice 天天海南雞飯
Address: #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre, Maxwell Road, Singapore
Hours: 11:00am to 8:00pm (Closed on Monday)
No pork, no lard, no Halal cert
Dates visited: 1 May 2014, 25 Oct 2015, 1 Nov 2015
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