Eating out / Food - Restaurants / Hong Kong / Malaysia / Singapore

In search of Hong Kong’s best Hainan Chicken

This Malay/Singapore dish (originally from Hainan, but perfected by Malaysia and Singapore) can be a bit scary to the Western palate as it involves a boiled and then chilled fresh yellow skinned chicken, normally served cold, gelatinous skin on and deboned accompanied by a chicken rice (rice boiled in a chicken broth) and dipping sauces. Done well it is exceptionally yummy.

Hainan Chicken is one of those dishes that is served almost everywhere, but that doesn’t mean they’re all good. Most places in Hong Kong serve it with the bone in, which can be unappetising as the cooking process often makes the marrow of the bone ooze red into the chicken meat leaving it looking uncooked. Many of the Hong Kong cafe’s here just serve a simple boiled chicken without the skill of deboning or the subtle seasoning; they merely offer it up with a generic ginger dipping sauce.

Good Hainan chicken requires a visit to the Dark Side (aka Kowloon) to enjoy. My go-to restaurant for several years, I have yet to find a restaurant that compares in taste or enjoyment on Hong Kong Island. Hidden in a commercial building within the tourist strip of East Tsim Sha Tsui is a divey little restaurant with a very good Hainan chicken (their chilli prawns and pepper prawns are pretty moorish too!).

The restaurant is called Good Satay, Shop144-148, Houston Centre, 63 Mody Square, Tsim Sha Tsui.

This place specialises in Malaysian and Singaporean food. When you walk into the Houston Centre you need to ride the escalator to the first floor. Make your way down the corridors to the back far left corner of the building (if you come in from the Mody Rd main entrance) where you will find the small restaurant. I say small, but at night it normally expands out into the corridor and additional rooms as well, as it swells with eager restaurant goers. Despite the obscure location it is very popular, so don’t be surprised if you have to wait.

Contrary to the name, I would hazard to say the satay aren’t the best thing on their menu but there is plenty to satisfy the taste buds (and my kids do love their chicken satay). Their laksa is thicker than a Singaporean laksa but satisfying (certainly not as good as what you will find in Singapore and Malaysia). The chow kway dew is sweet and filling and not too dissimilar to kway dew I have had in Kuala Lumpur. The prawns, chilli being my favourite, pepper being Titus’s, are delicious. The curries are rich – if you want it hotter, let them know!

But the true hero of this restaurant is the Hainan Chicken. It ticks all the boxes in terms of cooking, moistness, gelatinous skin texture, and it is completely deboned right down to the wings – I still haven’t figured out how they do that! The dish is served with a spring onion/ginger sauce (we almost always ask for a second plate of this sauce as it is so delicious), a chilli sauce and dark soy sauce. Dipped in the sauce the meat takes on a whole new flavour as they harmonise together perfectly. Throw in a bowl of moist flavoursome chicken rice and this is an enjoyable dish indeed.

Worth the visit to the dark side? DEFINITELY!

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5 thoughts on “In search of Hong Kong’s best Hainan Chicken

  1. This is one of my favourite dishes. Hard to find a place in Auckland that does it right. Everytime I find one, they change their recipe. The rice should be cooked in broth and fragrant but lately I’ve been eating rice that has been cooked with soy sauce. No!

    I’ve never heard of deboned Hainan Chicken before. The bones help keep the meat silky smooth during poaching. I guess a deboned chicken is helpful for sprogs that are not used to bones. Growing up with Hong Kong parents, we learned how to eat chicken and fish with bones from day one. I still fine boneless chicken and boneless fish a little odd.

  2. It’s funny, I had never heard of de-boned Hainan chicken either until my husbands parents (Hong Kongers) took us out one night many many years ago to a traditional Malay/Singaporean restaurant. Since then, and having travelled a fair bit through Malaysia and Singapore I’ve now come to realise it is (or was, since traditions are changing and evolving) the norm. The meat isn’t deboned until just before it is served to ensure all the flavour is cooked in and remains with the bird.
    We eat a lot of Cantonese food so most of our dishes keep the bone in too. I think it is good for my kids to know how to eat without being freaked out when confronted with bones. My sprogs don’t give much thought to whether something is bone-in these days… one of the perks of growing up in Asia. 😉
    I’ve never heard of chicken rice being cooked with soy. That sounds … disgusting! Part of what makes an amazing Hainan chicken is the way the rice is prepared with a good fresh and flavourful broth to compliment the chicken. I’m going to have to ask before ordering next time I’m in NZ… I’m not a fan of soy on or in my rice.
    If you find a place that does a great Hainan chicken in Auckland, please let me know as I’m always eager to find non-localised cuisine when I am back there… 😉

  3. Ah crap… was Google searching, found your blog post… then saw that Good Satay is now closed. RIP 😦

    • I was only there 6 or so weeks ago! Oh no! If I find them in a new location I’ll update the post. They were a popular restaurant often with queues at both lunch and dinner so I’m surprised they’ve gone. 😦

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