Twe Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice – Untweaked Tradition

Hainanese Chicken Rice (HCR) is considered as one of Singapore’s National Dish. It is often served as food that represents Singapore at international expositions and global events abroad, not to mention Singaporean-run restaurants overseas. Today, I had the privilege of eating one of the most authentic preparation (along with other traditional dishes) by Mr. and Mrs. Teng, who used to operate Twe Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice stall at East Coast Road, in their home.

A whiff of aromatic pandan leaves and chicken broth permeated the air as I stepped out of the lift. I followed my nose. To the right, to the right. As I opened the unlocked gate, I was greeted by a smiling man with a head of snow. On my right, my makan kakis were already at the dining table, digging in…

My lunch of homecooked traditional style Hainanese Chicken Rice, Hainanese Pork Chops (boneless), Goji Berry Leaves with Minced Pork & Egg Drop Soup, Fish Porridge and Stir-fried Nai Pak.

My lunch of homecooked traditional style Hainanese Chicken Rice, Hainanese Pork Chops (boneless), Goji Berry Leaves with Minced Pork & Egg Drop Soup, Fish Porridge and Stir-fried Nai Pak.

Mrs. Teng showing us the paste that goes into the making of her non-oily version chicken rice. She does not use oil from chicken fats (like I do) for her rice.

Mrs. Teng showing us the paste that goes into the making of her non-oily version chicken rice. She does not use oil from chicken fats (like I do) for her rice.

The ground paste that went into the fragrant Chicken Rice.<br />Ginger is the main ingredient together with garlic and sliced shallots, they were fried in vegetable oil till aromatic. She cooked them in bulk as they (her immediate family, and she gives some to her extended families) eat chicken rice pretty often and uses as much as needed each time she prepares HCR.

The ground paste that went into the fragrant Chicken Rice.
Ginger is the main ingredient together with garlic and sliced shallots, they were fried in vegetable oil till aromatic. She cooked them in bulk as they (her immediate family, and she gives some to her extended families) eat chicken rice pretty often and uses as much as needed each time she prepares HCR.

Although I know how to make HCR coming from a background of Hainanese descent, I always wondered why my chilli sauce was not as tasty. I signed up for a HCR lesson and was taught to put 4 tablespoons of msg into this size tub. This however, is msg free! Made by Mrs. Teng who had succumbed to using a blender instead of pounding by hand (pestle and mortar), she used fresh calamansi limes instead of vinegar for that extra zing to liven up the taste! Now I know, calamansi versus vinegar. Now I can make tasty chilli sauce :D

Although I know how to make HCR coming from a background of Hainanese descent, I always wondered why my chilli sauce was not as tasty.
I signed up for a HCR lesson and was taught to put 4 tablespoons of msg into this size tub.
This however, is msg free!
Made by Mrs. Teng who had succumbed to using a blender instead of pounding by hand (pestle and mortar), she used fresh calamansi limes instead of vinegar for that extra zing to liven up the taste!
Aha! Calamansi Juice versus White Vinegar. We should be able to make tasty chilli sauce now 😀

The Chicken Rice Dipping Sauce (chilli, ginger and dark soy) was out of this world! I had seconds.<br />Just eating the plain chicken rice and this sauce was already a gastronomic experience.<br />The taste was subtle at first but let the aromatic paste linger in your oral cavity for a bit longer and the commonality of a humble chicken rice condiment explodes into a complex palatable oomph!

The Chicken Rice Dipping Sauce (chilli, ginger and dark soy) was out of this world! I had seconds.
Just eating the plain chicken rice and this sauce was already a gastronomic experience.
The taste was subtle at first but let the aromatic paste linger in your oral cavity for a bit longer and the commonality of a humble chicken rice condiment explodes into a complex palatable oomph!

According to Mr. Teng, a good Hainanese Chicken Rice's chicken has to be above 2 kilograms. This is because the grown chicken would have time to develop its "fowl" taste. The matured chicken would then be able to produce more flavoursome juices within its flesh and thus delectable broth (without the use of artificial flavouring like chicken powder or msg).

According to Mr. Teng, a good Hainanese Chicken Rice’s chicken has to be above 2 kilograms. This is because the grown chicken would have time to develop its “fowl” taste.
The matured chicken would then be able to produce more flavoursome juices within its flesh and thus delectable broth (without the use of artificial flavouring like chicken powder or msg).

Mr. Teng said that the chickens (we had 2) were prepared in traditional Hainanese methods which involved steeping the entire chicken at sub-boiling temperatures in plain water. He prefered using older, plumper birds of over 2 kilograms to maximise the amount of oil extracted, thus creating a more flavoursome dish. Hainanese Chicken Rice cooked the traditional way also do not dip the cooked chicken in ice water after cooking so you would never see a jelly-like matter under the skin finishing as Canotonese-style Chicken Rice, commonly referred to as 白雞 or “white chicken”. But as you can see in the photo above, the skin was still slippery smooth and flesh was tender with some bounce to every bite. The more I chew, the more juice and flavour I extracted. Awesome!

Delicious Fish Porridge.<br />The texture was smooth and taste was natural sweetness from the fresh fish. Mrs. Teng even garnished it with some shredded ginger, preserved winter vegetables, scallions and crispy shallots. A dash of white pepper powder and it's marvelous!

Delicious Fish Porridge.
The texture was smooth and taste was natural sweetness from the fresh fish. Mrs. Teng even garnished it with some shredded ginger, preserved winter vegetables, scallions and crispy shallots.
A dash of white pepper powder and it’s marvelous!

I had all the soup and vegetables in this big bowl (sans a standard rice bowl for Tony of JOHOR KAKI Blog).<br />This was because (yes, I'm being selfish here) Matrimony Vine 枸杞 or Goji Berry Leaves is seldom sold outside or even prepared at home because of the troublesome cleaning task.<br />It has lots of thorns but the nutritional value is tops!<br />The leaves' texture is smooth and the taste is a hint of bitter.<br />It is known to be good for the eyesight (TCM).

I had all the soup and vegetables in this big bowl (sans a standard rice bowl for Tony of JOHOR KAKI Blog).
This was because (yes, I’m being selfish here) Matrimony Vine 枸杞 or Goji Berry Leaves is seldom sold outside or even prepared at home because of the troublesome cleaning task.
It has lots of thorns but the nutritional value is tops!
The leaves’ texture is smooth and the taste is a hint of bitter.
It is known to be good for the eyesight (TCM).

Mrs. Teng said the best way to prepare this soup (using the broth from boiling the 2 chickens, of course) is to add some minced pork and pour in beaten eggs to make egg ribbons. Again, no msg and thus the taste was subtle, very refreshing and uncluttered. I will have this type of clear soup any time instead of the starchy ones.

A few of my makan kakis for that day.

My variegated makan kakis together with our kind and humble hosting couple, Mr. and Mrs. Teng. From left: Uncle Smart, Mrs. Teng, myself, Mr. Teng, The Silver Chef, Soundman and Yummicraft (tallest, standing behind). Tony Johor Kaki was the cameraman. Cactuskit had left for another appointment.

My variegated makan kakis together with our kind and humble hosting couple, Mr. and Mrs. Teng.
From left: Uncle Smart, Mrs. Teng, myself, Mr. Teng, The Silver Chef, Soundman and Yummicraft (tallest, standing behind).
Tony Johor Kaki was the cameraman.
Cactuskit had left for another appointment.

We were only expecting HCR but the generous couple prepared more food for us.<br />From top left to right and down:<br />Hainanese Pork Chop.<br />Stir-fried Nai Bai Cai.<br />Kow Kee Soup.<br />Fish Porridge.<br />Mrs. Teng, myself, Mr. Teng, Yummicraft and Tony Johor Kaki.<br />A very memorable summary of my day on 23rd October 2013.<br />Photo courtesy of Philip Lim (Yummicraft).

We were only expecting HCR but the generous couple prepared more food for us.
From top left to right and down:
Hainanese Pork Chop.
Stir-fried Nai Bai Cai.
Kow Kee Soup.
Fish Porridge.
Mrs. Teng, myself, Mr. Teng, Yummicraft and Tony Johor Kaki.
A very memorable summary of my day on 23rd October 2013.
Photo courtesy of Philip Lim (Yummicraft).

These folks were the heart and soul behind my meal.<br />All day long, Mr. Teng's kind face seemed etched in smile. He was genuinely happy to have company.<br />Mrs. Teng was ever so spontaneous and willing to share her recipes, right down to the nitty gritties.<br />No such thing as trade secret for her; it was dedication and detailed work (no short cuts except for the sturdy Moulinex chopper) that went into the preparation of every "simple" meal.<br />Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Teng!<br />I am blessed indeed, to have made the friendship of this warm and friendly couple.

These folks were the heart and soul behind my meal.
All day long, Mr. Teng’s kind face seemed etched in smile. He was genuinely happy to have company.
Mrs. Teng was ever so spontaneous and willing to share her recipes, right down to the nitty gritties.
No such thing as trade secret for her; it was dedication and detailed work (no short cuts except for the sturdy Moulinex chopper) that went into the preparation of every “simple” meal.
Thank you, Mr. and Mrs. Teng!
I am blessed indeed, to have made the friendship of this warm and friendly couple.

The food was so delicious, Smart noticed me using my hands to eat. He also noted that I only ate those with bones and skin, lol…

The fare was basic, nothing fancy or luxurious, just simple unpretentious homecooked meal like those you would go back to mommy dearest.

Mr. and Mrs Teng used to operate a hawker stall in East Coast Road. They have 3 children and none is willing to take over the business. During lunch, we had a discussion on Traditional Food versus Modern Day’s and also the declining trend of traditional cuisines from the multi-dialectal groups in Singapore.

Do youngsters of modern generation appreciate traditional cooking where tastes are more natural, more sublime and unpolluted with heavy seasonings?

Do we, as busy adults, have time to enjoy slow foods as opposed to fast foods?

This is some food for thought isn’t it?

Rating: Out of this world; for both the great company and homecooked meal!

Happy eating 🙂

P.S. I was having Bak Kut Teh (BKT) lunch with Ian on another ocassion when he invited me to this makan session. Read about my BKT lunch soon.

Click here to read more about this meal on Ian’s blog.

If you like to try my version of Chicken Rice Recipe, click here.

My version of HCR may not be the traditional or authentic recipe but this is what I cook for my children. I even make them in batches while in Melbourne so they could be frozen. See my story by clicking here.

Click here for Ginger Scallion Sauce Recipe.

Click here to make an accompanying Greens.

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Comments
8 Responses to “Twe Kee Hainanese Chicken Rice – Untweaked Tradition”
  1. Jessica says:

    You’re so pretty, Sam! I always love the pics of you… Hainanese chicken is so different from the way chicken is prepared in the States. Did I tell you I grew up vegetarian? I didn’t start eating meat at all until I was probably sixteen, and even then I really only ate chicken — grilled! Gradually I have widened my palate, but it might take me the rest of my life to get used to many of the Asian foods and the way they are prepared. Still, these pictures look yummy!

    • Sam Han says:

      I think I’ve read somewhere or you’ve commented that you were vegetarian. Grilled and skinless I supposed? 😀 I don’t think I can stay vegetarian for more than a few days :p Yes, HCR is quite different and even in Sg, many claimed to be HCR but aren’t authentic. Not everyone can take to poached chicken. My children prefer to eat this after I re-fry them in dark soy and ginger. Thank you for your compliments Jessica (blush blush), lol…

  2. Lignum Draco says:

    Wow, what a feast. A delight for the senses. Have a great weekend…

  3. audreyyoung7 says:

    Yum, I love Hainanese chicken rice! I think it will be one of the first meals I have once I’m not pregnant anymore 🙂

  4. Kevin says:

    H chicken is one of our most favourites!

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