Hainanese chicken rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish of poached chicken and seasoned rice, served with chili sauce and garnishes. It was created by immigrants from Hainan province in southern China and adapted from the Hainanese dish Wenchang chicken. It is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore and is most commonly associated with Singaporean cuisine but is also seen throughout Southeast Asia, particularly Malaysia where it is a culinary staple.

Hainanese chicken rice
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Hainanese chicken rice served at a hawker centre in Singapore
Alternative namesHainan chicken
Place of originSoutheast Asia
Region or stateSingapore and Southeast Asia
Associated national cuisineSingapore
Created byHainanese
Main ingredientsChicken, chicken stock, chicken fat, rice
Hainanese chicken rice
Traditional Chinese海南雞飯
Simplified Chinese海南鸡饭
Literal meaningHainan chicken rice
Standard Mandarin
Hanyu PinyinHǎinán jīfàn
Romanizationhoi nam gai fan
Yue: Cantonese
Jyutpinghoi2 naam4 gai1 faan6
Southern Min
Hokkien POJhái-lâm-kue-pn̄g, hái-lâm-ke-pn̄g


Hainanese chicken rice is a dish adapted from early Chinese immigrants originally from Hainan province in southern China. It is based on a well-known Hainanese dish called Wenchang chicken (文昌雞), which is one of four important Hainan dishes dating to the Chin dynasty.[1] The Hainanese in China traditionally used a specific breed, the Wenchang chicken, to make the dish.[2] The original dish was adapted by the Hainanese overseas Chinese population in the Nanyang area (present-day Southeast Asia).[3]

Almost every country in Asia with a history of immigration from China has a version.[1] The San Francisco Chronicle says, "the dish maps 150 years’ immigration from China’s Hainan Island...to Singapore and Malaysia, where the dish is often known as Hainan chicken rice; to Vietnam, where it is called “Hai Nam chicken”; and to Thailand, where it has been renamed “khao man gai” (“fatty rice chicken”)."[4]

In Singapore

In Singapore the dish was born of frugality, created by servant-class immigrants trying to stretch the flavor of the chicken.[5]

The first chicken rice restaurants opened in Singapore during Japanese occupation in World War II, when the British were forced out and their Hainanese servants lost their source of income. One of the first was Yet Con, which opened in the early 1940s.[5] The dish was popularised in Singapore in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997.[6] Hong Kong food critic Chua Lam credits Moh with the creation of the dish.[2] Channel News Asia's Annette Tan credits Wang Yiyuan for "bringing the dish" to Singapore in the 1920s.[7]

Hainanese chicken rice is considered one of Singapore's national dishes.[8][4][7][5][3][9][10][11] It is eaten "everywhere, every day" in Singapore[9] and is a "ubiquitous sight in hawker centres across the country".[3]

While most commonly associated with Singaporean cuisine, the dish is also seen throughout Southeast Asia and in parts of the United States.[12][9]

Origins Controversy

In a debate that stretches back decades to 1965, when the two countries split, both Malaysia and Singapore have laid claim to inventing the dish.[13][14]

In 2009 Malaysia’s Tourism Minister Datuk Seri Dr Ng Yen Yen said that Hainanese chicken rice was "uniquely Malaysian" and had been "hijacked" by other countries.[15][16][17]

In 2018 Malaysian Finance Minister Lim Guan Eng joked that Singapore claimed "chicken rice is theirs (and) if we’re not careful, ‘char koay teow‘ will become theirs" one day.[13][14]


Catherine Ling of CNN called Hainanese chicken rice one of the "40 Singapore foods we can't live without".[11] It was listed as one of the "World's 50 best foods" by CNN in 2018.[18] David Farley of the BBC called it "the dish worth the 15-hour flight" and said it was "deceptively simple – which is good, because on paper it sounds awfully boring."[5] Saveur called it "one of the most beloved culinary exports of Southeast Asia."[19]



Chatterbox ChickenRice
Hainanese chicken rice at Chatterbox, Meritus Mandarin

The chicken is prepared in accordance with traditional Hainanese methods, which involve poaching the entire chicken at sub-boiling temperatures to both cook the bird and produce stock. The bird is dipped in ice after cooking to produce a jelly-like skin finishing, commonly referred to as báijī (白雞; "white chicken") and hung to dry.[5]

The stock is skimmed of fat and some of the fat and liquid, along with ginger, garlic, and pandan leaves, are used in the cooking of the rice, producing an oily, flavourful rice sometimes known as "oily rice".[5] In Singapore "the most important part of chicken rice is not the chicken, but the rice."[5]

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.[4][5] Some stalls may also serve nonya achar as an additional side.[7]


Nasi ayam, a Malay style of chicken rice, in Muar, Johor, Malaysia

In Malaysia, nasi ayam (literally "rice chicken" in Bahasa Melayu) is "a culinary staple"[20] and a popular street food, particularly in Ipoh, a center of Hainanese immigration.[10]

The general term nasi ayam can refer to multiple variations including roasted and fried chicken, can be served with a variety of sauces including barbecue, and can be accompanied by a variety of side dishes including steamed rice rather than seasoned 'oily' rice, soup, or chicken offal.[21]

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.[21]


2013 Khao man kai CM
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-fat 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.[22]

One famous Bangkok neighborhood for Khao man kai is Pratunam in Ratchathewi district, located near to Platinum Fashion Mall, CentralWorld and Ratchaprasong Intersection. Some restaurant in Pratunam received Bib Gourmand awards from the 2018 Michelin Guide.[23] It has been reported that these restaurants are especially popular amongst Hong Kong, Japanese and Taiwanese tourists.[24] Khao man kai is also well known in other areas, including Bang Sue,[25] Yaowarat[26] and Phasi Charoen near Bang Wa BTS station and Phyathai 3 Hospital[27] including various places viz Thanon Tok near Rama III Bridge,[28] Thong Lor on Sukhumvit Road, Wat Suthiwararam School, Yan Nawa, Bang Kapi, Wat Saket and Saphan Kwai neighborhoods.[29] [30]


The dish is known as Cơm Gà Hải Nam in Vietnamese.

In popular culture

  • Chicken Rice War is a 2000 Singaporean romantic comedy adaptation of Romeo and Juliet featuring two rival chicken rice hawker families whose children fall in love.


  1. ^ a b O'Change, Hanji. "The Way Rice Should Be: Hainanese Chicken Rice". Free Press. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  2. ^ a b Cam, Lisa. "So, if Hainan chicken didn't come from Hainan, where is it from?". Style. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  3. ^ a b c "Chicken Rice". VisitSingapore.com. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  4. ^ a b c Kauffman, Jonathan. "Hainanese chicken rice: Southeast Asia's ever-evolving comfort food". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h Farley, David. "The Dish Worth the 15-Hour Flight". BBC.
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ a b c Tan, Annette. "5 places for good chicken rice". Channel NewsAsia. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  8. ^ Goldfield, Hannah. "Chili Crabs Provide a Lively Intro to Singaporean Cuisine at Yummy Tummy". New Yorker. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  9. ^ a b c Kugiya, Hugo. "Singapore's national dish: Hainan chicken rice". Crosscut. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  10. ^ a b Brehaut, Laura. "Cook this: Hainanese chicken rice a Malaysian street-food classic". National Post. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  11. ^ a b Ling, Catherine. "40 Singapore foods we can't live without". CNN. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  12. ^ Bittman, Mark. "From a Chinese Island, a Chicken for Every Pot". New York Times. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  13. ^ a b Tan, Dylan. "Chicken rice war reignited as Lim Guan Eng urged Malaysia to give Singapore a run for its money". Business Insider. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  14. ^ a b Loh, Lainey. "Malaysia vs Singapore: Who has better food?". Asian Correspondent. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  15. ^ Sukmaran, Tashny; Jaipragas, Bhavan. "FOOD FIGHT, LAH: WHO WILL EAT THEIR WORDS IN SINGAPORE-MALAYSIA HAWKER BATTLE?". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  16. ^ Celjo, Farah. "Dipping sauce and a little controversy: who knew chicken rice had such 'wow' factor". SBS. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  17. ^ "The debate about the origins of food – a futile food fight?". Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  18. ^ "The world's 50 best foods". CNN. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  19. ^ Pang, Kevin. "THE WORLD'S BEST CHICKEN COMES FROM HAINAN". Saveur. Retrieved 14 January 2019.
  20. ^ "Hainanese Chicken Rice". Gourmet. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  21. ^ a b "Chicken Rice". Malaysia Travel. Retrieved 13 January 2019.
  22. ^ "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.
  23. ^ "Go-Ang Kaomunkai Pratunam (Pratunam)". Michelin Guide.
  24. ^ "ทำไมคนเอเชีย หลงใหล ข้าวมันไก่ประตูน้ำ". Voice TV (in Thai). Jul 29, 2014.
  25. ^ "ยอดขายหลักล้าน "เจริญชัยไก่ตอน" ข้าวมันไก่ 24 ชม". Bangkok Bank (in Thai). 2018-01-27.
  26. ^ ""ไท้เฮง" ตำรับไหหลำ อร่อยอย่างเหลาที่เยาวราช". Manager Daily (in Thai). 2011-01-30.
  27. ^ ปิ่นโตเถาเล็ก (2014-10-26). "ข้าวมันไก่บางไผ่ทอง ไก่ตอนนุ่มหนึบหนังบาง ตับนุ่มเนียนที่สุด". Matichon (in Thai).
  28. ^ "Check in ถิ่นสยาม ถนนตก ทำไมจึงชื่อถนนตก แล้วถนนตกนี้จะไปตกที่ไหน". Matichon (in Thai). 2015-07-06.
  29. ^ "01: พันธนาการแห่งข้าวมันไก่". minimore (in Thai). 2015-07-24.
  30. ^ สริตา (2011-05-22). "###(CR)ข้าวมันไก่เจ๊ยี ตรงข้ามวัดสระเกศ###". Pantip.com (in Thai).
Airline chicken

Airline chicken is a food dish comprising a boneless chicken breast with the drumette attached. Skin on breast with 1st wing joint and tenderloin attached, otherwise boneless. The cut is also known as a frenched breast. It is also known as "statler chicken," a name which originated from the Statler Hotel Boston, built in 1927 by E.M. Statler.

Bean sprouts chicken

Bean sprouts chicken (Cantonese transliteration: Ngah Choi Kai; or Malay: Taugeh Ayam) is a dish similar to Hainanese chicken rice, the only difference being the dish comes with a plate of beansprouts. The steamed chicken is served with light soya sauce flavoured with oil.

People usually eat rice as an accompaniment; however sometimes people can also choose to accompany the chicken and bean sprout with a bowl of flat white noodles (Cantonese transliteration: Hor Fun) (Simplified Chinese: 河粉) clear chicken soup.

Brown stew chicken

Brown stew chicken, also referred to as stew chicken, is a dish typically eaten for dinner throughout the English speaking Caribbean islands. The dish is popular in Jamaica, Antigua, Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados, Saint Lucia, Grenada, Belize, Dominica and in Caribbean communities throughout the world. The dish is called brown because of the distinct dark colour of the dish. The colour is achieved by browning the chicken in brown sugar, which creates a rich gravy to which main vegetable components like onions, garlic and carrots are added.

Chicken and mushroom pie

Chicken and mushroom pie is a common British pie, ranked as one of the most popular types of savoury pie in Great Britain and often served in fish and chips restaurants.

Chicken and rice

Chicken and rice or similar may refer to:

Chicken and rice or Arroz con pollo, a Latin American dish

Claypot chicken rice, a clay pot dish popular in southern China, Singapore, and Malaysia

Cơm gà rau thơm, a popular chicken and rice dish in Vietnamese cuisine

Galinhada, a traditional dish in central Brazil

Hainanese chicken rice, a Hainan Chinese dish popular in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand

Oyakodon, Japanese chicken and rice dish

Chikin raisu (chicken rice, rice pan-fried with ketchup and chicken), an ingredient in Japanese Omurice.

Chicken biryani, a spiced dish common in South Asia

Chicken pilaf, a dish made from chicken and rice

The Halal Guys, a food cart in New York City also known as "Chicken and Rice"

The Chicken Rice Shop, a Malaysian chain restaurant chain serving Hainanese chicken rice

Chicken lollipop

Chicken lollipop is an hors d'oeuvre popular in Indian Chinese cuisine. Chicken lollipop is, essentially a frenched chicken winglet, wherein the meat is cut loose from the bone end and pushed down creating a lollipop appearance. It is usually served hot with Szechuan sauce.

Chilli chicken

Chilli chicken is a popular Indo-Chinese dish of chicken. In India, this may include a variety of dry chicken preparations. Though mainly boneless chicken is used in this dish, some people also recommend to use boned chicken too.

Circassian chicken

Circassian chicken (Adyghe: Jed de ships sch'etu) is a dish of shredded boiled chicken served under or in a rich paste made with crushed walnuts, and stock thickened with stale bread. Circassian Chicken is a classic Circassian dish, adopted by the Imperial Ottoman cuisine. Although it was typically served as a main course, it became popular as an appetizer, or meze. Being an Imperial-era dish, it can also be found in other cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. A similar walnut sauce and a chicken dish made with this sauce is known as satsivi in Georgian cuisine.

Cơm gà rau thơm

In Vietnamese cuisine, cơm gà rau thơm is a popular chicken and rice dish. This dish is rice cooked in chicken stock and topped with fried then shredded chicken, with mint and other herbs. The rice has a unique texture and taste that the fried mint garnish enhances. It is served with a unique herb sauce on the side.

Duck rice

Duck rice (simplified Chinese: 鸭饭; traditional Chinese: 鴨飯; pinyin: yā fàn) is a meat dish usually consumed by the Chinese community, made of either braised or roasted duck and plain white rice. The braised duck is usually cooked with yam and shrimps; it can be served simply with plain white rice and a thick dark sauce; side dishes of braised hard-boiled eggs, preserved salted vegetables, or hard beancurd may be added. In addition, Teochew boneless duck rice is a similar, but a more refined dish; due to the slightly tougher texture of duck, the duck is artfully deboned and sliced thinly for the convenience and ease of the diner, allowing the sauces to seep into the meat, making it a more pleasant experience on the whole; Hainanese chicken rice and other similar dishes have followed this style due to the popularity.

This dish can commonly be found in food centers all around Singapore.

In Thailand this dish named Khao na ped (ข้าวหน้าเป็ด; lit: "rice topped with duck"), it is a food that can be found along the street vendors or restaurant in the shopping mall. For famous Bangkok's neighborhood in duck rice is Bangrak on Charoen Krung road etc. In addition, it was also adapted to other dish by mixing roasted red pork and Chinese sausage with a special gravy called Khao che po (ข้าวเฉโป) or Khao sia po (ข้าวเสียโป), meaning "gamble away rice". It is considered a rare traditional Teochew cuisine.

Engagement Chicken

Engagement Chicken is a lemon and herb flavored roast chicken dish, purported to cause boyfriends to propose marriage.

Fujian red wine chicken

Fujian red wine chicken (simplified Chinese: 红糟鸡; traditional Chinese: 紅糟雞; pinyin: hóngzāojī) is a traditional dish of northern Fujian cuisine which is made from braising chicken in red yeast rice. This dish is traditionally served to celebrate birthdays and served with "long life" noodles misua.

Gulai ayam

Gulai ayam (Minangkabau and Indonesian for 'gulai chicken') is a traditional Indonesian dish of chicken cooked in a spicy, rich, yellowish, curry-like sauce called gulai. It is originally from West Sumatra (Padang). It can be classified as an Indonesian curry. Together with gulai kambing, (goat or mutton gulai), it is the most common and popular variant of gulai.

Hainan people

The Hainan people (Chinese: 海南人), also known as Hainanese or Hainam nang (in Hainanese dialect, are the native people (including Han Chinese) who originate from Hainan, the southernmost and smallest Chinese province. The term "Hainanese" was frequently used by Hainanese-speaking Han Chinese (Chinese: 海南漢人), who are the majority in the island, to identify themselves overseas. Nevertheless, other natives of the island such as Hlai (Chinese: 黎族), Yao (Chinese: 苗族 "Miao people") and Utsuls also use the term.

Malaysian Chinese cuisine

Malaysian Chinese cuisine is derived from the culinary traditions of Chinese Malaysian immigrants and their descendants, who have adapted or modified their culinary traditions under the influence of Malaysian culture as well as immigration patterns of Chinese to Malaysia. Because the vast majority of Chinese Malaysians are descendants of immigrants from southern China, Malaysian Chinese cuisine is predominantly based on an eclectic repertoire of dishes with roots from Fujian, Cantonese, Hakka and Teochew cuisines.

As these early immigrants settled in different regions throughout what was then British Malaya and Borneo, they carried with them traditions of foods and recipes that were particularly identified with their origins in China, which gradually became infused with the characteristics of their new home locale in Malaysia while remaining distinctively Chinese. For example, Hainanese chicken rice is usually flavoured with tropical pandan leaves and served with chilli sauce for dipping, and tastes unlike the typical chicken dishes found in Hainan Island itself. Some of these foods and recipes became closely associated with a specific city, town or village, eventually developing iconic status and culminating in a proliferation of nationwide popularity in the present day.

Chinese food is especially prominent in areas with concentrated Chinese communities, at roadside stalls, hawker centres and kopitiam, as well as smart cafes and upmarket restaurants throughout the nation. Many Chinese dishes have pork as a component ingredient, but chicken is available as a substitution for Muslim customers from the wider community, and some Chinese restaurants are even halal-certified.

Mandarin Orchard Singapore

Mandarin Orchard Singapore, formerly the Mandarin Singapore, and Meritus Mandarin Singapore managed by Meritus Hotels & Resorts, is a five-star hotel located at 333 Orchard Road in Singapore. The hotel opened in 1971, occupying a single 36-storey block. It became a landmark for the Orchard Road area when the second block, standing at 40 storeys and 152 metres high, became the tallest building in Singapore at the time of its opening in 1973.Designed by Cyrus Casper Francis, it currently has over 1,051 rooms and 32 suites, two exclusive Club lounges and two Presidential Suites. In 1980, the South Tower was extended with the help of Lee Sian Teck Chartered Architects. The Orchard Wing was upgraded again in 2003 at a cost of S$52 million. At the top of the Main Wing is the Mandarin Club Lounge, while the taller tower has the Top of the 'M', the tallest revolving restaurant in Singapore.

As of 2011, the 2 tower blocks holds a total of 1051 rooms. The hotel underwent a major S$200 million renovations in 2009 which saw the previous hotel lobby on the first floor and the lower few levels of the hotel revamped to become a shopping arcade known as Mandarin Gallery. The hotel lobby itself was relocated to level 5 beside the swimming pool.The hotel specifically targets at the business traveler market, and is thus a popular venue for meetings and conferences with facilities seating up to 1200 people. Voted as one of the World’s Best Places to Stay in the 2004 Gold List of Condé Nast Traveler and into the list of The World’s Top 75 Hotels in 2003 of Institutional Investor, it is the flagship hotel of Meritus Hotels and Resorts.

The Chatterbox restaurant at the hotel is well known for its award winning Hainanese chicken rice. In 2007, the originator of the dish, Steven Low, was laid off after 31 years of service; he promptly opened his own restaurant, serving the same dish at a quarter of the price. The hotel also has a recently renovated shopping complex, Mandarin Gallery, which has branded boutiques such as Montblanc (pens), Emporio Armani, Marc by Marc Jacobs, D&G, Vertu, Just Cavalli and Mauboussin, as well as restaurants such as Ippudo and the one-Michelin-starred Beni.Part of the Meritus Hotels & Resorts, Mandarin Orchard Singapore has a sister hotel, Marina Mandarin Singapore, located at the Marina Bay.

Rice Rhapsody

Rice Rhapsody (alternative title Hainan Chicken Rice) (Chinese: 海南雞飯, literally meaning "Hainanese chicken rice") is a 2004 film directed by Kenneth Bi. The cast includes Sylvia Chang and Martin Yan. Jackie Chan was one of the executive producers.

Ruangsak Loychusak

Ruangsak Loychusak (Thai: เรืองศักดิ์ ลอยชูศักดิ์; also known as James Ruangsak) is a Thai actor and singer. His first album was Dai Wela...James (It's time for James) He then made more albums, including Siren Love, Forever James, The Next, James Hits Series, and James F. M. His bestselling albums were Siren Love and James F. M., and popular singles were Khon raek (Thai: คนแรก; lit: "First One"), Khao man kai (ข้าวมันไก่; "Hainanese chicken rice"), Mai aht bplian jai (ไม่อาจเปลี่ยนใจ; "I Shouldn't Change Your Mind") etc.

SingTel Hawker Heroes Challenge

The SingTel Hawker Heroes Challenge was organised by SingTel and was held on 7 July 2013 at the Newton Food Centre. Live streaming of the challenge was broadcast by Singtel on its HungryGoWhere portal, as well as the announcement of results on Mio TV. The challenge involved popular television personality and UK chef, Gordon Ramsay, pitting his skills against a group of chosen food hawkers in Singapore.

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