Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice
Where: 30 Seng Poh Rd #02-82
Opening hours: 10am – 8pm (closed on Mon)
Owner：Cheong Weng Wah
A heritage neighbourhood. An old wet market. A Tiong Bahru boy who grew up to helm his own stall. These all come together to make the story of a Michelin-recommended chicken rice stall.
SETTING THE STAGE
A district with a distinct retro atmosphere, Tiong Bahru is also famous for its wet market — a landmark in its own right. Not just a food mecca for local gourmands, it is also an attraction for travellers in search of authentic local flavour. Populating the food court on the second level of the market are many stalls, each with a history spanning decades. Among them is Tiong Bahru Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice, open since 1988.
A FRIEND’S SECRET RECIPE
Stall owner Cheong Weng Wah has Tiong Bahru in his blood. The 48 year-old grew up on the streets of this neighbourhood, and the market is a familiar hang out spot for him. It was only natural that he would choose to start his chicken rice stall in Tiong Bahru, where his heart is.
TENDER LOVING CARE
Cheong shares that just about every chicken rice seller has his own way of cooking the dish, and how the chicken is prepared is also different then and now. While it is now common knowledge to soak the blanched chicken in ice water for optimal tenderness of the flesh and silkiness of the skin, this was a little-known “secret technique” when Cheong first started out. “I adopted this technique earlier than others thanks to the guidance of my friend, and realised that it really resulted in excellent texture for the meat.”
As for the rice, Cheong reveals that apart from the usual garlic, spring onion and ginger, he also adds a special ingredient of onion. This adds a unique hint of sweetness to the rice, making it stand out.
BROTHERS IN ARMS
Cheong and his two friends currently manage the stall on a rotating shift. This shortens the hours, yet allows for more hands on deck to prepare the different dishes. “the hours for hawkers are too long!” he laments. “Without helpers, how can?”
For Cheong who has been selling chicken rice for almost 30 years, gaining recognition from the MICHELIN guide comes as a pleasant surprise, as it brings new business opportunities for him. However, he is not about to rush into expanding, preferring to keep his focus on maintaining quality. “We currently sell about 40 to 50 chickens a day – that is all we can prepare! If you like our chicken rice, make a trip down to Tiong Bahru!”