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CLOSED. Memories of Stubbornly Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice at Yet Con Purvis Street 逸群鸡饭

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I decided to explore Singapore's Purvis Street which is one of the cradles of Singapore Chicken Rice. A few old school chicken rice shops still operate here, in old Singapore's Hainanese quarter.




Update: Yet Con has locked its shutters in Jul 2020. Its fate is still being discussed as stakeholders explore the options. 


 
Yet Con 逸群鸡饭 founded in 1940 is the oldest name in Singapore chicken rice.


View of North Bridge Road from Purvis Street in early 1900s. National Archive of Singapore
The Hainanese were late comers to Singapore, most arriving after the 1880s. When they got here from China, they found that the Chinese enclave west of the Singapore River was already occupied by Hokkiens, Teochews and Cantonese. So, they settled in the plot between the European Town and Arab Village. The three streets - Seah Street, Purvis Street and Middle Road bonded by North Bridge Road and Beach Road made up the Hainanese enclave. Middle Road was known as Hainan First Street, Purvis Street second and Seah Street the third.

Of course, this entire part of Singapore is almost entirely transformed (casino and all) but Yet Con hasn't changed as quickly, and is like a living time capsule.

It's that old charm and chicken rice history that attracted me here today.



We walked in at 11:15am on Vesak Day (stated opening hour was 10:00am). Stepping inside Yet Con brought instant relief from the blistering sun outside. 

A group of 5 or 6 middle aged men and women huddled around a table deep inside the long narrow restaurant, chatting in Hainanese, of course. The inside looked dark as most lights were off and we came in from blazing sunlight. One of the men waved us away nonchalantly, "Still not opened", he told the outsiders in Mandarin.

We retreated back into the harsh mid-day sun and crossed over to Chin Chin 津津 chicken rice which was just opposite Yet Con on the same (Purvis) Street.

(We reviewed Chin Chin 津津 chicken rice in a separate post.)

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When we came back after lunching at Chin Chin, Yet Con was already opened for the day.

Inside, things were arranged neatly, very clean, very well kept like old school kopitiams of the 1960s. Dark wood and marble top kopitiam furniture. Wood framed mirror. Terrazzo flooring. Only the air con reminded us that we are in modern day Singapore. 

The owners and people who work at Yet Con are obviously very attached to this institution. I believe it's the same sentiments for Yet Con's loyal following too.

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Poached chicken were sitting at the window, air cooling in the old Hainanese style.

As we already ate lunch at Chin Chin, we ordered an one person set at Yet Con to share and taste.

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The plate of chicken when it came, neither looked photogenic nor appetising. The meat's colour looked anaemic, the skin looked dry and it was cut in thin long strips. I like my chicken in big juicy chunks. The chicken was also served without any dressing sauce.

(Heavily flavoured dressing sauce is now stock of trade of average chicken rice stalls in Singapore to mask tasteless chicken meat.)

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The chicken flesh was cooked to the bone but not overdone. The meat served at (air con) room temperature was tender, moist but not juicy and was slightly fibrous. 

But, the chicken flavour 鸡味 was pronounced and this alone was enough to win me over.

Actually, it was the reputation of this old school chicken served without any dressing sauce that brought me here, and here Yet Con lived up to high expectations.

People who are accustomed to heavily scented and flavoured dressing sauces may find Yet Con's chicken "tasteless". Others who do not like the natural flavour of fresh chicken 鸡味 may find Yet Con's chicken too "chickeny" (if there is such a word :P ).

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While the chicken rice was not cooked with premium grains and it was not fluffy, it was tender and the most flavourful and aromatic of commercial chicken rice that I have come across, so far.

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The condiments - ginger dip, chili dip, light soy sauce, and dark soy sauce. I didn't use any of these to dip the chicken as I wanted to taste the chicken meat neat.

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I did taste the chili and ginger dips so that I can tell you about it :P  Both dips were watery. The chili dip had vinegar which made it watery, sour and spicy. The ginger dip was lumpy and lost most of its flavour and texture from soaking too long in the watery solution.

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The boss sat quietly at the cash counter and did not move from here the whole time. That old orange coin phone, the wood grained Formica lined counter, the empty glass panel (for displaying photos) and the even the boss felt familiar, from an older quieter, more relaxed, sleepy era. 
 
Our chicken rice set costs SGD5.80 (2014 price).

Some people may not like the attitude here but I like it that this place has attitude.



A history of Singapore chicken rice 👈 click

Singapore-Chicken-Rice-Yet-Con-Purvis-Street-逸群鸡饭

Restaurant name: Yet Con Chicken Rice 逸群鸡饭
Address: 25 Purvis Street (near Raffles Hotel), Singapore
Maphttp://goo.gl/maps/1pcvq
GPS: 1.296345,103.855433
Hours: 10:00am to 10:00pm
Tel: 6337 6819


Non Halal

Date visited: 13 May 2014





Yet Con is closed. Only memories remain.



Please share your memories of Yet Con Chicken Rice




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2 comments:

  1. I love your closing statement :D As a kid my parents brought me to both Yet Con and Chin Chin and it's no wonder that my favourite dish of all time is chicken rice! Isn't everybody's though?

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