iPhone’s new ad titled “Poached” shot by David Gelb of Netflix’s Chef Table and Jiro Dreams of Sushi fame, piqued my interest on the Chicken Rice stalls at Maxwell Food Centre again.

The 5 minutes mini-food documentary focused on the ‘Chicken Rice War’ between the two stalls there – Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice and Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice.

I did wonder why the clip didn’t even show a glimpse of the other Chicken Rice stalls in the same food centre, all in a similar blue signature serving the same style of this well-loved local hawker dish.

To keep the drama succinct: Ah Tai was once the long-time head chef over at Tian Tian Chicken Rice, and went up to set up another chicken rice shop just 3 stalls away more than a decade back.

(Apparently, he is also a relative of Tian Tian’s boss Ms Loi Mui Yin who asked him to go after a quarrel.)

So who wins this chicken rice war?

Generally, most tourists would head straight to Tian Tian due to its Michelin Bib Gourmand fame, and the stall was previously featured on Anthony Bourdain’s programme No Reservations.

Therefore, Ah Tai had a shorter waiting time and the hawkers were pretty friendly (though Tian Tian’s queue is also not as long now as compared to during its hey-days.)

Ah Tai’s menu is still kept lean and pretty-affordable, with poached Hainanese Chicken Rice priced at $4, $5, and $6.

Other offerings include Chicken Feet ($5), Chicken Parts named “Visceral” on the menu ($3), Oyster Sauce Vegetables ($4, $6), and Bean Sprout ($3, $5).

I bought both plates to compare (Tian Tian’s M size plate is priced at $5).

Ah Tai’s rice was very similar, too similar, mildly flavourful served with a special sauce poured over. I also noticed the taste of the rice could be uneven at parts.

Some customers may find Ah Tai’s rice on the dry side; but during this visit I also found Tian Tian’s rice not as fluffy and flavourful as before (was slightly disappointing for me to be honest).

Both chickens are considered fresh and succulent, but I thought the chicken at Ah Tai could do better with more flavours – slightly muted and needed some chilli to ‘lift’ it up.)

As for the chilli sauce, Tian Tian’s version had an obvious zesty take, while Ah Tai’s tasted spicier with an appetising kick.

Plus point: Ah Tai’s rice was served with clear hot soup, which was good to have to ‘cleanse’ the greasiness of the rice.

Both my friend and I still preferred Tian Tian’s overall, but perhaps just marginally more – a 0.5 difference out of 10. Shorter queue, so it’s a plus point too.

Ah Tai Hainanese Chicken Rice
Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur St, #01-07, Singapore 069184
Opening Hours: 11am – 7:30pm (Mon, Wed – Sun), Closed Tues

Other Related Entries
Delicious Boneless Chicken Rice (Katong)
Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice (Tampines)
Ji De Lai Hainanese Chicken Rice (Chong Pang)
Sin Kee Famous Cantonese Chicken Rice (Holland Drive)
Xing Yun Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice (Yuhua Food Centre)

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