A Hainan Chicken Rice Journey - Savoy, Mee & Greet, Cluck2Go, Side Chick, Green Zone, Tasty Food, Auntie Ping [Thoughts + Pics]

#1

Hainan Chicken Rice: A seemingly simple dish of Poached Chicken over a bed of fluffy Rice infused with Chicken Stock & Fat and some accompanying dipping sauces has many fans the world over. It felt like the perfect excuse to gather friends and go on another journey. :slight_smile:

Savoy Kitchen

We had to start at Savoy Kitchen, the OG restaurant that we (and all of our friends on this journey) first tried Hainan Chicken Rice years ago (thanks to our old board). It had been a good 3+ years since we last visited, so we were curious how it was nowadays.

Hainan Chicken Rice (Rice Steamed with Chicken Broth. Poached Chicken Served With Ginger and Chili Sauce):

The Poached Chicken tastes a bit overcooked, meatier, but still tender compared to some of the places on this journey.

The Chicken Rice had a very light Chicken scent, but not very memorable. We remembered it tasting better on our last visit a few years ago.

However, the one thing that everyone agreed on was that Savoy’s trio of Dipping Sauces were delicious and really elevated the dish. The Ginger Sauce was phenomenal, not too salty and when applied on the Poached Chicken and some of the Rice… just made for a happy bite of deliciousness! :blush:

The Chili Sauce tasted really balanced and housemade (not like some of the places on this journey). It had a kick, but nothing too severe, and also really accentuated the flavor of the Poached Chicken in a different way. The Soy Sauce-based Dipping Sauce was pretty tasty as well.

But something even more noteworthy was that all 3 Sauces could combine with each other and actually complement each other. It was fun (and delicious) to mix and match, adding some of the Ginger Sauce with the spicy Chili Sauce, or some of the Chili Sauce with some of the sweet Soy Sauce, etc., and the flavors elevated the Chicken and Rice.

2nd Visit:

To make sure, we got our friends to join us on a follow-up visit as well a week later. :slight_smile:

Hainan Chicken Rice:

This tasted just like the previous visit: A meatier (slightly overcooked), but still tender Poached Chicken, so-so Chicken Rice, but their trio of Ginger, Chili and Sweet Soy Sauce really made the dish better than it should be. It really elevated the final taste. :slight_smile:

(Cash Only)

Savoy Kitchen
138 E. Valley Blvd.
Alhambra, CA 91801
Tel: (626) 308-9535

Tasty Food

(Note: We actually tried out Tasty Food about 3 months earlier (before our friends joined us), and this 2nd visit was pretty much the same.)

Located inside the GW Supermarket (there was no signage outside), it’s actually found at their Food Court inside:

The interesting thing about Tasty Food is that they seem to be run by some tech savvy hamsters. They’re on social media with their own Instagram account. They have a chalkboard in front of the food stall with a “Hainan Chicken Schedule”(!) and proclaiming they were one of the “20 Best Chinese Restaurants” by Eater.

It should be noted that while we’re all happy eating in hole-in-the-wall places, or off a food truck, the Food Court public tables for Tasty Food were filthy and pretty disgusting. :frowning: Grease covered tables, food on the floor, a slight stench throughout. :nauseated_face:

Hainan Chicken Rice:

Tasty Food’s Hainan Chicken Rice arrives served with Corn & Egg Drop Soup (huh?), some Chinese Pickled Vegetables as well as the Hainan Chicken itself.

Thankfully, the actual Poached Chicken tastes fresh and is more tender than Savoy. The Rice itself is pretty average, though, with barely any Chicken flavor.

The trio of Dipping Sauces are disappointing. Tasty Food’s Ginger-based Sauce is more of a Green Onion & Ginger Sauce, which is fine (I love Green Onions), but it’s too salty. The Chili Sauce tastes like Sriracha cut with some other manufactured condiment, and it did not stand on its own. The Soy Sauce was a disappointment. :frowning:

Their other claim-to-fame is making a “Fried Hainan Chicken Rice” which sounded… wrong, but we decided to try it since we were here already.

Fried Hainan Chicken Rice:

As noted by some FTC’ers, this Fried version can take anywhere from 20 - 40 minutes(!) to make depending on how backed up they are. It doesn’t seem that hard (heck, Kagura can belt out a Chicken Katsu Rice Plate in 10 minutes, why does this take 20 - 40 minutes, I have no idea).

When it arrived, I think we all asked each other, “Isn’t this just a Taiwanese Chicken Cutlet Rice?” :sweat_smile: :expressionless:

Taking a bite, it tastes like salty Fried Chicken Strips, seasoned mainly of Salt with maybe some other subtle seasoning in the background. It was barely crunchy, sort of soft, and rather underwhelming. :frowning:

To make matters worse: Looking underneath the “Fried Hainan Chicken Rice”… it’s served with… Fried Rice. Wha…?!

We were all baffled. How is this dish anything like “Hainan Chicken Rice” if it’s Deep Fried Chicken Strips, served with (mushy, soggy, mediocre) Fried Rice (with Peas & Corn)?! :roll_eyes: :sweat: :grimacing:

The answer? It isn’t.

Just a terrible hamster marketing campaign to try and dupe people into thinking this is something more than it actually is: Just a mediocre Fried Chicken Cutlet plate.

Tasty Food’s actual Hainan Chicken Rice had a solid Poached Chicken that was tender and fresh (better than Savoy), but the Rice itself, the trio of Dipping Sauces and the accompaniments (Corn & Egg Soup, Chinese Pickled Vegetables) were our least favorite of any of the places we visited on this journey.

Add to that, the filthy Food Court dining area, stench, and totally misleading “Fried Hainan Chicken Rice,” and Tasty Food was just a disappointment.

Tasty Food
8150 Garvey Ave. #117c
Rosemead, CA 91770
Tel: (626) 569-1867

http://www.tastyfood626.com/

Side Chick

Side Chick is the brick & mortar version of the Hainan Chicken Pop-Up from Chinatown that FTC’ers reported on awhile ago. Located inside the Santa Anita Mall (next to Din Tai Fung’s new flagship), we were curious how it’s developed since it first opened.

(We had previously visited Side Chick about 8 - 10 months ago, and it was a bit disappointing, so we were hopeful things improved. In each of our visits, Sergio was nowhere to be found.)

Hainan Chicken (with Garlic Rice, Seasoned Cucumbers, Ginger Scallion Sauce, Seasoned Soy & Chili Sauce):

The Poached Chicken was tender, and definitely the best quality so far on the journey (better than Savoy and Tasty Food). However on this visit, the white meat was a bit overcooked and mealy (just a bit), but overall still better than the rest.

The Garlic Rice as Side Chick calls it, is certainly garlicky, but digging deeper into the Rice, it’s well cooked and has a real Chicken flavor which was delicious. :slight_smile: (It should be noted however, that it also was the heaviest of all of the Rice executions, making most of us feel very full / satiated afterwards (probably because of the amount of Chicken Fat in the Rice). :sweat_smile:

The trio of Dipping Sauces were good: The Ginger & Scallion Sauce was a touch salty, but otherwise a great accompaniment to the Poached Chicken. The Seasoned Soy Sauce was distinct, and the Chili Sauce had some heat and tasted made in-house (vs. just using mass manufactured hot sauces cut with other sauces).

The one note is that all 3 sauces didn’t really work well together, like they did at Savoy, but otherwise, these were solid.

Chicken Bone Broth:

The Chicken Bone Broth is cooked for 24 hours and has a real Chicken essence and flavor coming through. It’s not as delicate or sublime as a pure Consomme or a great Pho Ga broth like at HP Pho Ga Bac Ninh, but it’s not meant to be like that. It was a good pairing with the Hainan Chicken.

Fried Chicken Wings:

Were crunchy, freshly fried and well seasoned, topped with Fried Garlic and Green Onions. Delicious. :slight_smile:

2nd Visit (with the group. This was our 4th Visit.):

On this visit, the staff looked different from our last visit. The staff in the kitchen area looked like they were high school students doing this as their part-time job. Joking around, standing around at times.

Hainan Chicken (with Garlic Rice, Seasoned Cucumbers, Ginger Scallion Sauce, Seasoned Soy & Chili Sauce):

The Poached Chicken looked sloppily plated, and some parts of it looked like a totally different Chicken from our last visit (compare the pics). This was a bit more overcooked, but still generally tender.

The Garlic Rice was still as tasty as before, the most full-flavored Chicken (and Garlic) essence of all the places so far, but still just as heavy afterwards. :slight_smile:

The trio of Dipping Sauces tasted as consistent as before, with the Ginger & Scallion Sauce being our favorite pairing.

Fried Chicken Wings:

The Fried Chicken Wings that were piping hot and perfectly crunchy last time were barely crunchy on this visit, tasting like they were fried in older oil and at the wrong temperature, a bit more greasy. :frowning:

Ultimately, Side Chick provides a noteworthy, solid Hainan Chicken Rice compared to the others on this journey. The Poached Chicken was the best quality so far, the “Garlic Rice” was the most flavorful Rice out of all of the places we tried, and the trio of Dipping Sauces were distinct with some standouts.

However, the inconsistencies of the Poached Chicken (both times being slightly overcooked), as well as a bit rougher execution compared to the Pop-Up, makes it less of a strong recommendation than it could’ve been. 2 of our friends on this journey had been with us when Chef Lee had his Hainan Chicken Pop-Up in Chinatown. The current mall staff just don’t cook as well as Chef Lee and we all liked his personally made Hainan Chicken better. :slight_smile:

Side Chick
400 S. Baldwin Ave.
Arcadia, CA 91007
Tel: (626) 688-3879

Cluck2Go

The oddly-named Cluck2Go (perhaps Luv2Eat is starting a new naming trend? :stuck_out_tongue: ) is another newcomer that has garnered some attention. While being new, they are already proclaiming that they are “The Original Hainan Chicken Rice”, a bold statement.

Spicy Cucumber Salad:

This felt a bit unnecessary: A chilled Cucumber Salad (usually with Garlic & Vinegar) is a refreshing commonly found appetizer in the SGV, but dousing it with a bunch of Chili Sauce just makes the “refreshing / cool” aspect go away, leading to a bowl of cold, but hot & spicy Cucumbers. :expressionless:

Hainan Chicken Rice (Rice Steamed in Chicken Broth, Paired with Fresh Poached Chicken. With Ground Ginger Scallion Sauce, Red Chili Sauce, Homemade Sweet Soy Sauce):

The Poached Chicken at Cluck2Go was fine: Slightly overcooked, but tender enough.

The Ginger Scallion Sauce was way too salty. :frowning: The Chili Sauce was just the Ground Ginger with some Chili Oil inside and a bit of tanginess. It was OK, but not distinct like Savoy or Side Chick’s. The Homemade Sweet Soy Sauce was relatively sweet, but didn’t really taste that unique (more like doctored Soy Sauce with some Sugar and other seasonings).

The actual Chicken Broth-flavored Rice was a disaster! It was dried out, and the worst Chicken Rice we had so far. :cry:

Their Chicken Broth that came with the dish tasted like bland Chicken Broth. Not terrible, but not great either.

Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings:

The Salt & Pepper Chicken Wings tasted overly salty, and the Green Onion and Chili Saute on top of the Chicken only added to the salinity.

2nd Visit:

Hainan Chicken Rice:

The Poached Chicken was the same level of doneness, slightly overcooked.

The Rice was thankfully not dried out this time, being slightly moist. On this 2nd visit, the Rice had a light Chicken-y flavor and was better than Savoy. But given that 1st visit being dried out, we’re not sure which version is the norm.

Cluck2Go felt the most middle-of-the-road / safe Hainan Chicken Rice on this journey. Nothing particularly stood out, but nothing was really bad (except the 1st visit’s dried out Rice). If you were in the neighborhood and were craving Hainan Chicken Rice, this version would be fine.

Cluck2Go
1771 E. Colorado Blvd.
Pasadena, CA 91106
Tel: (626) 765-6674

http://www.cluck2go.com/

Auntie Ping Kitchen

Looking at the menu, we had doubts: Not only did they have Hainan Chicken Rice, but also Wonton Lo Mein, a variety of Cantonese Rice Rolls and a few other items.

Hainan Chicken Rice:

This looked nicely cooked. The Poached Chicken had a nice glistening exterior on the meat and skin. Taking a bite…

Sadly it was ice cold! :open_mouth: I’m not sure if it’s “authentic” to serve ice cold Poached Chicken with the dish, but it was really off-putting. :frowning: None of the other restaurants on this journey did this.

The Poached Chicken tasted fresh at least, and relatively tender, but it was just super cold like right out of the refrigerator.

The Ginger Sauce was a bit too oily, and a touch too salty. The Chili Sauce was like a doctored version of Nuoc Cham. :frowning:

The Rice itself? Not very much flavor (just barely there).

The Soup that came with this Hainan Chicken Rice turned out to be a Bean, Carrot and Corn Soup?! (not really something you’d expect with Hainan Chicken Rice.)

One of our friends can speak Mandarin and overheard the cashier say that their Wontons were Housemade to another customer, so we decided to give it a try.

Wonton Noodle Soup:

These were OK. They were quite dense and savory (lots of Marinated Ground Pork, only a little bit of Shrimp), and fresh-tasting, but their density (overly packed) made it a far cry from the sublime version we tried at Noodle Boy last month.

Auntie Ping Kitchen
10472 Garvey Ave.
El Monte, CA 91733
Tel: (626) 416-5350

Green Zone

I remember Green Zone from our old board, when its claim to fame was using Organic ingredients and being the only place at the time serving Organic Hainan Chicken Rice. We hadn’t been back in years.

Spicy Wontons (Savory Shrimp & Pork Wontons Served in our Signature Spicy Sauce):

We were chatting it up with the staff, who all spoke very good English. Our server said their Spicy Wontons were popular and made in-house, so we decided to give it a try.

These were no bueno. :frowning: Super dense with an al dente Wonton wrapper, they were just too chewy to enjoy. Nowhere near as good as the nuanced, softer and also Housemade versions at Best Noodle House (RIP) and Chong Qing Special Noodles.

Organic Hainan Chicken Rice (Poached Organic Boneless, Skinless Chicken over Lemongrass Flavored Rice, Served with Ground Ginger Scallion Paste, Garlic Chili Sauce and Sweet Soy Sauce):

This was the nicest presentation out of all of the places so far, being more of a sitdown restaurant, with a pleasant, clean, quiet atmosphere inside.

The Organic Poached Chicken was overcooked and dryish. :frowning: It still tasted fresh, but was just overcooked. They also doused it with some of the Sweet Soy Sauce already, which kind of flavored every bite of Chicken.

The Ginger Scallion Paste was too salty, and it lacked the brightness and zestiness of many of the other places. The Garlic Chili Sauce was literally just a generic Nuoc Cham (Vietnamese Fish Sauce Dipping Sauce). :expressionless: It didn’t match the Hainan Chicken at all. The Sweet Soy was a bit too heavy in pure Soy Sauce flavor for us.

Their Lemongrass Rice sounded very interesting, but sadly there was no perceptible Lemongrass flavor at all. :sob: It had a very light Chicken flavor, but was otherwise just OK.

In the end, Green Zone has some nice goals - serving dishes with Organic ingredients - but the execution is a bit lacking. The Organic Hainan Chicken Rice is a nice option for those who are more particular about what they are ingesting, but unfortunately Green Zone forgot to focus on the flavors. Perhaps their expansion has diluted their kitchen staff?

Green Zone
534 Valley Blvd.
San Gabriel, CA 91776
Tel: (626) 288-9300

https://greenzonerestaurant.com/

Mee & Greet

Mee & Greet is one of those places that we approached with cautious optimism. The lack of authentic, delicious, and great execution Chinese cooking on the Westside has been well-documented (although slowly improving as time goes by). We weren’t sure if Mee & Greet was going to be “great for the Westside” Asian food, or just “great” period.

Mad for Garlic (Egg Noodle, Garlic Butter, Mad Sauce, Parmigiano Reggiano, Crushed Garlic Chips, Parsley):

This dish lived up to its name, being super garlicky, like a massive punch to the face of Garlic flavor, then assuaged by Garlic Butter and the slight funk of Parmigiano Reggiano. It was tasty, and we can see why @J_L enjoyed this dish. :slight_smile:

Turmeric Fried Chicken (Crispy Chicken Wing, Ground Turmeric, Rempah Spices, Butter, Parsley):

These Fried Chicken Wings arrived piping hot and lightly crunchy. The Turmeric and Rempah Spices added a layer of flavor not found in other Chicken Wing appetizers at the other restaurants on this journey. They were tasty. :slight_smile:

Hainan Chicken Rice (Poached Organic Chicken, Fragrant Jasmine Rice, Cucumber, Crushed Garlic Chips, Cilantro, Housemade Ginger-Garlic Chili Sauce, Chicken Bone-Broth):

Nicely plated, Mee & Greet’s Hainan Chicken looked the cleanest out of all the places we tried on this journey. It was also a nice touch that they used an Organic Chicken as well.

Taking a bite, it was nicely cooked, tender, and had bits of Garlic flavor bursting forth.

After having tried all of the other places on this journey, I think Mee & Greet’s Ginger Sauce was on the salty side, but otherwise fine, accentuating the Poached Chicken.

The spicy Ginger-Garlic Chili Sauce had a slight kick to it, but tasted like its ingredients, pureed a bit too much perhaps, tasting of Ginger, Garlic and Chili. But we all agreed we liked Savoy and Side Chick’s Chili Sauce more. The Soy Sauce-based Sauce was serviceable, but also lacking compared to Savoy and Side Chick.

Their Chicken-infused Jasmine Rice was delicious! :slight_smile: There was a real Chicken flavor coming through. The Fried Garlic topping helped to make it more fragrant as well.

The Chicken Bone-Broth (ugh, this hamster marketing) was fine, tasting like a straightforward Chicken Broth.

2nd Visit:

Acar (Pickled Cucumber, Carrots, Red Chili, Shallot, Radish):

This was a bit underwhelming: A bowl of overly tart-sweet Pickled Cucumbers, Carrots, Shallots, Radishes and Red Chili. Nothing more, nothing less.

Tofu Family Style (Crispy Tofu Block, Aromatic, Serrano, Spring Onion, Cilantro):

This was actually quite tasty! :slight_smile: Crispy blocks of Tofu, with a strong enough seasoned Soy Sauce-based Sauce to punch up each bite. This was our favorite appetizer so far.

Turmeric Fried Chicken (Crispy Chicken Wing, Ground Turmeric, Rempah Spices, Butter, Parsley):

We liked the Wings the first time, and wanted to see if they were consistent or not.

This 2nd time was a total salt bomb! :sob: This wasn’t “slightly salty,” but literally to the point of being inedible! :frowning: :grimacing:

When we glanced up towards the kitchen, we noticed the older Asian fellow who was cooking on our first visit was gone. In his place was a younger Hispanic-looking fellow. When we mentioned the problem of the Wings to our server, she offered no apology (she eventually took it off the bill).

Mee & Greet’s menu seems to be “Pan-Asian” or some Pseudo-Fusion creation, but since their Hainan Chicken turned out so well the first time, we decided to try a few more dishes.

Minh’s Pho (Rice Noodle, Sliced Filet Mignon, Sauteed Brisket, Bean Sprouts, Onion, Spring Onion, Red Chili, Cilantro, 18-Hour Beef-Veal Bone Broth):

Yes this was a risk, but our server said this was “one of the most popular dishes,” so we obliged.

First, there is no plate of Herbs / Vegetables to add like a traditional Pho restaurant. Instead, everything is already added in the bowl (and there are fewer Herbs that you might want to have included). They also include Raw Filet Mignon slices to cook in the Broth itself:

The Beef-Veal Broth is completely overpowered by the Sauteed Brisket, which is prepared like a Cantonese “Black Pepper Beef” flavor, super peppery, heavy in its own Sauce, and when mixed into their Pho Broth, just permeates every sip. :frowning:

Trying to isolate that flavor away, it was still a murky, rather one-note Beef Broth flavor. Places like Pho 79 and Pho Filet have much better flavors, let alone our favorites like Pho Hien and Pho Minh, which are long gone.

Hainan Chicken Rice:

Their Hainan Chicken Rice thankfully was still as tasty as the first time: The Poached Chicken was fine, albeit a bit more shredded this time.

The Chicken-infused Jasmine Rice was still as fragrant as before, and had a good flavor compared to the other places we visited. :slight_smile:

3rd Visit:

Since this was much closer, we decided to do a 3rd visit, just to make sure it was as consistent as before.

Pho Ga (Organic Chicken Pho):

Their Pho Ga (Organic Chicken Pho) is made from scratch as well (according to our server). The first sip reveals a rather safe, straightforward Chicken Soup.

It’s not bad, and actually a decent Chicken Broth, but it’s a far cry from the purity and outstanding flavors in our favorites like HP Pho Ga Bac Ninh or Pho Quang Trung.

The lack of other commonly found Vietnamese Herbs and the flavor in the Chicken were also apparent and knocked this Pho Ga down a few notches as well. It’s also about 200% of the price of most Pho Ga places.

Hainan Chicken Rice:

For this 3rd try, the Poached Organic Chicken was much better than the previous 2 visits. It wasn’t overcooked, and it wasn’t overly shredded (as can be seen in the pics). It had a nice glistening look to the meat as well. :slight_smile: It was just cooked though, not mealy at all.

Their trio of Dipping Sauces continues to be an Achilles’ Heel for Mee & Greet. They are sufficient, but a far cry from properly supporting and elevating the Poached Chicken and Rice with each bite. Their Ginger Sauce is as overly salty as the last 2 visits, and the Ginger-Garlic Chili Sauce is OK. The Soy Sauce is passable, tasting like mainstream Soy Sauce cut with something else.

The Jasmine Rice with Chicken Broth & Fat is as delicious as before, albeit a touch drier compared to Side Chick, but still very flavorful compared to all of the other places on this journey.

But this rice (along with Side Chick) made all of us feel heavy afterwards, probably a result of the Chicken Fat in the Rice.

It should be noted Mee & Greet’s Hainan Chicken Rice is $15 (+ tax & tip), making it about ~65 - 90% more expensive than all of the other places on this journey.

In the end, we were all glad to have gone on the Hainan Chicken Rice Journey. It was a lot of fun just traveling around our city, and seeing how various places compared to each other. It was good to re-taste old places we had locked in our minds as a baseline (like Savoy), and it helped us gain perspective on how it compared to the “chef-ified” Hainan Chicken Rice we had recently as well.

After talking it over with our friends, we mostly came to a consensus on our favorites:

  • Favorite Poached Chicken: Mee & Greet.
  • Favorite (Chicken-Infused) Rice: (TIE) Side Chick, Mee & Greet
  • Favorite Dipping Sauces: Savoy Kitchen
  • Overall Favorite Hainan Chicken Rice: No Clear Cut Winner. But if we had to choose, Mee & Greet, Side Chick, Savoy Kitchen.

We have not been to Singapore to try Hainan Chicken Rice at the famous hawker stands, so we can only compare to what’s in L.A. I defer to all of our FTC Hainan experts like @bulavinaka @J_L @beefnoguy @PorkyBelly @Sgee and others. :slight_smile:

But I would close by saying that none of us felt like there was a “OMG! This is the Hainan Chicken Rice that sets the standard!!!” in all of the places we tried in L.A. There was no Langer’s Pastrami equivalent, no Mori Sushi equivalent. Just places that had some good points and not so good points, although a few places were clearly inferior.

I personally liked Savoy Kitchen’s version, even with the inferior Poached Chicken and Rice, because their Ginger Sauce was the most balanced and flavorful, their Chili Sauce tasted Homemade and actually elevated the Chicken, and their Sweet Soy Sauce worked as well. And all 3 of the Sauces actually could be mixed and matched and the flavors actually changed in a good way. It was really noteworthy in that way. :slight_smile:

I liked Side Chick for the Chicken Rice (quite flavorful albeit heavy) and the Poached Chicken with their Ginger Sauce and Chili Sauce worked well. The 3 Sauces just didn’t work that well combined in any order, and the staff there just doesn’t make Hainan Chicken as good as Chef Lee at his Pop-Up.

And I thought Mee & Greet had the best Poached Chicken (on the 1st and 3rd visit especially), with equally flavorful Chicken Rice (but it was also heavy afterwards), but Mee & Greet’s trio of Sauces was the weakest of all of the frontrunners, adequate at best.

Mee & Greet
3500 Overland Ave. #150
Los Angeles, CA 90034
Tel: (310) 876-0838

http://meeandgreet.com/

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#2

Thanks for the write-up! I now know not to bother trying Tasty Food. I’ll have to try Side Chick again, as it sounds like they may have improved a bit.

As to the temperature issue, in Singapore you will find it served chilled. I’m not sure about “ice cold” but definitely refreshingly cool. If you ever had a chance to try Grainivore when they were here, that was as close to an authentic preparation as I’ve seen.

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#3

Hi @strongoxman,

Thanks. :slight_smile: I missed the chance to try Grainivore; I didn’t even remember our old board talking about (very sad I missed it).

#4

Chicken. Rice. Sauce. Just 3 elements. But like your journey it is hard to find all 3 of these elements done very well on 1 plate. Some places have better ____ but the ____ is not that good.

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#5

Flock & Fowl and Little Fatty up next?

#6

Little Fatty’s version is decent, but I dream of a Flock & Fowl opening up in Los Angeles.

3 Likes
#7

I think the best Hainan Chicken Rice in SoCal is actually in the OC at Baos Hog.

#8

Not just in LA, in Northern California literally easier to pull hen’s teeth than to find a properly done Hainan style Chicken Rice with all the right components. We have access to variations in mixed forms and results such as

Cantonese approach

  • sometimes characterized by rice a roni looking very yellow rice, but a lot of chicken and stock flavor
  • More darker yellow looking chicken skin, using Cantonese “empress chicken” and call it a day (sometimes this works better than the BS fake Hainan chicken options)
  • a variant of a seasoned poached chicken, being passed off as Hainan Chicken Rice
  • one dipping sauce (not three) and usually they nail this down right which is the ginger scallion sauce, ubiquitous at Cantonese roasties deli shops (but even doing a good rendition of this is not as prevalent these days).
  • in SF Bay Area sometimes you can find a few Hong Kong cafe’s that do it better

Malaysian restaurants

  • looks like Hainan Chicken, but is resting in a pool of soy sauce base liquid that overwhelms the chicken, sometimes over decoration with something that looks like parsley with at times thick cucumber slices, ranges from edible (and if you set expectations very low) to forget it

Vietnamese restaurants

  • mostly Central Vietnamese style restaurants, look for Com Ga Hai Nam and generally these renditions are the most superior, at least in San Jose area, and you can even get versions with giblets (incredibly gamey livers though). One theory is that they use and source more natural tasting chicken, raised by local Vietnamese chicken farmers (not all of the restaurants, maybe a few) which is why they stand out all from the rest in terms of flavor and texture. And it works for what they do.

Thai restaurants (or Khao Mun Gai specific eateries)

  • there has been an unhealthy obsession with Khao Mun Gai last couple years (less so this year as the fad has faded a little in terms of hype), largely in part thanks to tech bro funding which turned a humble street dish into “fast but not efficient” food, like bento boxes. Hence you get poached and fried chicken versions and other funktastic combinations. Those who have not traveled or have eaten extensively might find it acceptable and while it certainly fills a niche and stomach space, is not destination chicken rice dining material.

Truth be told, I’ll take a plate of Ming Kee (San Francisco) soy sauce chicken rice plate anyday instead of any of the above, or double down and do empress chicken x soy sauce chicken rice plate with ginger scallion sauce, or 3 meat combo and throw in some pork, duck. Satisfaction level through the roof!

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#9

This. So much this.

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#10

Hi @J_L,

I had never heard of Flock & Fowl before, thanks for the recommendation. :slight_smile: I didn’t know Little Fatty did a version also. Thanks.

Is Flock & Fowl your favorite in the U.S.? :slight_smile:

#11

Hi @beefnoguy,

Thanks for the great info about Northern California spots; sounds like it’s pretty mediocre up there as well.

We loved the visit to Ming Kee (thank you again!) :slight_smile: and yes, their Soy Sauce Chicken (with Ginger & Scallion Sauce) or the Pork Neck Charsiu or Roast Duck was so good! :blush:

Maybe one day we’ll get a version that matches what you all love about the Singaporean version.

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#12

Flock and Fowl is Vegas based. It’s done well and chicken is a touch more cooked than Cluck2go.

1 Like
#13

Ming Kee is one of my favorite places. They truly deserve more praise for what they are doing. Nobody to my knowledge in CA is doing HK BBQ this well (maybe the country??) I’ll take Ming Kee over a lot of things tbh.

Yet most of the customers are Canto locals and Chinese college students.

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#14

This debate begs the question; what is everyone’s benchmark for authentic Hainan chicken rice? There are subtle regional differences in Asia.

For example this typically how it’s served in Malaysia - doused in lightly sweetened light soy sauce and topped with cilantro (and scallions). No toppings (fried garlic or scallions) over the rice. Ginger sauce, a very watery chili sauce and dark soy sauce.

And similar in Singapore it appears (pic of Chen Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice)

@Chowseeker1999 relatively easy solution to solve your chicken rice dilemma:

  1. Rice: Poach a whole chicken with sliced ginger and generous amount of scallions. Saute minced garlic, ginger with chicken fat. Add broth from poached chicken, sauteed mixture, 2 generous pinches of salt to rice and cook. Or just add this to rice image

  2. Chicken: Purchase a princess Empress (Kwai fei) chicken from your favorite roastie or Sea Harbor, Elite etc. Chop ala preferred chicken rice presentation

  3. Sauces: Request some ginger/scallion sauce from #2.
    Dilute image with water and lime. Or look for these bottled options

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#15

If you want to extend this Hainan Chicken Rice journey to include the Thai version than give some of these places a try…

Sticky Rice
Siam Sunset
LAX-C Express
Sanamluang (anyone tried their Khao Man Gai?)

I think the sauce at LAX-C is great. Incredibly balanced in sweet, salty, gingerly, and garlicky flavors. And that to-go table might just be one of the best in LA. The rice is slightly fragrant and the chicken is moist (not fancy).

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#16

The problem lies in the execution of many Malaysian restaurants in Northern California, and frankly with the restaurants being jack of all trades themselves being part of the issue. I am not taking jabs on the native renditions in their respective homelands, just how they are done over here. Part of being a jack of all trades restaurant means it’s easier to take shortcuts and pay less attention to detail (versus being a specialist restaurant or eatery, or in the case of in SE Asia, a cooked food stall specialist), and this could happen for a various number of reasons.

And I have yet to meet a Singaporean or Malaysian expat in SF Bay Area extolling the virtues of our Jack of All Trades restaurants (let alone Jack in a Khao Mun Gai Tech Bro Hipster Chicken box…)

With the Chen Ji picture, you still see the chicken look the same the way it is, and the sauce is no doubt a chicken broth base with seasoning. However some of the Malaysian restaurants up here literally have it bathing or marinating in a much darker and murkier (and ominous looking) liquid where the meat is stained from the dark broth, and looks nothing like Chen Ji’s chicken. The worst is that some renditions actually taste dry and reheated, and they pour more sauce on top! The Malaysian example you posted looks more like Empress Chicken Cantonese style, so much cleaner in comparison.

Using the Ming Kee example, why do the roasties taste so damn good compared to other Canto BBQ roasties joints in town? Owner and master roaster/butcher Ming is an OG Hong Konger (vs Toishanese from Southern China for many other places) and he obviously trained classically. The recipes and execution speak for themselves. Ming Kee is not a jack of all trades place, they just do roasties and for those who want rice plates, scoop of rice, boiled cabbage, condiments and that’s it (basically adding accessories and options beyond the specialties). And they are also supported by a steady stream of locals mostly for take out. Higher turnover, and roasting happens multiple times per day. It’s a much simpler business model in a way that perpetuates itself. Using a competitor example locally: Cheung Hing (Northern California SF Bay Area) on the other hand has a few locations around and has expanded to do Canto Jack style menu in the Peninsula…aggressive and ambitious…with little regard to consistency and sometimes quality becomes roller coaster.

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#17

Hmmmmmm… reminds me of…

Chicken McHainan??

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#18

thoughtfully executed as usual. my rankings differ, but a chacon son gout.

i was hoping to see dong nguyen & red chicken included.

#19

Props to you - that’s a lot of poached bird. The number of expats from Singapore and Malaysia seems to be small and like a revolving door - of those that arrive, many return after a while.

I think this lack of a “critical mass” speaks to the small number of eateries offering food from that part of Asia. The economies over there have been relatively strong over the past four decades.

Furthermore, Singapore offers a very secure social contract with its citizens. Healthcare and their form of social security (Central Provident Fund, Employee Provident Fund in MY) are comparitively strong and flexible. The currency exchange rates are a major consideration as well (particularly for Malaysians).

And Singapore in particular is probably the safest nation in the world - Singaporeans feel very insecure here (this probably explains why a core population of Singaporean expats formed in Irvine of all places back in the 80s-90s).

These issues make moving to the LA hard and easier to consider moving back. But I think the linchpin issue is the lack of depth, breadth and quality of food options familiar to expats from that region. That revolving door of this particular expat population is a self-fulfilling consequence -
sparse offerings of average food.

We were very underwhelmed with the acar as well. I think M&G’s version is generally Indonesian. The typical Malysian version has an orange tone in the pickling liquid - turmeric and candlenuts add the flavor that was missing for us in this version. But we found the other dishes (including the chicken/rice) to be very good in general. It was the noise level in this place that makes me not want to return.

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#20

Thanks @Sgee for the recipe to make it at home. :slight_smile:

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