Have you tried the Hainan chicken at Temasek?

by Forager on April 22, 2009

Just back from 10 *hot* days in Southern Vietnam touring through Ho Chi Minh, Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc island. But that’s a massive task to curate photos and blog about immediately. Who would have thought I could possibly proscratinate when it comes to blogging too? So in true Queen Procrastination form, instead of posts on Vietnam, here’s a post about Temasek which I visited about a month ago.

Hainan chicken originated on the island of Hainan in China, but it is more frequently associated with Malaysian and Singaporean cuisine than traditional Southern Chinese cuisine. The star of the show at Temasek is their Hainan chicken – if you haven’t tried it, you should. You want to.You need to. I’ll stop short of launching into Savage Garden’s “I want you” lyrics, but you get the picture. This stuff is good. It’s been at least a year since my last meal at Temasek and it was high time it was re-visited. So I took my parents there.

We get there for an early Saturday lunch, worried that the restaurant wouldn’t be open yet and we’d have to find an alternative feeding solution. The restaurant is located down a small blink-and-you’ll-miss-it arcade in Parramatta – an arcade where you wouldn’t expect to find a food institution. Only the numerous but slightly ratty and sun-dyed newspaper clippings of positive restaurant reviews alludes otherwise. Once we’re inside and our eyes adjust to the darkness I see that I needn’t have worried though as there were already a few tables occupied inside happily slurping away on laksas and shovelling stir fry dishes down their throats. Wasting no time ourselves, we order a couple of dishes to satisfy our hunger.

The Hainan chicken and the accompanying chicken rice arrives first and we all tuck in greedily. The succulent tender boneless chicken pieces are silky smooth and slide down the gullet with ease. This is served with ground ginger, a vingeary chilli and thick soy sauce or kecap manis (Indonesian soy sauce) . The chicken rice is rice cooked in chicken stock and goes well with the chicken. We detect subtle notes of Chinese salted fish in the rice which enhances it’s tastiness. The chicken is always a marvellous conversation starter amongst my food loving family and my parents engage in a quiet but mildly aggressive discussion about how the silken Hainan chicken was prepared. Cooked in master stock then repeatedly soaked in great vats of running cold water? Ice water? Who knows! Tastes good whatever they did.

Next comes the beef rendang – and a very generous serving of it. The beef is cooked till it’s soft and falls away with a prod of the chopsticks. Perfectly done! It’s hearty fare with a appreciable amount of chilli heat. The Serai (lemongrass) fish came soon after but looked nothing like what we expected – I imagined a drier dish – perhaps fish cutlets encrusted in pounded lemongrass. It certainly tasted not of lemongrass but instead the sauce was a sticky, sweet and sour one. So, not “lemongrass” fish in any way we expected, but for what it was, quite tasty nonetheless.

To counter all the meat dishes we have ordered the vegetarian white sauce ho fun. The ho fun is a flat rice stick noodle and in this dish it’s teamed with a combination of vegetables, Chinese greens and mushrooms finished with a soupy egg white sauce. A great filler.

Not that we needed a filler. Unlike myself and the co-pilot, over the years my parents have regressed in their food intake prowess and now possess the appetite of a small quail. They hardly make a dent in the meal. Which is good because leftover beef rendang on chicken rice is really really delicious! Of course there wasn’t any Hainan chicken for leftovers. Gone in a flash!

I’ve had a few Hainan chicken dishes around the place, from dishes the one at Temasek, ones in Hong Kong, one made by a Hainanese relative and ones that frankly are just chicken dishes labelled as Hainan chicken. I think this one is pretty darn tasty. But – do you know of a better Hainan chicken place? Let me know! *chopsticks poised, ready to pounce*.

The Roxy Arcade, 71 George Street, Parramatta; (02)9633 9926
Open Tues – Sun: 11:30am – 2:30pm; 5:30pm – 9:30pm. Closed on Mondays.

Foodie in the know:
The day we were there, the service was a little slow and not as attentive as one would hope, but they seemed to be short staffed. Don’t take it personally – that’s just “Asian service“. We spent a good 10-15 minutes trying to get their attention for the bill (which progressed from subtly trying to catch their eye to waving to getting out of our seats and paying at the front desk), but that’s certainly not enough to deter me from coming again.

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Karen April 22, 2009 at 9:44 pm

As a Malaysian I’m always hunting for perfect hainan chicken (to me that’s a mark of a great Malay restaurant). Temasek use to be my favourite but now I prefer Istana’s or Alice’s (both in Thornleigh) because their rice is so much more fragrant. But Temasek still wins in the Nasi Lemak’s stakes :)

And surprisingly, there’s a small, tucked-away Asian takeaway that has fabulously, silky hainan chicken in Castle Hill (but that’s my local secret!).

2 FFichiban April 22, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Ahh yeah their service is just plain horrible, even worse than other asian places but their food is undeniably good! Hainan chicken, satay and beef rendang

3 Howard April 23, 2009 at 10:29 am

I’ve tried them all but often go back to Temasek because it’s closer. But I agree with Karen, the rice at Temasek could be a little more fragant!

Hmm maybe I should make my own …

4 foodie-central April 23, 2009 at 5:17 pm

I’ve not been to Temasek awhile now but I love the Hainan Chicken Rice @ Kopitiam.

5 Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella April 24, 2009 at 2:24 pm

Hehe @ quiet but aggressive arguments! I really should get here soon, maybe for Mother’s Day.

Have you tried the Hainan Chicken at Ginger and Spice in Neutral Bay? That is amazingly good. The others I’ve tried pale in comparison 😉

6 Forager April 24, 2009 at 3:11 pm

Hey Karen – Thanks for the tips! I will have to book in a trip to Thornleigh for the Hainan chicken. And 2 in Thorleigh? Wow – must be a strong Malaysian contingent there!

Hey FFichiban – I never have high expectations of good service at Asian places so it’s not too surprising. As long as there is good food and hygiene, that’s good enough for me :)

Hey Howard – so if you’ve tried them all, what’s the verdict? Which do you recommend?

Hey foodie-central – I’ve not been to Kopitiam and given it’s proximity to Chinatown (our default meal option) we’ll have to try it soon. Thanks for the tip!

Hey Lorraine – Yeah, I’ve heard about Ginger and Spice and have been meaning to go for a while. I’m not sure if there’s any truth in it but I’ve heard that it’s owned by the Temasek people. If it is – their Hainan chicken must be pretty good too :)

7 foodie-central April 25, 2009 at 12:26 pm

FYI Kopitiam only has Chicken Rice available on Sundays only and they go pretty quickly too. Best to get there for lunch instead of dinner.

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