Johor Kaki Travels for Food

Tony Boey johorkaki@gmail 🇸🇬 Dairy of Singapore active senior. Best years of food, travel, lifestyle

Kuala Lumpur Nam Heong Chicken Rice in Chinatown @ Jalan Sultan 南香鸡饭

I have been hesitating about whether to write this post. Nam Heong Chicken Rice founded in 1938 is to KL what the original Swee Kee is to Singapore chicken rice. By most accounts, today's Nam Heong Chicken Rice is but a pale shadow of its heydays but I have to have a record of my own impressions of such an iconic and historically important part of Malaysian food history.

Nam Heong Chicken Rice is at Jalan Sultan in KL's Chinatown. It was originally a typical Hainanese kopitiam (coffee shop) founded by three immigrants from Hainan, China. Hainanese being late comers to British Malaya, often ended up in F & B, cooking in coffee shops, English homes and also on board ship kitchens.

Old Nam Heong was serving the usual Nanyang kopi, soft boiled eggs and kaya toasts. Then, Hainanese chicken rice was added to the menu. Soon, chicken rice became the top seller and gradually, the coffee shop morphed into a chicken rice shop in response to customer demand.

During its heydays, Nam Heong Chicken Rice restaurant was stuffy and hot inside. It was grimy, gritty, noisy and chaotic but it was always packed to the rafters. Nam Heong was widely recognised as the best chicken rice shop in Malaysia.

Since it was sold in Sept 2012 to Esquire Kitchen, a leading F & B group in Malaysia for RM5 million, Nam Heong Chicken Rice shop was modernised and made much more comfortable with air conditioning and all. Several branch outlets opened around KL. 

At the historic KL Chinatown shop, I ordered a chicken drumstick set and a plate of chicken feet (something I must have, whenever it is available). Price was around RM13 plus (I lost the receipt).

Nam Heong's chicken are made with fresh kampung chicken 菜园鸡 which are poached every morning at the shop.

The drumstick served deboned and in large chunks checked all the right boxes. ✅ Tender ✅ Juicy ✅ Smooth ✅ Have a bit of chew to the bite ✅ Natural chicky sweetness ✅ Complementary mild savoury aromatic dressing sauce.

The chicken feet skin was disappointing. Perhaps, it was near closing time, the skin was soft, limp and waterlogged with tasteless liquid. There was none of the tender crunch that I was expecting. The sauce was sourish sweet spicy.

The chicken rice had a nice yellowish sheen. It was aromatic and nicely savoury sweet. The rice was moist and subtly nutty.

The chicken rice is cooked by boiling rice grains in chicken stock with condiments and fragrant pandan leaves. A bit of margarine gave the rice its yellowish sheen and greasy slick.

Nice mildly spicy savoury grated ginger dip.

The chili sauce (no photo) was a sourish spicy blend of lime juice and chili pepper.

Service was efficient - wasn't warm, wasn't rude (perversely, old timer service can be famously yet charmingly brusque).

👉 I took a long time before deciding to post this because though the chicken rice was sufficiently tasty, it wasn't very memorable. I decided to go ahead because I wanted to record my personal experience of the most famous chicken rice of KL (Chop Chung Wah chicken rice ball in Malacca is probably the most famous in whole Malaysia?).

Come to think of it, Nam Heong Chicken Rice is now a bit like its parent company, Esquire Kitchen. Whenever I needed some place to eat in KL that is conveniently accessible, clean, comfortable, reasonably priced and the food is tasty enough, we often settled for Esquire Kitchen. It's a safe choice - never disappoints, no one ever complains after eating but it just doesn't make one crave about coming back specially for it. Yet, I will not be surprised to find myself back at an Esquire Kitchen outlet again. 

Today's Nam Heong Chicken Rice is something like that to me.

What's missing?

No soul?

Restaurant name: Nam Heong Chicken Rice 南香鸡饭
Address56, Jalan Sultan, City Centre, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (10 minutes walk from Pasar Seni MRT / LRT station)
GPS3°08'36.7"N 101°41'55.0"E | 3.143536, 101.698618
Tel+60 3-2078 5879 | +60 3-2022 3818
Hours: 10:00am - 3:00pm

Date visited: 4 Jun 2018

👆 Disclaimer: The person in the video is not me hor........ .

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I share hoping that everyone will have a good time but your experience may differ from mine. I love to know how you enjoyed yourself or if you didn't. All comments with genuine identities are published.