The team behind Waymouth Street fish and chippery Smallfry has turned their offering to Hainan Chicken Rice. Jack Lim and Nick Wang, assisted by Malaysian chef Tee Ng, have bought an old recipe from Jack's uncle back to life, hence the name.
Commonly associated with Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines, Hainan chicken rice has gained almost universal appeal in Adelaide since the early days of Hawkers Corner and Ricky's Chicken Rice. Delicately poached chicken in soy sauce accompanied by steamed rice redolent with ginger and chicken flavour is always a winner for all ages and you can add as much of the chilli and ginger sauces as you like. Backed up by a rich broth, the endless mix and match possibilities are part of the fun and appeal of chicken rice. I'm always up for a food quest, so I relished the opportunity to continue my chicken rice quest and found new variations on classic elements of the dish that are worth heading into the heart of the city for.
Designed with quick turnaround lunches in mind, the menu offers chicken rice in two forms, the traditional slow poached chicken (in a very exact ...degree broth) and crispy skin chicken, where the entire chicken is deep fried in 170-degree oil. There is a small and satisfying list of sides to add to your meal such as steamed bok choy, crispy pork rolls and extra serves of their delicious steamed rice. The prawn crackers are complimentary, so help yourself from the huge communal pile on the counter.
Most menu items are served lukewarm (traditional and good for quick service). The Bok Choy makes a nice green addition and the crispy skin pork roll is a crispy and tasty treat with juicy pieces of pork inside. The chicken in our chicken rice was mainly breast meat, but soft and tender in a way only expert chefs can achieve. The crispy skin chicken is delicate and soft on the inside and the skin is laden with a joyous burst of umami flavour. The steamed rice is warm, soft and filled with a warming and homely ginger and pandan flavour and I rate it as the best chicken rice steamed rice in town. The chilli and ginger sauces are stored on the table in large jars for you to help yourself to as much as you like. The chilli sauce had an exciting tang without being bitey or sugary and it was hard to resist smothering everything in more chilli sauce. The broth isn't as strong as some other broths and this is is the first time I've had it served with big chunks of cabbage floating in it. I'd recommend adding this to the other elements of the dish rather than drink it on its own.
The prices are reasonable, especially for this part of the city. The chicken rice is $10 - $10.90 (the crispy skin is slightly more) and the sides are under $5. Drinks are in the drinks fridge but they do offer fresh young coconut juice and lychee juice. Both are delicious and refreshing and are highly recommended. Water and cups are on the table along with cutlery and serviettes. They'll be offering a range of Asian beer on tap very soon.