In the Singapore episode of No Reservations, food writer and TV personality Anthony Bourdain mentioned that he’d been booed at an event for avoiding chicken rice here – a mistake I never wanted to make personally. Day two in Singapore saw me finding a hawker centre and trying the chicken rice. I won’t mention the establishment but I have to say that it was nothing special – the rice was, well, rice, and the chicken had been steamed to near tastelessness. The only condiment offered was a chili sauce that didn’t really help. It was not as good as the chicken rice I remembered from East Malaysia days at all.
I asked around, and noted that several people mentioned Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice amongst others (including the famous Tian Tian Chicken Rice at Maxwell Food Centre that Mr Bourdain covered in his show). A week later I was perusing my newly purchased copy of the Makansutra Guide and noticed that Wee Nam Kee had a very good writeup – and that it was on Thomson Road, close to where a group of us were staying at the time in Novena. A posse was duly organised, and off we went.
This is a daytime shot from a later trip – to be honest, the chickens move through the restaurant onto the plate too fast at night to see this many hanging in the window:
Anyhow, back to my first experience at Wee Nam Kee. Encouraged by a Chinese Australian colleague, I mixed vinegar, chili and ginger together to make a proper sauce for the chicken before setting to:
The taste was a very pleasant surprise – the chicken is flavoursome, the rice properly rich with chicken stock (and I suspect, a little chicken fat to give it a very pleasing mouth feel). That is the secret, I am told – care in preparation of both the chicken and the rice adds flavour, making the difference between the ordinary and the truly great chicken rice.
I have been back several times since – and with all respect to Tian Tian and the many other fine chicken rice establishments in Singapore, it remains my favourite. Apart from the taste and quality of the food, it is a pleasure to sit and watch the uncle skillfully break chicken carcases (steamed and roast) down in a matter of seconds with a large cleaver – he never misses a beat – a master at work.