The history of Chicken Rice isn’t as simple as you think it is

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All Singaporeans know about chicken rice, after all, it’s a national dish, regardless if it was created by us or not, and it got us featured on CNN’s World’s 50 most delicious foods in 2011. A major part of our makan culture, you can find chicken rice all around the island, in coffee shops, food courts, food centres, Hotel Lounges, Cafes and more!

We may love our chicken rice, but not all of us know how the rich history of this national dish, right? Here’s what you need to know about chicken rice, and how it became a fixture of our lives in Singapore.


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Where did it come from?
When early Chinese immigrants from Hainan in Southern China came to Singapore, they brought with them a dish called Wenchang chicken (文昌雞). This dish was made with a fowl that is bony and fibrous, unlike the plump and tender chickens we used today. And in place of the red garlic chili, they top their oily rice with green chili.

Influenced by Cantonese cooking
The Hainanese people used to prefer older birds because they produce more flavor, but over time, they were influenced by the Cantonese cooking style and started using younger birds because the meat is more tender as compared to the old ones. Another influence of Cantonese cooking is the adding of lime to the chili.

Singapore-style Chicken Rice
Today, the chicken rice we eat today can be traced back to it’s Hainan roots and Cantonese adaption. The chicken is blaunched till cooked, then submerged in cold water for a more tender meat and jelly-like skin. There are also other variations, such as the roasted chicken and soya chicken. Instead of green chili, Singapore’s chicken rice comes served with red, garlic chili with a zesty taste.

Pretty interesting, don’t you think?