Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice @ Maxwell Market

Let me start by saying that I absolutely adore chicken rice. In fact, I would go so far as to say that despite the wide variety of excellent food on this little island, chicken rice is my favourite! Ok, so it’s a tough fight between chicken rice, prawn mee and Cantonese-style roasted pork, but I think chicken rice still comes out tops. I go out of my way to eat it and when I am in the don’t-quite-know-what-to-eat mood, well…I eat chicken rice! It should therefore come as no surprise that I take my chicken rice very very seriously. What is surprising, at least to me, is that despite my love for this local delight, I have never sampled the offerings of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, a hawker stall situated in Maxwell Market.

For the uninitiated, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice is a stall of significant pedigree, whose culinary mark is etched firmly on Singapore’s “best of” food trail. It is not only celebrated in Singapore, but has an international reputation as well. How is that you may ask? Well, apart from the fact that Tian Tian has been favourably reviewed by notable food critic Anthony Bourdain, it was also chosen as one of the three local hawker stalls to challenge Gordon Ramsay in the Hawker Heroes Challenge which took place in July 2013. Despite Singtel’s shenanigans, and the urge to label the entire challenge as a publicity stunt, the fact that the public voted Tian Tian as being the stall to represent Singapore itself speaks volumes of the quality of the food – not to mention that Tian Tian eventually won.
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So – given that I love chicken rice and that Tian Tian is one of the best known hawker stalls offering the dish, I find it ridiculous that I had never tried it – until today that is. The fact is that I’ve always gotten my chicken rice fix elsewhere and it was only today, when I dropped Joline off at Club Street, that I took the opportunity to try out the chicken rice at Tian Tian.
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I saw the stall, queued up and ordered. Sat down with a $5 plate (extra meat) but, before I even started eating, noticed how different the chicken looked – the skin was practically glowing! After the first bite, I can say that this chicken rice is one of the best I’ve eaten. I say “one of” because I’m not quite sure if I am ready to commit myself like that – as they say, the “Best is Yet To Be” 😉 Poor puns aside, Tian Tian has seriously good chicken rice.

What’s good about it you may ask? Well, there’s actually a formula to assessing the quality of chicken rice. By way of analogy, cooking the perfect chicken rice is like taking a properly exposed picture – in the case of the latter, you need to perfectly tune shutter speed, lens aperture and sensor sensitivity (measured in ISO) in order to get a good (or at least a properly exposed) photo. In the case of chicken rice, the golden triumvirate of chicken, rice and chilli will determine whether your chicken rice empire rises or falls.

In this case, all three pillars on which Tian Tian’s chicken rice is built justified the stall’s reputation as serving excellent chicken rice. The garlic chilli was spicy enough, the rice was fluffy and choc-full of flavour and the chicken…oh the chicken. It was tender, succulent, thick (but not overly so) with skin that was perfectly cooked, perfectly seasoned and served slightly chilled – just the way I like it. Beautiful.

Rating: 5 / 5

I can now finally say I have tried Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and was left thoroughly sated by the experience (at least for a while). I wouldn’t venture to say that it is the best I have tried because there are just so many other places which I also love, but it was certainly one of the best. I look forward to my next visit there! If you, like me, love chicken rice, this is a die die must try along with:

1) The Hainanese boneless chicken rice stall at level 5 of Far East Plaza (just at the top of the escalator)

2) The soya sauce chicken rice stall at level 1 of the Arcade in Raffles Place. Their chilli is oh-so-amazing as is their roast pork (runs out very quickly so better buy it fast!)

3) Boon Tong Kee’s chicken rice! In particular, the chicken and the chilli are amazing

4) Wee Nam Kee Chicken rice at Novena! They’ve moved but I’m not sure where…Shouldn’t be too hard to find

5) Chatterbox Chicken Rice – pricey but good.

If you have any suggestions on other excellent places to eat chicken rice, do not hesitate to PM me or leave a comment – I will be eternally grateful for solid recommendations!

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All images captured with the Leica M (typ 240) & Leica 50mm f/1.4 Summilux ASPH. All rights reserved.

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