Hainanese Chicken Rice: History and Facts About the Singaporean Iconic Dish

March 17, 2021

Hainanese chicken rice is the unofficial national dish of Singapore, and you will find it at almost all Singaporean hawker stalls and restaurants. This popular dish of Singapore comes thirteen among the world’s fifty best foods, according to CNN travel readers. Hainanese chicken rice in its current form, however, has no association with Hainan. The dish has the taste of bland chicken - therefore, it needs the whole ensemble of accompanying dishes and condiments to give it life.

Knowing Hainanese Chicken Rice

This popular dish comprises slices of poached chicken, aromatic rice cooked with chicken stock, fresh tangy chilli, and it is served with a variety of dipping sauces such as soy sauce, garlic sauce, ginger sauce, and minced chilli.

The Origin of the Dish

Hainanese chicken rice originated on an island on the South coast of China - Wencheng District of Hainan. Singapore and Malaya had a taste of chicken rice in the nineteenth century from immigrants. Most of them worked in the beverage and food sector - many among them worked at places from hawker stalls to coffee shops thereby giving the much-needed catering in military and government establishments.

Mr Wong Yi Guan started to sell Hainanese noodles in the Hainanese enclave of the island state - Seah Street, Middle Road, and Purvis Street. He used to sell the dish in two baskets of the bamboo yoke, which he carried on his shoulders. Then he prepared the Hainanese noodles by considering the physical limitations of his baskets. He could only carry a limited quantity of liquid in hand, so he used chicken stock to cook the rice, and then used sauces of ginger and minced chilli.

Later during the 1960s, people tried to incorporate the Cantonese cooking techniques into preparing Hainanese rice - it helped greatly to make the chicken tender and juicy. The chicken would be poached in its stock and later dipped in ice water.

Development of Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore

Singapore witnessed a lot of development during the second half of the twentieth century, especially when it comes to the food industries. A lot of food courts and coffee stalls began to serve Hainanese rice, thereby becoming an icon of Singapore food. It is one of the major foods served for global events.

Chicken Rice War, a feature-length motion picture, also got released in Singapore in 2000. It is a romantic comedy slightly based on Romeo and Juliet with Singaporean aspects and setting. The motion picture speaks about two families that run chicken stalls and interesting conflicts about secret family recipes.

Variations of Hainanese Chicken Rice in South-East Asia

Since Singapore and Malaysia have very similar cultures, this popular dish is available all over Malaysia as well. People also developed several variations for the dish since the popularity of the dish spread.

Roasted Chicken

It is a different variation of poached chicken. It came into the scene as an alternative option when people found the taste of poached chicken too bland to eat.

Rice Balls

You will the ball version of Hainanese chicken rice in Malaysia. The cooked and cooled rice are moulded into balls by hands to prepare this dish.  Rice balls are easy to carry; these rice balls also had another advantage of staying warm for a long time.

Bean Sprouts

The sprouts are blacked and later served along with white rice; it is an incredible treat to your taste buds. Malaysia also serves this dish.

Sendhelper Home Chef Service: Hainanese Chicken Rice

With Sendhelper cooking service you can enjoy Hainanese chicken rice at home cooked and served by an experienced home chef. Book cooking service on the Sendhelper app to hire a  chef.

Services recommended for you