Singapore is a mecca for food lovers. For would-be visitors to Singapore, you will be surprised by the amount of choice and the high standard for food. In a country like Singapore, food and where to eat are frequent topics of conversation. If don’t know what is what, I recommend entering a busy establishment or joining the long queue.
Last time, I talked about chilli crabs. This time, I am talking about another popular dish in Singapore, chicken rice.
We decided early on that our trip to Singapore would be filled with eating experiences. So that’s why, we knew we had to visit one of the many food centers. If you don’t know, each food center is home to dozens of food vendors, who are each ready to whet your appetite. It is very common for Singaporean families to forego making their own dinner by eating out. For some, the food at the food centers is far cheaper and more delicious than cooking at home.
After we spent some time wandering around Chinatown looking and purchasing some of the wares on sale, we made our way on foot to the Maxwell Food Center. It is super close. At the time we visited, there was lots of plaster walls surrounding parts of the center as there was construction happening around the center. The entrance was hidden behind of maze of white boards. Fortunately the noise and smell of delicious food were good compasses for our ears and nose. (At least we knew the center was open and operating as per normal.) We eventually found our way to the entrance.
I find that Singaporeans can make great peers, because they have a no nonsense approach. Their opinions are worthwhile, because they are honest and to the point. So when the Singaporeans say something is good. My experience is that it is usually better than the good. Equally, if something is bad, they will let it rip.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice in the Maxwell Food Center is one such establishment that gets two thumbs up from the locals. In 2020, it has again been voted as the best chicken rice hawker stall in Singapore. The stall is always busy, but I can safely say that the three to four times I have visited, the line is always moving.
If you want to know how good this place is, the late Anthony Bourdain, an American celebrity chef, once reported that the store’s ‘chicken rice is so fragrant and delicious that it can be eaten on its own’.
The price of a plate of the Hainanese chicken rice with a bowl of chicken soup is SGD$5. It’s worth it. You can also up-size the amount of rice or chicken for a few extra dollars too. The face says it all.
At all food centers, you have to find your own seat in the food court. If you are alone, you can reserve a seat by leaving behind a packet of napkins to indicate to someone else that you have taken the seat. I recommend paying close eye to this custom, unless you plan to enrage a local (which is bad and best not to do it in a ‘fine’ city like Singapore – take note that ‘fine’ is in quotation marks).
If you can’t get a table to yourself, you will need to share a table with strangers. Most of the time, people already at the table will not mind at all. Plus I didn’t mind hanging out with other people, because some of the locals are very happy to chat. I’m happy to chat about food and get recommendations from the locals. I think it pays to be interested in other people.
We ordered our rice and lo and behold it was cooked to perfection. The rice was full of flavor and as oily as the way Hainanese chicken rice should be. The chicken was nice and moist. It was all yum and the chilli garlic sauce and the cucumber were nice additions on the side. (I don’t remember if I shared any with my wife.)
The Maxwell Food Center is located here: 1 Kadayanallur Street, #01-10/11 Maxwell Food Centre