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Published September 29th 2012
Has The Cult Following Channelled Through?
Whenever I am around Rundle Mall, I find it hard to pass by Ricky's Kitchen located inside Southern Cross Arcade and not have lunch there. Ricky's deserves mention as it is no ordinary food stall in an ordinary food court. Let me explain.
I have been following Ricky's venture since he first started selling Hainanese Chicken Rice in what is now know as Wasai Kitchen in Field Street. His eatery was then known as Chopsticks in the City which he managed with his wife, Nancy, about twenty years ago. It was here that his signature dish became popular and word spread around like wild fire especially amongst the Asians who hailed from Malaysia and Singapore. The velvety smoothness of his 'white chicken' left an indelible mark on my burgeoning palate and I started to crave for more. However, soon after they closed shop and I was missing their food.
Luckily after a short break Ricky and Nancy set up a stall at the food court in Central Market Plaza. Their Hainanese Chicken Rice soon had a 'cult following' and surely it was here that Ricky's became a place of interest on the foodies' scene in Adelaide. Our very own Masterchef contestant, Poh Ling Yeow, was a fan along with a number of other well known chefs whom I used to spot eating at Ricky's in the Central Market Plaza food court.
After countless years at the Central Market Plaza, Ricky and Nancy were ready to move on to set up Ricky's Kitchen in Southern Cross Arcade. So it is here today at Southern Cross Arcade that I find myself battling with the city workers during their lunch hour for a plate from Ricky's. It can certainly get very busy at this well known stall. A digital ordering numbering system works well in keeping the orders being handled correctly.
Ordering at Ricky's Kitchen is simple. Once you have made your selection from the overhead board displaying photos of the dishes plus prices, approach the counter and place your order. Once payment is made a number will be given to you and all you have to do then is to keep your eye on the digital screen to see if your number comes up. Once your number appears, go and collect your meal from the counter. Waiting time averages around five to ten minutes and can extend longer during peak times.
The menu at Ricky's Kitchen offers five authentic Malaysian Chinese options of meat dishes: Roast Pork, BBQ Pork, Roast Crispy Skin Chicken, Fragrant Chicken, Roast Duck and Fragrant Duck. Combine these with your choice of either Jasmine rice, Noodles in Soup or Noodles in Sauce. There is also a separate item of Malaysian Soto Beef Noodles In Soup which I have never tried. I suppose I have never got pass ordering my usual favourites.
If you choose noodles over rice to accompany your dish, there is the further option of selecting your type of noodles. There are Hokkien noodles, flat rice noodles, rice vermicelli and wonton style egg noodles. If you are now scratching your head confused, you will find a plate showing the different noodles available. I tend to pick the egg noodles in sauce. Perhaps this is a matter of old habits dying hard. Rarely do I choose the soup noodle option as I find this dilutes out the flavour of the chosen meat. However, I know of others who prefers the soup version.
The Fragrant Chicken was pleasing as usual. Succulent boned chicken pieces with a delicate soy based dressing, each bite leaves me wanting for more. The rice is also ladled with some of the same sauce.
The BBQ pork here is exceptional. It is flavorsome and authentic and unlike many establishments, it does not display the characteristic artificial bright red tinge. The thinly sliced meat is leaner than what I would personally prefer but for the health conscious, this is certainly ideal. The egg noodle is dressed in a soy based sauce with a sprinkling of spring onions and has a good dose of white pepper to whiff up your appetite.
The sauce is so good, they should consider bottling it up to sell
Do not dismiss the dipping sauce that comes with the meal. It is a star attraction in itself. It is so addictive that I have spent countless moments trying to reproduce it at home with some success. However, the pork dishes are better eaten in its own natural glory without the green spring onion sauce. The red chilli sauce does give it that sharp garlicky bite. Contrary to the pork, dipping the poultry in the red and green sauce is like a marriage made in heaven. Try dipping your meat in the two different sauces separately and also at the same time and you will find youself repeating the whole process again and again.
A side dish of clear chicken broth comes with the rice and noodle in sauce options. However, it must be requested at the time of order. Intersperse each mouthful of food with a spoonful of flavorsome broth to cleanse the palate and you are ensured of an authentic experience.
I suggest you get to Ricky's early if you want to avoid disappointment. The Fragrant Duck, BBQ pork and Roast Pork often sell out early. Watch Ricky as he deftly chops up the chicken, duck and pork. Dedicated attention is evident in Ricky's cooking. Maybe that is the secret behind why his food taste so good.
One last note though - don't ask me why he does not have Hainanese Chicken Rice on the menu here. Maybe you can ask him that nearing closing time. He may not have the time to chat with you earlier!