Chicken rice tops chili crab as an informal national dish of Singapore, and locals have strong and differing opinions about whose is best (FD said he’s heard it rivals the “Best Mission Burrito” religious wars).
Generally, it’s rice cooked in chicken fat and broth, giving a rich, meaty flavor on its own, topped with cooked chicken (typically bone-in dark meat with skin), along with some ginger and chili paste.
Simple in concept, and yet so delicious!
My favorite version of it (shown above) was from the “Roasted Delights” stand in informal cafe a local liked, at 109 Bukit Batok, West Avenue 6. In fact, this might be my favorite meal in Singapore (and at under $2 US, I enjoyed it more than the twenty-times-as-expensive fancy Indian restaurant Rang Mahal, which I thought was good but overrated).
I’ve also read online that many people like the Tian Tian Chicken Rice stand in the Maxwell Hawker Center, but I didn’t get a chance to try that during my brief visit to Singapore. Next time, perhaps.
Other trivia from a museum exhibit I saw there on the history of Singapore street food: “Originating from Hainan Island, China, chicken rice was originally eaten as hand-rolled rice balls (bui jin in Hainanese), as the round shape represented harmony and family cohesion. This practice started to face from the 1950s, partly due to government laws requiting hawkers to conform to hygiene standards in the preparation and serving of food.”
Sleuthing addendum: I actually didn’t remember the name or address of the place I’d had my favorite chicken rice above– all I had to go on was this nondescript photo I’d snapped on the street outside it, and the knowledge that it was in or near the Bukit Batok neighborhood:
However, through the magic of Google Street View, I was able to browse around the virtual streets in that area and find a collection of buildings that matched, even if the awning has faded, and track down the address. Success!