Hainanese chicken rice is a dish of Chinese origin most commonly associated with Singaporean cuisine or Malaysian cuisine, although it is also commonly sold in neighbouring Thailand, and found in Hainan, China itself. So-called due to its roots in Hainan cuisine and its adoption by the Hainanese overseas Chinese population in the Nanyang area (present-day Southeast Asia), the version found in the Singapore region combines elements of Hainanese and Cantonese cuisines along with culinary preferences in the Southeast Asian region. The dish was popularised in SIngapore in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997.
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The prevalence of stalls selling Hainanese chicken rice as their primary specialty in Singapore underscores the dish's unrivalled popularity amongst Singaporeans and overseas visitors. Hainanese chicken rice is often considered as the "national dish" of Singapore, and is often served at internationalexpositions and global events abroad, and in Singaporean-run restaurants overseas. Hainanese chicken rice is also one of the few local dishes served on Singapore Airlines flights.
In Singapore, Hainanese chicken rice is served at stalls and food courts. There are Hainanese chicken rice stalls that have established franchise or branch outlets, and these include Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, Boon Tong Kee, Loy Kee and others which have many outlets island wide. The price range is around S$2-4 (the latter if the dish includes a drumstick). Some stalls serve extras such as a hard boiled egg, chicken liver, firm tofu andkailan as side dishes, each dish usually costing around S$0.50 to S$1.50. Some may serve set meals which include these side dishes.
Hainanese-owned coffee shops tend to serve a variety of Hainanese cuisine, with chicken rice being the main highlight. Other Hainanese dishes include pork chop, vegetables, fish, eggs and char siew. Most of these shops are air-conditioned, and are mainly concentrated at Purvis Street and Seah Street.
One of the more renowned high-end Hainanese chicken rice dishes can be found at the Chatterbox coffeehouse at the Meritus Mandarin Singapore inOrchard Road. This dish has won many national cuisine awards for the hotel. It is served on a large, circular, wooden tray, on top of which is a plate of steamed or roast chicken garnished with cucumber, tomatoes and lettuce topped with light soy sauce, a bowl of rice and a bowl of chicken soup, andcondiments comprising chilli, dark soy sauce and ginger sauce. The rice is prepared with chicken stock as well as a special pack of garlic-based ingredients. The soy sauce is also specially prepared by the head chef and its recipe is said to be a closely guarded secret.
Canteen vendors in schools also sell chicken rice. However, this tends to be simpler in style, and comprises just sliced chicken with rice and soy sauce as a healthier choice.
Singapore, like Malaysia, offers other variations of this dish, which include the use of roasted instead of steamed chicken.