I was rather picky about giving my family a first impression of Chicken Rice in Singapore since I’ve always understood that the very first bite of something can become the base to any other comparisons. So after tasting 2 different Chicken Rice places at Lau Pa Sat for lunch, we headed to Maxwell Food Center for Chicken Rice at (questionably) the best place in Singapore; Tian Tian Chicken Rice. And as a little comparison, we stopped at Ah Tai Chicken Rice since many blogs etc. say Ah Tai is comparable if the line at Tian Tian is just too long.
The Maxwell Food Center is one of several hawker centers in Chinatown, and for some reason I completely missed the multiple signs that would have led us to there on Day 1. My excuse. There was a lot of construction and the entrance to Maxwell Food Center is completly covered up from construction of a MRT (subway) stop right at Maxwell.
I had long learned that if you see a stall with lots of newspaper clippings posted and if there is queue (a line/wait) then it will most likely be a good place to eat at.
I was concerned that the wait at Tian Tian might be rather long but when we arrived, there was a short queue and I waited for about 5 to 10 minutes with about 4 or 5 people in front of me. And I guess it was somewhat entertaining to be in line and kind of just looking at of the signs and newspaper clippings all over their window.
Gordon Ramsay and Anthony Bourdain!
Like almost all other Chicken Rice stalls, you will see all of the chicken hanging in the window. Yes, it’s a whole chicken with the head and everything hanging there.
So the national dish of Singapore is Chicken Rice. So what can be so special about rice and chicken?
This dish originated in Hainan China and with the Chinese Diaspora different variations of a rather simple chicken rice dish became more and more popular around the world. Each region may have its own slightly different variations. And even within Singapore, each stall or restaurant has their own slightly different recipe.
But how many become a michelin star street food place? Of course there a whole different level of michelin star scoring for ‘street food.’
“Chicken rice is so fragrant & delicious it can be eaten on its own,” Anthony Bourdain.
And that was our conclusion too. The rice was absolutely amazing. The rice was perfectly flavored with the garlic and chicken flavor. You pretty much taste the whole dish right there in the rice.
As for the chicken. It was honestly forgetable. I would have preferred boneless chicken, which is what many other chicken rice places offer. And the issue was the texture of the meat was rather rough; like regular old boiled or grilled chicken breasts. I know this was chicken breast but even compared to the chicken we had at Lao Pa Sat which was chicken breast but absolutely amazingly smooth in texture.
So I guess Maxwell Food Center is pretty well known for the Chicken Rice because there are so many different Chicken Rice stalls everywhere inside. And as if that’s not confusing enough as you go in search of the most well known (Tian Tian Chicken Rice), the signs for some of the competitors are practically identical.
The picture above is Tian Tian and below is Ah Tai.
Ah Tai Chicken Rice is just a couple stalls to the left of Tian Tian. I sent Mom to go get chicken and she actually had a chance to order specifically which part of the chicken she wanted. So we got the drum stick (area?).
According to the many blogs and vlogs I watched, many said that Ah Tai was comparable to Tian Tian. And we agree. The rice was not quite as fragrant but it was up there! And we preferred this chicken so much more. My Mom said it could be because of the part of the chicken we got.
And one thing about Chicken Rice in Singapore (I know Yunti mentioned this in her post about Lao Pa Sat and Chicken Rice) is the sauce. Can I just say I absolutely love the black soya sauce that goes with the chicken and I was so excited to finally be able to share this sauce with my family. I always tell them about how I liked my chicken with this and they didn’t quite understand since we’re so used to of eating it solely with the ginger sauce.
Now for a new challenge for my mom.
Maxwell Food Center started getting busier as we finished our 2 plates of Chicken Rice (the 4 of us shared that) and after scanning a couple other rows we headed out of Maxwell Food Center.
We exited at the corner of Maxwell Road and Tanjong Pagar Road. Both roads sound familiar to me (thanks to all of the MRT stops) so we just decided to walk down Tanjong Pagar Road and somehow ended up at the Tanjong Pagar Plaza Market & Food Center.
It was hot and humid outside, but the walk was somewhat pleasant with the many Korean restaurants (and wedding shops) along the way. At least we found signs that pointed us to the MRT on Tanjong Pagar.