Master Chicken Rice – Our Honest Thoughts on this Buzzing Hawker!
Earlier this year, Master Chicken Rice debuted on Buzzing Hawkers as one of the struggling stalls that sought help from celebrity mentor chefs to rescue their businesses. We recently checked in with the owner of Master Chicken Rice, Jason, to see how the stall was faring a few months after changing its recipe to the new improved recipe that was developed on the show.
Jason is no greenhorn to the chicken rice business. He apprenticed at Tong Fong Fatt for sixteen years before leaving to work at various chicken rice stalls. He then decided to try his hand at entrepreneurship and give running his own business a shot, eventually opening Master Chicken Rice at Kim Keat Palm Food Centre three years ago. We ordered Half Chicken which came with a mix of roasted and steamed chicken ($11).
Let’s start with the chicken first. The steamed chicken was mostly tender and smooth even though it lacked depth in taste.
Similarly, the roasted chicken nailed the basic components of having a crispy skin and juicy meat but was missing that oomph. Jason told us that Master Chicken practises the conventional method of preparing the chicken by first poaching the chicken before submerging it in an ice bath to achieve that jelly-like layer of skin.
An important feature of chicken rice lies in having a delicious bowl of rice. The rice grains should be fragrant and distinct, clearly separated for a nice bite to complement the tenderness of chicken. Sadly, Master Chicken was unable to attain this gold standard despite using a reputable brand of rice. This was because in order to achieve the ‘li li fen ming’ effect, old grains have to be used instead of younger ones. Jason shared that older, more established chicken rice brands tend to monopolize the demand for ‘old grains’ and have more bargaining power compared to newcomers like Master Chicken. Nonetheless, Jason uses a mix of old and new grains to go as close to the li li fen ming effect as possible. The rice from Master Chicken is therefore softer and have lesser mouth-feel while still managing to retain its flavour. Jason also revealed that he used to cook the rice with rock sugar added into the chicken stock. However, after participating in Buzzing Hawker, Chef Robin explained that the addition of more sugar to the already starchy rice would only make the dish unnecessarily sweeter, and Jason had followed the advice of his mentor ever since.
For the various sauces, Jason shared that he improved on the chicken gravy and ginger sauce from Chef Robin’s recipe while the chilli remained his very own. Master Chicken uses hua diao wine, chicken stock and soya sauce from a well-established household brand in its chicken gravy. Indeed, the gravy is slightly more fragrant than usual despite the higher cost of production.The ginger sauce comprises both lao jiang and zi jiang for an extra spicy kick, with a dash of extra hua diao wine. I found the ginger sauce to be overly watery and subpar. Overall, the sauces were an adequate companion to the chicken rice but did not leave much of an impression.
We observed Jason while he was preparing the chicken and wondered why he lightly tapped the chicken with the back of his knife when he was chopping it up. Jason explained that the common misconception people have of ‘da bian’ was so that the chicken rice stall owners could scrimp on cost and give less chicken by making the chicken slices look fuller and more generous in portion. Actually, the action of ‘da bian’ is to tenderise the chicken and make the slabs of meat taste less heavy.
With multiple chicken rice stalls in just one hawker centre and a Dong Fong Fatt outlet several stall fronts down, Master Chicken has to continually improve and innovate their menu to differentiate themselves from the rest. Jason shared that the stall has plans to expand into selling curry chicken mee as a response to the stiff competition. We wish Master Chicken Rice all the best!
Master Chicken Rice
Address: Blk 22 Toa Payoh Lor 7 #01-18, Singapore 311022
Opening Hours: 930am to 730pm daily. Closed on Mondays.
MissTamChiak.com made anonymous visit and paid its own meal at the stall featured here.
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