Chicken Rice in Malaysia
I grew up helping my parents sell hawker food and we started selling chicken rice soon after my dad learned the preparation of the chicken rice from one of the more famous “hainanese” chicken rice stall in Ipoh. (In their heydays they can actually sell almost 100+ birds per day!)
So it goes without saying that I am very fond of eating chicken rice (and who doesn’t in Malaysia and Singapore 🙂 ) and on top of that I am also fond of commenting on the chicken rice that i tasted.
There are different type of cooking for the chicken. The traditional “hainanese” style offered in Ipoh is mostly boiled chicken (in Cantonese we call it “pa-kai”) and then there is the more popular roast chicken and deep fried chicken which most people would not be bothered to differentiate and lastly the less well known stew chicken in herbs or soy sauce (with other ingredients) which is brownish in color.
The size and type of cooking is different in different town in Malaysia. So far the biggest chicken in terms of size can be found in KL while the rest of the smaller town have smaller chicken though it is supposedly of the same breed. As such the meat of the chicken found in KL is tougher and the cut by the chicken rice seller is also bigger. (and of course they charge more too! 🙂 )
The chicken served in Kulim and Muar have softer meat and possibly because of the way it is cooked the meat tend to fall off the bones and lack the chewy-ness found in Ipoh and KL chicken.
In KL we can easily find the different type of cooking as I mentioned above and in Kulim most of the chicken are roasted over coal (not Deep Fried!) while Muar people seemed to prefer boiled chicken.
Each time I have chicken rice with my friends they will be like – what’s the big deal Brian? It’s just a plate of chicken rice!
And therein lies the problem!
A plate of chicken rice is not just a plate of chicken rice – it is and has always been a combination of the fragrance cooked rice, the tender, juicy and silky smooth chicken, the right concoction of soy sauce with stock to create the chicken sauce and lastly the garlic and chilly combination sauce.
Not to mention the other condiments like pounded ginger sauce, dark sauce, cucumber and spring onions!
Many chicken rice stall I tried focuses mainly on the chicken itself and neglected on the rice, the chilly sauce and the sauce for the chicken. Without the combination or should I say the complementary items being prepared to perfection it cannot be a wholesome chicken rice eating experience.
One can only say they have eaten a plate of chicken or a plate of plain rice at best.
In my humble opinion, a plate of chicken rice can only be considered “whole” and good if it is served with light yellow “fragrance” rice, soft, tender yet chewy chicken top with light soy sauce prepared using chicken broth and lastly the right mix of garlic and chilly as the chicken rice chilly sauce.