Friday 17 August 2012

Food & Restaurant: Hainanese Chicken Rice -- Food Republic @ CityPlaza

Hainanese Chicken Rice  @ Food Republic
Image from Locky's English Playground
Haven't done any restaurant recommendations for a long long while, I actually don't remember which one was the last I recommended. (After a quick check, it was Mutekiya Wan Chai.)

Today, I have finally found one, and it was closer to me than I thought. A store called Hainanese Chicken Rice under Food Republic at CityPlaza.

Food court had always not been my choice of food source. It is crowded, there is zero romance, and most importantly, there aren't any good to eat.
Teppanyaki @ Food Republic
Image from Locky's English Playground
Why did I even go there? I guess I miss Singaporean food too much.

Food Republic, I used to suspect, is owned by Singaporeans, or maybe the boss is a Singaporean food lover, otherwise, from a economic consideration, he should simply open a huge Japanese-themed food court. HongKongers simply love Japanese food, seldom visits Singaporean food.

Later after researching, I've confirmed that it is run by BreadTalk Group, which is based in Singapore.

Food Republic also has Taiwanese food
Image from Locky's English Playground
But surprisingly, Food Republic managed to survive and expand. Maybe the having other Asian cuisines like Hong Kong, Taiwanese, Vietnamese or Japanese food in the food court help, but the main theme is still Singaporean food.
Long-missed Iced Milo
Image from Locky's English Playground
Side Fact: Many HongKongers I know dislike the Cantonese way of pronouncing the Chinese name of Food Republic, 大食代, because it doesn't make any sense. The secret lies on the fact that it should be read in Mandarin pinyin -- Dàshídài, and "shí" can mean "eat" as well as "time", so it actually means "Big Era" in English. It's a small wordplay in both Mandarin and English.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Set (HK$47) with Iced Milo ($20)
Image from Locky's English Playground
Okay, finally, here's my actual recommendation! Hainanese Chicken Rice Set (HK$47) and Iced Milo (HK$20) -- not included in the set.

At a total of HK$67, one of my friends from Singapore told me over Whatsapp,

Sing $4 for milo? I go set up stall in HK!!!

Actually, she forgot to mention that the chicken rice doesn't cost HK$47 either, back in the good old days in Singapore, it only cost S$2-4, at most HK$24. But this is Hong Kong, unfortunately...

Hainanese Chicken Rice Set (HK$47) with Iced Milo ($20)
Image from Locky's English Playground
Then I suppose once in awhile, it is acceptable, and the taste, is surprisingly good!!

The set comes with the chicken, chicken oil rice, some daily fresh vegetable and soup. To my surprise, the soup was the first to catch my attention, it looked usual, but smelled unusual, in fact, it smelled ... like Bak Kut Teh! It definitely doesn't look like Bak Kut Teh, but it smelled like one and tasted like one!!

Bak Kut Teh-like chicken soup
Image from Locky's English Playground
There was no lazy cooking about the rice because it tasted so rich and it was cooked just right. It may not be the best chicken oil rice I've had, but at that moment, I really felt it was!

Image from Locky's English Playground
Finally, moving to the chicken. I must say HongKongers are very lucky to have really good chefs in Hong Kong, because most of them understand the importance of the presentation of the chicken when it's chopped, so they will always ice the entire chicken after boiling to make the skin crunchy and sharp when cut. My experience of chicken rice in Singapore in the old days and in Bangkok told me that presentation isn't necessarily the priority.

Zoomed in at the "jelly" in between the skin and the meat
Image from Locky's English Playground
Another angle looking at the gelatin under the skin
Image from Locky's English Playground
But after you get the good cuts, the crunchy skin, the tender and juicy meat, I look for the "jelly" layer between the skin and the meat, because that is an indicator of whether the chicken has been cooked just right. Too much boiling and not enough cooling, the jelly will leak out; too little boiling and too much cooling, the "jelly" won't look translucent and should appear white instead.

Gelatin from chicken stock ( chicken bone soup)
Image from restaurantwidow
Quoting from Wikipedia,

Gelatin is a mixture of peptides and proteins produced by partial hydrolysis of collagen extracted from the skin, boiled crushed bones, connective tissues, organs and some intestines of animals such as domesticated cattle, chicken, horses hooves, and pigs. The natural molecular bonds between individual collagen strands are broken down into a form that rearranges more easily. Gelatin melts to a liquid when heated and solidifies when cooled again.

Cheapening the chicken by using these sauces
Image from Locky's English Playground
All these point to a really nicely cooked chicken, making all those sauce unnecessary and redundant.

Image from Locky's English Playground
Lastly, the meal is completed with a glass of Iced Milo, a signature Singaporean drink. The HK$20 was not well-deserved, but my craving for a full Singaporean lunch told me otherwise, at least at that moment.

Overall, it was an truly satisfying meal, if only the price could be cheaper, it would be perfect!

Look:            ★★★★★ 5/5
Taste:            ★★★★★ 5/5
Smell:            ★★★★★ 5/5
Textures:       ★★★★★ 5/5
Temperature: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Overall:         ★★★★★ 23/25

era -- (n) [C] a period of time of which particular events or stages of development are typical
wordplay -- (n)[U] when you joke about the meanings of words, especially in a clever way
translucent -- (adj) often approving If an object or a substance is translucent, it is almost transparent, allowing some light through it in an attractive way
redundant - (adj) (especially of a word, phrase, etc.) unnecessary because it is more than is needed
craving -- (n)[C] a strong or uncontrollable want


Food & Restaurant: Mutekiya (無敵家) @ Wan Chai Grand Opening Day @ Locky's English Playground

Food Republic @ Wikipedia

Gelatin @ Wikipedia