SeeFoon Debates the Merits of Chicken Rice in Ipoh

This week I am deconstructing Chicken Rice (CR) and debating the merits of what constitutes a good one. I know that ultimately it's the combination of all the constituents that make this iconic dish so-so, mediocre, good or brilliant.

This week I am deconstructing Chicken Rice (CR) and debating the merits of what constitutes a good one. I know that ultimately it’s the combination of all the constituents that make this iconic dish so-so, mediocre, good or brilliant.

When I first moved to Ipoh 24 years ago (yes it’s been that long but feels like the blink of an eye!) I never found a chicken rice I liked. Mind you, I was so busy tasting all the other Ipoh iconic foods that I forgot my homegrown Singaporean rave food . . . chicken rice.

I still remember Swee Kee in Singapore; for me as a child, the big treat and big outing, when I used to stuff myself with all the chicken my little tummy could eat as well as all the divine gizzard, liver and, guess what, they had then – chicken intestines! We were one country then; no question of whether it originated in Singapore or Malaysia. It was our iconic dish. Albeit popularized by the Hainan Chinese and titivated locally.

Today, with some of the ongoing one-upmanship going on between the two neighbours clamouring for recognition on which dishes belong to whom, we have lost some emphasis on taste.

This is where our individual palates come into play. My daughter, for example, judges chicken rice on the smoothness of the chicken, its juiciness, its plumpness; next in importance for her, is the rice, each grain separate, firm and broth infused. Dipping sauce for her is unimportant as she loves the black sauce over her rice.

As for me, my first criteria whether I’ll return for a second meal lies in the dipping sauce. I went once on a chicken rice frenzy while in Singapore and visited five shops/stalls in five days. Only one remains my go-to CR in Singapore today. And it’s all because of the dipping sauce. All the CR stalls I visited bar this one, had added sugar to the traditional chilli sauce and some not even offering the de rigueur ginger sauce with it saying, “It’s already mixed in lah”.

Here in Ipoh I decided to go on another Chicken Rice frenzy and went over a period of two weeks to innumerable places. So these are the 5 Top and remembering that these are based on my subjective palate and some of you dear readers may disagree with me and I would welcome your comments on these.

5 Top Chicken Rice eating places I would go for my CR dose:

Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice

Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice
Restoran Sam Ma Chicken Rice

I have a hard time deciding on whether Sam Ma (non-air-con) or Pak Kong is the top choice for me for a quick bite. Both have juicy chicken, with Pak Kong being slightly more tender and both their chilli sauce is not sweetened with their minced ginger sauce abundantly available. This I will ladle onto my rice and happily eat that alone if not for the temptation of the chicken. Both places have a choice of Kampung chicken and regular chicken, and the chicken broth in both is tasty and umami. The oil rice in both is umami, each grain intact but well cooked through. The one distinction I would make between the two CR outlets is that Pak Kong is so popular at lunchtime that it involves getting there before 12pm and possibly still queuing for a short while. Sam Ma and Pak Kong: Single portion RM5.50. Each of these outlets has their speciality add-ons so do look at their menus.

Sam Ma Chicken Rice,
3 Jalan S.A. Lingam,
Taman Ipoh Selatan,
31400 Ipoh.

Contact: 017 756 8562
Thursday-Tuesday 11am-3pm, 6pm-9pm
Closed on Wednesday

Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong

Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong
Restoran Nasi Ayam Pak Kong

Pak Kong Chicken Rice
27 Jalan Theatre,
Taman Jubilee,
31400 Ipoh.

Contact: 012 588 6618
Daily 11.15am-4pm

Restoran Hainam

Restoran Hainam Chicken Rice Ipoh
Restoran Hainam Chicken Rice Ipoh

Restoran Hainam has been around for a long time and I have to admit that their quality is not on the same level as the two previous outlets above. However, their saving grace is that if you feel like chicken rice at 4pm or 9pm they are there and ready to serve and it is air-conditioned as a respite from the heat and if you’re hankering for CR. Single portion RM7.80.

Restaurant Hainam
75-77 Jalan Mustapha Al-Bakri,
Taman Jubilee, 30300 Ipoh.

Contact: 05 242 8762
Daily 11am-10pm

Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant

The Haven's Chicken Rice Ipoh
The Haven’s Chicken Rice in Ipoh

Next, we come to the “Atas” places for chicken rice, well-appointed, elegant and even worth the drive and trouble of getting in as in the Haven’s Cuisine restaurant. Here the chicken rice is long-grain-fragrant rice; the broth is umami and safe for me to eat as they promise no MSG; the chicken ‘Wu So Gai’ or bearded chicken is off the bone and you can choose white meat or thigh dark meat and the dipping sauces similar to my childhood nostalgic tastes. Alas, the price is high at RM32 per portion. But the ambience more than makes up for the cost. Pork-free.

The Haven's Cuisine Restaurant
The Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant

Haven’s Cuisine Restaurant
Jalan Haven, Persiaran Lembah Perpaduan,
31150 Ipoh.

Contact: 05 540 0000
Daily 7am-10.30pm

*Haven’s chicken rice only available on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Sundays *Call ahead and give your car number and time of arrival. This is a must.

STG Tea House Cafe

STG Hainanese Rice Ipoh
STG Hainanese Rice Ipoh

Finally, we have STG, the beautiful bungalow to dine in style. Here their chicken rice is yellow and umami, their broth chock full with vegetables, their chilli sauce and thick ginger sauce pungent with a kick and service is attentive and with style. Per portion RM24. Pork-free.

So now dear readers, you have a choice of CR outlets to suit your pocket and palate. Or if you have the time and inclination. . . try them all.

STG Bungalow Ipoh
STG Bungalow Ipoh

STG Bungalow
2 Jalan Taman Kinta,
Taman Chateau,
30250 Ipoh.

Contact: 05 255 0188
Daily 11am-11pm

 

 

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