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Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam—where did Hainanese chicken rice originate from and what is the history of this well-travelled dish? History has it that it was created by immigrants from Hainan in southern China as an adaptation from the Hainanese dish Wenchang chicken, a dish of poached chicken and seasoned rice, served with chilli sauce and cucumber garnishes. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, “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.”
Regardless of its origins, we sure know how to appreciate good Hainanese chicken rice. Other cities usually use white-skinned chickens, but here in Hong Kong, restaurants like to use yellow-skinned chickens for a more fragrant and smoother flavour. Check out our top picks of the best Hainanese chicken rice dishes in Hong Kong and start planning your next restaurant visit (or at-home delivery).
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice hails from Singapore, and their fame has preceded them even before they opened their first branch in our fair city. As their name suggests, their most popular item on the menu is the signature Hainanese chicken rice ($80), served on their signature blue patterned plate. It comes with a hearty slab of chicken and a big dollop of chicken oil rice that is soaked in pure chicken essence. Pro tip: If you’re dining at Tian Tian with several people, put in one or two orders of the plain Hainan chicken ($158) and a separate order of chicken rice that comes in a stone pot; that way, you can dive right in and create your own sharing portions.
Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, locations across Hong Kong
Coming to us all the way from Singapore’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Chatterbox Café arrived in Hong Kong to toss their hat into the Hainanese chicken rice ring. Armed with a menu filled with popular items like their Mandarin chicken rice ($118), Chatterbox jumbo scallop laksa ($158), and the irresistible signature coconut ice cream ($88), diners can look forward to soaking up tropical Singapore vibes and authentic flavours.
The design of the restaurant is also super chic, with pale coral colours and gilded furniture as dominant elements, and almost every seat is an enviable Instagrammable spot. Though their rice is prepared and served on the dry side (for those looking to avoid the traditional kind mixed with heavy chicken oil), their Hainanese chicken is silky-smooth and juicy with every bite.
Chatterbox Café, Shop B110, B1/F, K11 Musea, Victoria Dockside, 18 Salisbury Road, Tsim Sha Tsui | (+852) 2352 2173
Malacca Cuisine is a popular network of small restaurants spread throughout the city with the goal of serving up the best of Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines. Pop by for lunch and try out their signature Hainanese chicken rice with soup ($68), where you can choose the option of having your mains served with laksa ($82) or white pepper bak kut teh ($82), both famous soup-based dishes from Singapore. Their Hainanese chicken comes in generous portions, so rest assured that you will get quite a bit of meat for a very reasonable price!
This family-friendly restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental offers a huge variety of cuisines, from Western classics like pizza and pasta to Asian favourites such as curries and their famous Hainanese chicken rice with baby bok choy, garlic & chilli sauce ($318). It is arguably one of the best—and the most expensive—Hainanese chicken rice in town, but what you get here is a premium dish that ought to be reckoned with. The chicken is deboned before being served with a generous bowl of chicken oil rice, three sauces (dark soy sauce, garlic, and spicy sauce), and a piping hot bowl of soup. This is how a complete set of Hainanese chicken rice ought to be, so make sure to have sips of the soup to wash the rice down!
Café Causette, M/F, Mandarin Oriental, Hong Kong, 5 Connaught Road Central, Central | (+852) 2825 4005
Satay Inn is modelled after Singapore’s iconic street hawker stalls but placed into a more formal setting, given that it is still a hotel restaurant, and they serve some of the best South Asian delicacies in the area. Their traditional specialities, such as the laksa ($118) and the signature Hainanese chicken rice ($168), are just a few of the restaurant’s must-try items. The best thing about their Hainanese chicken is that even though it is silky in texture, there’s much less fat on the skin, making it a healthier option compared to other Hainanese chicken dishes.
Thai Chiu (泰潮) is a famous restaurant chain in Hong Kong, making regular appearances on the Bib Gourmand recommendations list of Hong Kong’s Michelin Guide. You can find their branches spread across Hong Kong Island, Kowloon, New Territories, as well as Lantau Island, so there are plenty of opportunities to visit, no matter where you are. Their Michelin Hainanese chicken rice ($82) is their most sought-after item on the menu, and it comes with a spicy and sour cucumber salad and a bowl of Thai chicken soup. You can change the chicken meat to wings or drumstick, but their fragrant and tender chicken breast meat remains the OG. Whether it is worthy of a Michelin star will be up to you to judge!
Don’t be fooled by The Farm Café (農場冰室); it might remind you of a bing sutt (冰室; a traditional Hong Kong-style café) but they have an open kitchen where you can see all the magic happening behind the scenes—quite a modern touch for a local-inspired restaurant. Surprisingly, their Hainanese chicken rice ($68) is the signature item on the menu, and it comes highly recommended by the establishment’s loyal clientele. You can also have other bing sutt classics, such as Hong Kong-style French toast ($34), pork chop burgers ($34), and more.
The Farm Café (農場冰室), Shop A, 38–40 Catchick Street, Kennedy Town | (+852) 3486 3632
Grand Hyatt’s Grand Café is another destination that plays host to new culinary creations and a wide spread of international cuisines, so it should not come as a surprise that Asian specialities have found their way onto the restaurant’s menu. Believe it or not, Grand Café’s famed Hainanese chicken rice ($295) draws rave reviews from all over and is considered the restaurant’s biggest accomplishment, and this stunning dish is served with organic vegetables, a rich chicken broth, and fragrant Asian herbs. Try it for yourself to see if it lives up to the hype!
Grand Café, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, 1 Harbour Road, Wan Chai | (+852) 2588 1234