Some time ago, NTV7 and Guan Ming Ribao apparently had a TV show to select the Top 10 chicken rice restaurants in Malaysia. I never watched the show on TV but have read about it on various blogs. I could not find it on Youtube so if you know the link, please let me know.
I've learnt over the years that chicken rice is more than just the chicken and the rice. It's also in the condiments (chilli and ginger sauce), cucumber (raw or pickled) and soup (usually made using the discarded parts of the chicken and some have a herbal element) and even the way the chicken is chopped. The chicken has to be free range or kampung chicken as the normal broiler chicken is too soft and fatty for this purpose. The steamed or white chicken makes the authentic Hainanese chicken rice, but most vendors also sell the roasted chicken and pork (char siew and siew yoke) or roasted duck. Some have braised chicken or duck, sesame chicken, pork sausage (siew cheong) and braised chicken feet. The variations are seemingly endless.
For me, the rice is one the critical tests of a good chicken rice - when cooked in chicken stock, the rice becomes flavorful by itself and can even be eaten without the chicken. All these components make a truly good chicken rice. For the purpose of this blog entry, I will try to stick with the Hainanese style chicken i.e. the steamed chicken.
Unfortunately, Nan Xing in Kota Kinabalu is not in the Top 10 list, perhaps because they are defunct. Of the Top 10 list, I've tried only 3, the latest being Kedai Kopi Kok Beng in Taiping. I must admit that when I stepped into the place, I did not know it was one of the Top10. But with walls plastered with photos proclaiming it's claim to fame, it is difficult not to be aware of this point. A steady stream of customers also attests its popularity with the discerning Taiping folk. The chicken was firm and had a nice bite and the rice was tasty and flavourful. But the chilli sauce provided was not outstanding, although it did pack a punch on the heat level. I liked the soup which was peppery and hot, thanks to the use of old ginger. Pretty good and worth a try when in Taiping.
Next is Fatty Loh at Fettes Park in Penang. I've been here many years ago (15 years ago?) during their heydays and also more recently and frankly, I was not impressed. It was decent enough but certainly not memorable enough to be on the Top 10 ? My friend from Penang swears that it's the best on the island so that may be the reason why it was included.
Our favorite chicken rice in Kajang is a temperamental chap who operates near the Kajang wet market car park. His char siew and roast duck are actually better than his chicken. The rice is tasty from cooking in chicken stock, but go early before it runs out.