Food: Singapore’s Famous Tian Tian Hainan Chicken Rice


It took me quite a while to find Tian Tian food stall where they served the famous Hainan Chicken Rice. I was led here by one of the travel guidebooks in my possession at the time. Unfortunately, the guidebook did not provide the exact location on a map besides that it was in Chinatown at a place called Maxwell Food Court.

I got off the subway at the Chinatown stop and headed for what seemed like a food court. It was a food court but not the right one. I asked around the stores (not the stalls) and all of them seemed quite annoyed at being asked where ‘Tian Tian food stall’ or ‘Maxwell Food Court’ was. Most of them answered that you can get Hainan Chicken Rice anywhere. I think the 7-11 cashier was the most curt with a snappy ‘I don’t know, bye’. Yea… Singaporeans did not leave a very good impression on me that day.

I wondered around the area for a few more minutes before giving up for the moment. My ego was bruised and I wanted to let myself enjoy Singapore. I wandered off into what was a pedestrian street made to look like very Chinese with the architecture. This is what I imagine what a Chinese hutong would be like if it was wealthy and full of stores. It was here that I found the way to Tian Tian. Walking through the pedestrian street I was ready for some food, but not one of them really appealed to me. Then I walked by the Chinatown Visitor Center and thought that maybe I can try asking them where Tian Tian was. Sure enough the visitor center came through for me at the eleventh hour. The receptionist pulled out a free map and showed me were Maxwell Food Court was. I was so thankful to find someone who would actually help me. As a tourist in Singapore, the local people are not that friendly. I guess their time is too valuable to help strangers, but I am thankful to the woman at the Chinatown visitor center. I was hungry and frustrated at not having eaten Hainan Chicken Rice.

I made my way through some windy streets that went at a slight uphill slant. I went past some interestingly painted buildings before seeing the crowds at Maxwell Food Court. And then the line to Tian Tian appeared. It wasn’t too long since they serve the customers pretty quickly. I got in line and got my food in about five minutes. Most of the people in line seemed to be business folks in suits. Probably from the highrises close to this food court.

Hainan Chicken Rice is one of the most simple Chinese dishes you can get but it so good. The rice cooked in chicken broth has a light salted flavor and the chicken is simply so tender. It’s slippery and gelatinous without feeling like you are eating goo. The cucumbers were a good way to cleanse your palate afterwards. The special soy sauce and the salted ginger were provided to apply how you liked. I apply only a dab of the ginger but I love the sauce.

I knew that my parents lived in Singapore before and one of the dishes that my mom definitely told me to eat when I was in Singapore was Hainan Chicken Rice. I’m glad I made the effort to seek it out.

Parting Words

Maybe the locals who brushed me off were right. This was the only Hainan Chicken Rice stall I tried when I was in Singapore and didn’t even give other stalls a chance. It could be that the quality of this dish everywhere in Singapore is at such high level that it doesn’t really matter where you get it from. In any case I was a very happy man that day and I’m sure you wouldn’t complain about the good meal at Tian Tian either.

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About the Author

John is always trying to find his way back to the road. He has an affinity for Germany due to his three years studying German at Cal, and a year working as an intern in the Stuttgart area. He also likes chocolate cake and good cheese.