Hainan Chicken-What's the fuss about?

This may sound blasphemous but I don’t see where the adulation for this simple dish derives from. I realize it’s a comfort food staple and one of the national dishes of Singapore, but after trying it at 2 of the most well regarded restaurants in the San Gabriel Valley (Savoy in Alhambra and Green Zone in San Gabriel) which is just east of Los Angeles and one of the largest concentrations of Asian immigrants in the US, I came away both times underwhelmed. Perhaps this dish isn’t meant to overpower and excite your taste buds but as a huge enthusiast of every Chicken dish imaginable I can’t help but feel this dish is overrated. Was I supposed to mix all 3 sauces and douse it over the chicken? Anyhow it’s just chicken and rice immersed in chicken stock and the flavor was what I expected, obviously this is simply a personal opinion but wanted to hear other’s chime in about this lauded dish to perhaps help me gain some perspective.

I agree that it’s not a ‘flavor bomb’. But I love it for its simplicity and comfort food aspect of it.



I tried it at green zone in Pasadena a little while ago, also not being previously familiar with it.

I found a lot to appreciate. The rice was really well cooked flavorful all on its own, and the chicken was delicious and tender. I liked each of the sauces, and had fun trying different combinations with each bite.

I can easily see where this is one of those dishes that has a wide latitude of ‘right’ but also has some very definite ways to go wrong. And getting something done simply JUST right is a worthy thing itself. Like good bread or good chicken soup.

Also, Green Zone had Pu-erh tea which I haven’t often seen served in restaurants.

I have no idea who you are, but I do know you’re beating this topic to death cuz we all SEE YOUR POST ON CHOWHOUND.

People have already knocked your op-Ed down there, and now you feel like you have to resurrect the tropic here.

Hey, you don’t get Hainan chicken rice. A million other people on this planet do. Perhaps readjust your POV, or just…


I agree. I don’t understand the popularity of this unremarkable dish.

1 Like

Leave my Hainan Britney alone? Or should I say Wenchan Britney?

1 Like

Delicious rice + delicious sauce + delicious chicken = delicious


i admit that i look through LA CH once a week just to see how barren it is. i almost responded to that thread as it was almost like watching a slow painful death. i even wondered if he was a CH shill just baiting some of us to respond.

while great care should be exercised in how the chicken and rice are prepared, the sauces matter; .between the dark soy (which is less salty and more sweet), the ginger, chili & lime (and other ingredients you may choose to incorporate) you have the sweet, spicy, sour, salty umami essences combining - and the best part is that you control the balance and proportions of the combination to match your personal palate. had you observed other people eating, you would have probably observed that no one used the same proportions. savoy cafe provides as much as you want of every sauce. i think i used an ecclesiastical analogy (which the OP would have found in the CH archives) involving baptism - the presbyterian approach involves just sprinkling while baptists would go for total immersion. whatever it takes to get you into food heaven, man. and it’s a deeply personal experience.

i made chicken rice meal just a few days ago. i trimmed the fat off some fresh chicken thighs and sauteed the rice in it with a little garlic before putting the rice into a rice cooker with a steamer section where i steamed the thighs so the drippings leeched into the rice as it steamed.

my personal sauce is a mix of , dark soy, lime juice, sugar, sesame oil, (minced) garlic, serrano chile, scallion, cilantro. sometimes i get lazy leave out the garlic & chiles and add a squirt of srichicha (sp?). . and i put several tablespoons of it on each piece of chicken. toisan chicken rice.

that dinner was probably the most satisfying meal of the week and i ate pretty well last week…


you don’t understand how much I LOVE THE media embedding features, cuz… MEMES ERRDAY like a Millenial.

I’m not even saying Hainan chix is a deathbed food, just wanted to mock the double posting, and therefore, throw shade at CH’s slow death.

Also, I’m apologizing to OP since I’m being beyond hypocritical; used to (ahh fuggit, I still do) eat at new-to-me Pilipino joints and just put them all blast for being absolute shat. Azon’s was probably the worst meal I had in '15.

1 Like

I’ve had great Hainan chicken rice at a couple of now-closed Singaporean places.The key is very flavorful chicken broth made from an old hen, not the easiest thing to find in the US. The rice ends up with a deep chicken flavor and doesn’t really need condiments.

The old hen from the broth will be dry and tough so that’s discarded. The chicken served with the rice can be poached in the broth or steamed. Some places serve the rice and chicken separately, some include a bowl of broth on the side.

I’ve had quite a few other versions that didn’t have enough flavor in the rice to be interesting.

1 Like

So, the guy’s not allowed to post his query in two locations? Your attempts to “throw shade” at CH actually threw shade (I’m dying a little inside even typing that) at the OP.

Perhaps someone on here could steer him to another location where he actually might appreciate the dish. Personally, I agree with the OP and find Hainan chicken and rice to be disappointingly bland every time I’ve had it.


There are a fair number of people that post on multiple websites with the same post. Maybe just looking for an answer.


Hainan chicken is the In’n’Out of the Orient

1 Like

Hey no offense to the shade thrown my way for posting this again as well as previously on chowhound haha. Anyhow I guess I have to just realize it’s not my cup of tea, no big deal. As usual, expectations being set too high for such a simple dish usually leads to disappointment. It’s not that I didn’t enjoy the dish but that I guess I was expecting it to be like crack by the way I’ve heard and read so many asians stress how this is one of their most favorite comfort food staples.

I’d rather have the chicken with the greasy hot crack sauce at Dino’s on Pico but that’s a totally different disk of course haha

There is nothing that anybody could do to a chicken, especially an ordinary cheap chicken, that is going to make it one of my favorite foods. I’d be interested in trying Hainan jidori chicken though.

Jidori chicken in the US is basically “ordinary” chicken.

“Counter to popular belief, here in LA, Jidori chicken is not the Kobe beef of chicken – it’s just fresh chicken from good California ranchers. In Japan, Jidori chickens are of a special breed, but not so in this country, where it comes from Mao Foods, a local company, right up the street from us, which has trademarked the term “Jidori Chicken.”’It’s not a breed,’ admits Dennis Mao, the company’s owner and founder. ‘The story is, it’s my brand … It’s a free-range chicken that I would [deliver to chefs] fresh.”


There are other more flavorful breeds of chicken out there. Much more flavorful but the meat is also tougher which is why you see the more domesticated breeds with more breast meat and more tender meat (less excercise, less flavor) being used.

1 Like

The Chicken Rice in Singapore is different than the Chicken Rice you get here (and even in China from what I understand). The chickens they use there are barely cooked through, to the point of being almost pink inside. They cook them quickly and then shock them in cold water to keep the fat in place. even the roast chicken versions aren’t overcooked or dry. Plus the chilli sauce Savoy serves is different than the ones I’ve had in Singapore over the years – the chillies we get here are a different varieties than what’s there. It’s not as hot, and not as vinegary.

I haven’t had the Green zone version, but I looked at the website and their chilli sauce doesn’t look right and Singaporean chicken rice doesn’t come with lemongrass rice. Seems like theirs is an interpretation of the dish.

I normally just make chicken rice at home because we just don’t have a good Singaporean version out here in LA. the rice is supposed to be cooked with chicken fat and chicken stock and lots of garlic and ginger. That’s where the flavor comes from. When you eat it, you drizzle some of the thick soy sauce over the rice, and mix in your chilli sauce and ginger sauce as you eat. There’s also versions where you mix soy sauce, sesame oil and chicken stock together and pour it over the cut chicken before serving, then use that sauce instead of thick soy sauce. That’s the version we prefer in our house.

It’s a simple dish, but very flavorful if done right.

Some samples of Singaporean Style Chicken Rice from the web:


Now I want to try other versions. As I said, I’m not at all familiar with it beyond that J. Gold review touting it at Green Zone.

Savoy, huh? Any please else on the list?

if you don’t like the Singaporean style Hainan chicken, many SE asian countries have their own take.

VN style hainan chicken uses a ginger + fish sauce instead of the 3-sauce style.

The dish is Hainan chicken rice, not Hainan chicken. The chicken served with it is just poached or steamed.