Many times, fame has its price. It applies to food as well.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice which is probably Singapore most famous chicken rice stall (outside of Singapore), probably has more tourists than locals queuing up at their flagship stall at Maxwell Food Centre.
Travellers all over the world go to Maxwell Food Centre, join in a long queue, armed with guide books, sweat it out for a plate of this local iconic dish.
The stall is helmed by Madam Foo Kui Lian and her children, and the business was initially set up by her elder brother.
Anthony Bourdain said that the chicken rice was so fragrant and delicious that it could be eaten on its own.
Gordon Ramsay took part in a “Hawker Heroes Challenge” and ‘lost’ to Tian Tian. (I use the word ‘lost’ loosely as it mattered just how the competition was carried out.)
The Michelin Guide listed it under the Bib Gourmand Singapore both in 2016 and 2017.
It is not without some controversies.
Its ‘Master Chef’ better known as Ah Tai, who has been cooking the famed Tian Tian Chicken Rice for a number of years, have set up another chicken rice shop just 3 stalls away at Maxwell Food Centre.
Some would say Ah Tai tasted closer to the ‘original’.
Tian Tian’s winning formula to me has to be its rice. I liked that it was generally warm, fluffy, and fragrant.
Tasty enough after absorbing flavours of the stock, and I could just eat it with the chilli sauce and garlic.
With that said, I think there could be some consistency issues as the rice was not all the time top notch.
The smooth slippery chicken pieces were also the highlight, soaked in an ice bath prior for a firmer texture and to lock in the natural juices.
Another must-have with my chicken rice is the ‘tau gay’. Tian Tian’s bean sprouts were served hot with cut chillies and shallots – crunchy, and tasty with the dash of chicken oil poured over.
Chicken rice lovers in Singapore may also lament that Tian Tian has become too touristy, and not quite the same as the good old days.
The inevitable that will happen once something gets too known, too commercialised?
I still think Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice offers one of the best versions around, and if a tourist friend comes to Singapore, I may still recommend – for its brand, for its name.
Update: Tian Tian Chicken Rice has also opened in Hong Kong at Causeway Bay.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice
Maxwell Food Centre #01-10/11, 1 Kadayanallur Street, Singapore 069184
Tel: +65 9691 4852
Opening hours: 10am – 7:30pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
Other Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice Outlets
12 Jalan Pari Burong Singapore 488678
Opening Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm (Tues – Sun), Closed
Blk 450 Clementi, Avenue 3 #01-305 Singapore 120450
Opening Hours: 10am – 8pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
Stall 5, Hotel Boss, 500 Jalan Sultan #01-15 Singapore 199020
Opening Hours: 10:00am – 9:00pm (Tues – Sun), Closed Mon
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