Tian Tian Chicken Rice
I have to admit something. Before this year, I had never eaten what is supposed to be the best chicken rice in Singapore - Tian Tian at Maxwell Food Centre. I think this somewhat marked me as a bad foodie. And chicken rice is one of my favourite, favourite meals ever! Anyway, in January when I was still in Singapore, we got our act together and finally the chicken rice which is famous for being the only one Anthony Bourdain deigned to eat when he was in Singapore.
We took it home to eat, so I suppose it wasn't in its natural habitat. (This explains the pretentious looking setup). But it was seriously, hands down the best chicken rice I've ever eaten. For the uninitiated, Hainanese chicken rice is often held up as one of the paragons of Singaporean food. It may look pretty bland but I promise you it is not. I would be happy just to eat plate after plate of the rice alone.
One interesting thing was that unlike other places selling chicken rice, Tian Tian doesn't seem to give out the sweet and dense dark soy sauce that was basically the reason I ate chicken rice as a child. When I usually eat it, even now, I usually drench so much dark soy sauce that my rice is black. Instead of this, Tian Tian gave us big bags of what seemed like a Teochew style 'lor', or sauce, but a light brown version. It was quite nice if a little salty, but I can't completely honestly say that I didn't miss the dark soy sauce at all. BUT I think it really shows how tasty the chicken and rice both were that it still tasted really good.
For a self-professed chicken rice junkie, this is a pretty controversial thing to say, but I don't really think the accompanying chilli sauce is as crucial to the dish as most people make out. I mean, I've heard plenty of people rating chicken rice restaurants and stalls based on the chilli sauce they produce. It's always a nice addition to the rice, but I have never really encountered sauce that was so good or so bad that it's really stood out from the crowd.
I think I'm basically writing all this because homesickness has started to set in, even though I only left Singapore three weeks ago. I've tried making chicken rice over here in Edinburgh, and although it was nice in its own right, it paled in comparison to any proper chicken rice that I've paid for. I can't seem to get the chicken to be the right soft texture, with the skin separated from the meat.
I will, however, keep trying. I read somewhere that the trick was to dunk the chicken in iced water as soon as it is cooked, which supposedly gelatinises the fat or something. If I manage to produce anything even remotely successful rest assured it will be posted here faster than you can say 'not the real thing'.