Open main menu

Hainanese chicken rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish adapted from early Chinese immigrants originally from Hainan province in southern China, where it's called Wenchang chicken.[1] It is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore.[2] Hainanese chicken rice is most commonly associated with Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines, although it is also popular in Thailand, where it is known as Khao Man Gai, and also in Vietnam and Indonesia. It is based on a well-known Hainanese dish called Wenchang chicken (文昌雞), due to its adoption by the Hainanese overseas Chinese population in the Nanyang area (present-day Southeast Asia). Catherine Ling of CNN describes Hainanese chicken rice as one of the "40 Singapore foods we can't live without".[3] It also listed at number 45 on World's 50 most delicious foods compiled by CNN Go in 2011.[4] In Malaysia, as in Singapore, chicken rice is available in many Chinese coffee shops, restaurants and street hawker stalls, and also in chain restaurants such as The Chicken Rice Shop and OldTown White Coffee.

Hainanese chicken rice
Hainanese Chicken Rice.jpg
Hainanese chicken rice served at a hawker centre in Singapore
Alternative namesHainan chicken
Place of originSoutheast Asia
Region or stateSingapore, Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia and Indonesia
Associated national cuisineSingapore
Created byHainanese
Main ingredientsChicken, chicken bone stock, rice
Hainanese chicken rice
Traditional Chinese海南雞飯
Simplified Chinese海南鸡饭
Literal meaningHainan chicken rice



The chicken is prepared in accordance with traditional Hainanese methods, which involve poaching the entire chicken at sub-boiling temperatures. The resulting stock is skimmed off and some of the fat and liquid, along with ginger, garlic (and in the case of Singaporean and Malaysian chicken rice, pandan leaves) is used in the cooking of the rice, producing an oily, flavourful rice sometimes known as "oily rice".

The Hainanese prefer using older, plumper birds to maximise the amount of fat extracted, thus creating a more flavourful dish. Over time, however, the dish began adopting elements of Cantonese cooking styles, such as using younger birds to produce more tender meats. In Singapore and Malaysian chicken rice, the bird is dipped in ice after cooking to produce a jelly-like skin finishing, commonly referred to as báijī (白雞; "white chicken"), while Thai khao man gai notably omits this step. Chicken prepared by braising – lǔjī (滷雞; "stock chicken") – or roasting – shāojī (燒雞; "roasted chicken") – may also be used. Although the latter two are technically "chicken rice" as in rice served with chicken, Hainanese chicken rice is always poached, not braised or roasted.

In most countries, the dish is served with a dipping sauce of freshly minced red chilli and garlic, usually accompanied with dark soy sauce and freshly ground ginger. Fresh cucumber boiled in the chicken broth and light soy sauce with a dash of sesame oil are served with the chicken, which is usually served at room temperature. Some stalls may also serve nonya achar[5] as an additional side. Many stalls, especially in Singapore or Malaysia, now offer deboned chicken.

Regional variationsEdit


Hainanese chicken rice at Chatterbox, Meritus Mandarin

The prevalence of stalls selling Hainanese chicken rice as their primary specialty in Singapore underscores the dish's popularity amongst Singaporeans and overseas visitors. Hainanese chicken rice is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore, and is often served at international expositions 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.[6]

In Singapore, Hainanese chicken rice is served everywhere from school canteens, hawker stalls to major restaurants. 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, Wee Nam Kee and others which have many outlets island wide. It is very common to find Rice Balls in such chain eateries. The price range is around S$2.50–4.50 (the latter if the dish includes a drumstick). Most stalls serve extras such as braised dark soy hard boiled egg, chicken liver, braised dark soy firm tofu (Tau-kwa) and kai-lan with oyster sauce as side dishes and a bowl of plain chicken stock soup. The choice of white (steamed) or roasted chicken is commonly available at almost all eateries.

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.[7] The dish was popularised in Singapore in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997.[8]


In Malaysia, Hainanese chicken rice is also called nasi ayam (not to be confused with nasi lemak); nasi means rice and ayam means chicken in Bahasa Melayu.

A chicken rice ball restaurant in Malacca, Malaysia
Hainanese chicken rice balls in Muar, Johor, Malaysia

Most chicken rice vendors in the country also offer an alternative of roasted chicken instead of the regular poached or steamed chicken. Other variations include a BBQ version or also a honey-roasted choice.

Some restaurants offer Guangxi style white cut chicken (Chinese: 广西白切鸡) as part of the chicken rice experience. An important heritage dish for Malaysian Chinese descended from immigrants from Guangxi province, it is always served during festive or special occasions. The chicken is drenched prior to serving with nam, a sauce prepared with chopped garlic chives, ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce.

In Malacca, the chicken rice is served as rice balls rather than a bowl of rice, commonly known as Chicken rice balls. Steamed rice is shaped into golf ball-sized orbs and served alongside the chopped chicken. This dish is eaten the same way as the regular version, making sure to get a portion of chicken, some rice and the soy and chili condiment into each mouthful. Older chefs argue that the rice was originally shaped into balls because it needed to be kept warm from the time it was cooked (often earlier in the day) until mealtime. The rice balls, when stored in wooden containers, apparently stayed warm for a longer time. The other theory is that the rice balls were more portable and were easier for labourers working on plantations to transport from home. Today, rice balls are appreciated more as a novelty than anything else.

Bean sprouts chicken (ngah choi kai) of Ipoh, Malaysia, is a related dish. The chicken is served with blanched bean sprouts and white rice instead of seasoned rice. This is a very popular version of the rice and many other chicken rice stall have slowly followed it by adding in bean sprouts along with the chicken. The chicken rice dish can also be further accompanied with a simple pork meatball soup. In addition to that, various hawkers also sell a variety of chicken innards – gizzard, liver, intestines – which are also equally popular for chicken rice lovers.

Chicken rice, or nasi ayam, is also very popular with the Malay community, with the dish adapted to suit the Malay liking for spicier and more robustly flavoured food. The chicken is steamed, and then fried or roasted, although this usually result in a drier texture for the chicken meat. The chili condiment has also been modified: less garlic and ginger are used, and tamarind juice is added to the condiment for a tangier taste. Chicken rice has become extremely popular among the Muslims in Malaysia such that certain food stalls can survive very well by serving only Chicken rice.


Khao man kai, a Thai variation on Hainanese chicken rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a common dish in Thailand where it is called khao man kai (Thai: ข้าวมันไก่), literally meaning "chicken-oil rice". The chickens used in Thailand for this dish can be free range chickens of local breeds, resulting in a leaner and tastier dish, but increasingly meat chickens from large scale poultry farms are being used. Khao man kai is served with a garnish of cucumbers and occasionally chicken blood tofu and fresh coriander, along with a bowl of nam sup, a clear chicken broth which often contains sliced daikon. The accompanying sauce is most often made with tauchu (also known as yellow soybean paste), thick soy sauce, chilli, ginger, garlic and vinegar.[9]

One famous Bangkok neighborhood for Khao man kai is Pratunam in Ratchathewi district, located near to Platinum Fashion Mall, CentralWorld and Ratchaprasong Intersection. Several restaurants in Pratunam received Bib Gourmand awards from the 2018 Michelin Guide. [10] It has been reported that these restaurants are especially popular amongst Hong Kong, Japanese and Taiwanese tourists.[11] Khao man kai is also well known in other areas, including Bang Sue,[12] Talat Phlu,[13] Yaowarat[14] and Phasi Charoen near Bang Wa BTS station and Phyathai 3 Hospital[15] including various places viz Thanon Tok near Rama III Bridge,[16] Thong Lor on Sukhumvit Road, Wat Suthiwararam School, Yan Nawa, Bang Kapi, Wat Saket and Saphan Kwai neighborhoods etc.[17][18]


The dish is called Nasi Hainam in Indonesia. It is mostly sold in locations with residents of Chinese descent, and the topping usually contains pork in addition to the chicken.[citation needed]


Hainanese chicken rice is called bay moan (khmer : បាយមាន់) in Cambodia. It is served with a sweet sauce composed of fish sauce, sugar, garlic, lime, shallots and chili.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Hainanese Chicken Rice".
  2. ^ Kugiya, Hugo (2010-03-18). "Singapore's national dish: Hainan chicken rice". Archived from the original on 2011-08-31. Retrieved 2013-10-03.
  3. ^ Ling, Catherine (April 14, 2010). "40 Singapore foods we can't live without". CNN.
  4. ^ CNN Go World's 50 most delicious foods 21 July 2011. Retrieved 2011-10-11
  5. ^ "5 places for good chicken rice". Channel News Asia. Retrieved 2 November 2018.
  6. ^ Chan, Aaron (June 27, 2017). "Chicken rice, laksa and other popular Singapore dishes to be served on selected SIA flights in July". The Straits Times. Retrieved February 17, 2018.
  7. ^ Wang Zhenchun (王振春). Hua Shuo Hainan Ren (话说海南人): Hainanese Coffeeshops (海南人的咖啡店). The Youth Book Co. Singapore. 2008. pp 25.
  8. ^ Wang Zhenchun (王振春). Hua Shuo Hainan Ren (话说海南人): Mo Lu Rui Created The Mini Hainanese Chicken Rice Empire (莫履瑞创下海南鸡饭小王国). The Youth Book Co. Singapore. 2008. ISBN 978-981-08-1095-5. pp 82
  9. ^ "How to Make Khao Man Gai ข้าวมันไก่: Thai Version of Hainanese Chicken and Rice". She Simmers: Thai Home Cooking. 9 June 2009. Retrieved 26 September 2014.
  10. ^ "Go-Ang Kaomunkai Pratunam (Pratunam)". Michelin Guide.
  11. ^ "ทำไมคนเอเชีย หลงใหล ข้าวมันไก่ประตูน้ำ". Voice TV (in Thai). Jul 29, 2014.
  12. ^ "ยอดขายหลักล้าน "เจริญชัยไก่ตอน" ข้าวมันไก่ 24 ชม". Bangkok Bank (in Thai). 2018-01-27.
  13. ^ "'แก้ว'ข้าวมันไก่ ตลาดพลูตรงข้ามวัดราชคฤห์วรวิหาร". ryt9 (in Thai). 2015-09-13.
  14. ^ ""ไท้เฮง" ตำรับไหหลำ อร่อยอย่างเหลาที่เยาวราช". Manager Daily (in Thai). 2011-01-30.
  15. ^ ปิ่นโตเถาเล็ก (2014-10-26). "ข้าวมันไก่บางไผ่ทอง ไก่ตอนนุ่มหนึบหนังบาง ตับนุ่มเนียนที่สุด". Matichon (in Thai).
  16. ^ "Check in ถิ่นสยาม ถนนตก ทำไมจึงชื่อถนนตก แล้วถนนตกนี้จะไปตกที่ไหน". Matichon (in Thai). 2015-07-06.
  17. ^ "01: พันธนาการแห่งข้าวมันไก่". minimore (in Thai). 2015-07-24.
  18. ^ สริตา (2011-05-22). "###(CR)ข้าวมันไก่เจ๊ยี ตรงข้ามวัดสระเกศ###". (in Thai).