A six-hour layover in Singapore, the airport so near the city, we decide to go into town for dinner and head to Maxwell’s hawker center in Chinatown. The place is the size of a large gymnasium, open on all sides with three rows of stalls, running down the length and tables spread out in between them.
“Look for Tian Tian’s chicken rice,” was the advice we had from a Singaporean friend, “the stall is identifiable by the biggest queue.” She was right; the stall was mobbed and almost sold out by the time we got there.
What is so special about chicken rice, you ask? Two things so simple and so commonly found in the world, how could they be so special? Forget about all the chicken and rice you’ve had in airplanes or school cafeterias, the chicken rice at Maxwell’s hawker center is from another planet.
Lets talk about the rice first. Its soft, aromatic, and delicate. It smells and tastes almost as if it has been aromatized with delicate Indian flowers and cinnamon. In a small bowl, next to rice, is the chicken broth. As pure, precise, perfect an essence of chicken as you can imagine. The broth has the optimum degree of fattiness; enough for taste and texture but not the least bit heavy.
The chicken itself (badly represented in the photo, which makes the sauce look heavy) is perfectly cooked to be moist, soft and full of flavor. This is light years from the tasteless snow-flake aspect that a lot of boneless, skinless chicken breast can have.
This dish is perfect pure essence of both chicken and rice, which go so well together. Nothing over the top, nothing in excess. This is quiet perfection.