When it comes to comfort food, Hainanese chicken rice is definitely on my list (together with a very long list of other things really). I have heard so many people raving about Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice at the Maxwell Food Centre in Singapore and how there’s always a long queue of hungry admirers at this because it’s in the Michelin Bib Gourmand. At the same time, a few stalls down, there’s Ah Tai Chicken Rice that’s opened by the former chef at Tian Tian which is supposedly to be just as good, if not better. So I thought I’d take the opportunity to try both at the same time one lunchtime when I was on holiday in Singapore to decide for myself which one’s better!
I was lucky that when I was in Singapore in January 2022, travel was still pretty restricted with the Vaccinated Travel Lane for selected countries, and it was further restricted with the Omicron outbreak, meaning that there were very few tourists getting into this beautiful city. So, there’s virtually no need to queue for anything in Singapore (a big difference compared to pre-Covid days), and this was the same even at the popular stalls in the hawker centres.
My first stop was Tian Tian – I got there just before 11.30am and there was no queue at all… But even at noon, there were only a short line of about 4-5 people – the pandemic has certainly affected these stalls in a big way as tourists must have been a large proportion of customers.
I ordered the classic Hainanese chicken rice which cost SG$3.50 – and this was how it came.
Then I just walked a few stalls down and ordered the same thing from Ah Tai, and their chicken rice also cost SD$3.50.
To do a proper comparison, I did a head-to-head tasting. I also had Russell to help me to taste and verify my assessment at the same time, though he was actually too full to eat much that lunchtime!
They were both good and you would not be disappointed no matter which one you get. However, the chicken from Ah Tai (blue plate) was more moist and tender than the one from Tian Tian (green plate), and even the rice had a softer al-dente texture. So, I ended up hoovering up the whole plate of chicken rice from Ah Tai, but left some rice from Tian Tian.
Does this mean you should avoid Tian Tian? No – as I have said, it’s a good Hainanese chicken rice (better than anything I can get in London for sure), but if you want a good chicken rice and not bothered about the Michelin accreditation, then walk a few extra steps to go to Ah Tai and get the equally good (if not slightly better) Hainanese chicken rice.
Address: Tian Tian (Stall #01-10/1) / Ah Tai (Staall #01-07) – Maxwell Food Centre 1, 1 Kadayanallur St, , Singapore 069184
Opening Hours: Tian Tian: Tues-Sat 1000-1930 / Ah Tai: Thurs-Mon 1100-1930
[Based on visit in January 2022]