Famous Margaret Drive chicken rice is back
Two sons of late owner keep alive the famous old dish from Margaret Drive hawker centre
Either the lines are blurred or not many - especially among the Gen New - care too much about the authenticity of Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore.
They probably do not even know how it is different from Cantonese-style or how another version is considered halal.
Back in the pre-COE days when I was learning the now redundant art of drawing thin 1mm lines with a sable haired brush using Indian ink - a skill needed as part of the advertising art course at the defunct Baharuddin Vocational Institute - there was the Sin Kee Chicken Rice stall at Margaret Drive hawker centre.
It was a weekly ritual for a few of us. I did not know or care about its origin, whether it was Hainanese or Cantonese. I cared that it was good.
Fast forward: The owner died in 2008 and his sons have taken over. The business was helmed by Benson Leong, with the help of his elder brother Niven.
Benson moved to Mei Ling Street Food Centre and Niven later set up his own Uncle Chicken outlet in Alexandra Village Food Centre.
CHUNKY: (Above) The boldness of the cleaver skills is seen in the final platter. PHOTOS: KF SEETOH
I'll spare you the long story, just that after Benson shuttered down in 2015, he worked for his brother's outlet in Bedok and now... Benson is back on his feet.
He returns via the support of a very keen supporter and partner, Edwin Goh, who felt there was an opportunity in keeping these legendary food names and the culture alive.
Even though Mr Goh admits: "I have not a clue about the food business."
With his classic business thinking from the field of finance, he funded this new operation with Benson and devised a clear "manpower plan with a view on expansion".
CHUNKY: (Above) Thick soy sauce and Cantonese style ginger dip. PHOTOS: KF SEETOH
On day one of business, about a week ago, "the helpers did not show up", says Mr Goh as he fumbles over the cash machine as an emergency helper.
But thankfully, all the goodies are back - like the chunky and bold cuts of the clean and plump chickens and the softly al-dente rice that's intensely flavourful and not so oily.
Benson, like his brother, still chops it in bigger chunks and in clean strokes. It comes smooth and it feels so comforting in the mouth.
The angle at which the cleaver bears down on the chicken delivers chunks that yield no bone spurs nor meat bits that get trapped in your teeth.
CHUNKY: Thick soy sauce and Cantonese style ginger dip (above) . PHOTOS: KF SEETOH
It is topped with a splash of soy sauce - their own concoction.
He places all the bones and bits into a container and those go back later to the soup and stock to poach more chickens and rice.
The rough and "generous looking" chilli sauce is still the same - tangy, sharp, spicy and done with lime and vinegar.
His thick caramelised soy sauce is as per usual and the ginger dip is wet and done with both old and young ginger, unlike Niven's, which comes truly Cantonese style - blended dry and fibrous and cooked with scallions, sesame oil and delivered moist.
By the way, with such deliciousness, do you still really care about the difference between Hainanese and Cantonese style chicken rice and the blurred lines in between?
Sin Kee Famous
Cantonese Chicken Rice (Benson)
Chang Chen Mee Wah Coffeeshop
Block 40, Holland Drive
Uncle Chicken Rice (Niven)
The Bedok Marketplace
348, Simpang Bedok
Noon-8pm (Closed on Mondays)