Anthony Bourdain calls Hainanese chicken rice "the national dish" of Singapore, "a light and beautiful thing." With a commendation like that, how could we not make room for this dish on our culinary tour of the Straits? Of course, we couldn't just eat any plate of Hainanese chicken rice; we had to get our hands on the very plate of chicken rice that rocked Bourdain's world.
I'm not huge fan of Chinese-style steamed chicken, but Tian Tian's chicken was darn good. Chicken for Hainanese chicken rice is always served room temperature. From what I understand, the secret to Tian Tian's recipe is that they boil the chicken whole, plunge it immediately into an ice bath to separate the skin from the meat, and then pour a healthy amount of intense, fatty chicken stock on the chicken right as they serve it (hence the glossiness of the chicken). I don't know what Bourdain meant by "light," because this is not a diet meal.
My mom, who never met a chicken bit she didn't like, also ordered a plate of non-descriptly named "chicken parts," which I think included chicken gizzards and liver. It's not my cup of tea -- er, plate of chicken -- but Tian Tian's condiments (see below) were so good that I welcomed having another reason to funnel chili sauce in my mouth.
While the chicken and its assorted bits were good, the rice is the star of the show. The rice is made with chicken stock and chicken fat; it's coated in flavorful, almost buttery goodness, and is, as Bourdain said, "so flavorful and delicious that it can be eaten on its own."
Well, not exactly on its own. To transform it from great to outstanding, pour a generous amount of sweet dark soy sauce and the house-made chili, garlic, and ginger sauce all over the rice. Then spoon a generous amount of all of it into you mouth. Chew, swallow, smile. Repeat.