Thursday, 5 August 2010

Top 10 Chicken Rice in Malaysia


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. 
 
A selection of meats and steamed chicken  
The best chicken rice I have eaten was actually in Kota Kinabalu. This was back in 1998 after a climb up Mt Kinabalu and I spent a few days after the descent exploring KK with my colleagues Derek and Chua. We chanced upon a restaurant behind the Nan Xing Hotel called the Nan Xing Restaurant. The condiments here comprised a tangy chili sauce and a preserved (yes, it was salted and preserved in a large ceramic jar!)  ginger sauce. The cucumbers were sliced lengthwise and pickled in vinegar and sugar, giving it a lovely piquancy. The chicken soup was thick and flavorful. The steamed chicken had a suitable bite - not the soft broiler variety. But the star was the rice, which was so flavorful, we all called for second servings. And the free flow of condiments was a blessing for Derek who finished off about half the bottle of chilli sauce. It was so good, we went back again the next day, but we were late (maybe 1.00 p.m) and the flavorful rice was sold out - so we had to settle for white rice. On more recent visits, I found that the restaurant had closed (or moved?). None of the locals I spoke to seem to know whats happened to the operators, which is a real pity. Any readers from KK who know about their present whereabouts would gain my eternal indebtedness if you could point me in the direction!

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. 
Chicken rice balls, famous in Malacca
Hoe Kee's chicken rice ball in Malacca get my vote for the taste of the rice. Hands down their hand rolled rice balls are the tastiest I have eaten anywhere in Malaysia. And the chicken is tasty. But they lose points for the chopping of the chicken, which usually arrives at the table in strands or in bits. I'm not sure if this is done intentionally ?

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.


4 comments:

  1. Yeah, I'm still not yet tasted a 'Good' chicken rice in Johor Bahru. Most of them are just average...
    Hope you can post up the Top 10 list, then I will start my hunting. :)

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  2. The Jalan Gasing, Ipoh Chicken Rice Restaurant gets my vote. My benchmark - kampung chicken, steamed/boiled - natural taste. The other one will be Patrick Teoh's Ipoh chicken available in Imbi and Damansara. And of course, don't forget the Sunshine Chicken available at Restaurant Fung Seng Lao, Kuala Lipis. Remember, its the chicken, not the cooking that makes the difference. My 2 cents worth.

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  3. If I were to rate Melaka's chicken rice, I would give the chicken a big F- (yes F Minus). The rice ball is passable. It's the chicken, not so much the rice.

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  4. Anonymous,

    I have to agree with you on this one. The balls are innovative and has some taste, but the chicken is nothing to shout about. Having eaten tasty chicken over the last 2 years, I'll give the Melaka Chicken Balls Rice a pass.

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