|Old fan…old sign…old favourite – Chin Chin Hainanese Chicken Rice.|
This place changed my life. Literally.
I was a young Penangite starting out a career in Singapore after my undergraduate studies. Like most of my townsfolk, good food is an important part of my life – after all, Penang is synonymous with tasty hawker fare at every corner. In addition to adjusting to the hectic work life in Singapore and transiting from being a student to a working professional, the frustration of locating good hawker food for my daily meals was taking its toll – Please, no more yellow noodles in char koay teow and spare me the ketchup in wanton noodles…No!
I contemplated leaving Singapore….yes, it was that bad…seriously!
Until one afternoon, I joined my colleagues for lunch at the famous Chin Chin Restaurant 津津餐室 – an old nondescript coffee shop at the end of Seah Street selling Hainanese chicken rice which I have avoided like a plague due to its massive lunch crowd. That day, I figured since I’ve made up my mind to leave, I’ve nothing to lose.
|Within this busy metropolis, there’s a well-kept secret…|
|Here’s how they peg, literally, each table’s orders…|
That day was a turning point and the rest, as they say, is history.
It’s been 15 years since that experience. Chin Chin Eating House is today located along Purvis street (just adjacent to Seah St.). I remembered the day it announced its closure (apparently due to rental hike and the owner’s retirement plans in Perth), The Straits Times ran a weekend centerspread on the history of this restaurant. It then struck me what an icon this humble-looking restaurant is. Fortunately for some divine intervention, the owners returned to Singapore after half a year to restart their business at the current site – a stone’s throw from its former location. The new Chin Chin Eating House now occupies 2 air-conditioned shop lots: bigger and better.
|Sign painted the traditional way and food prepared the traditional way.|
|This is the sauce…of much happiness.|
Gone are the old stained coffee shop tables, chairs tarnished by age and the dimly lit interiors. In its place is a bigger, brighter premise, fully air-conditioned. Regardless, the large crowd still makes the place cramped, crowded and warm…for a good reason.
The chicken rice, visually, is typical coffee-shop fare: with its obligatory cucumber and chinese parsley garnish but that’s where its similarity with the common food court variety ends. Tuck into these chooks which pack a punch with its thick and tender meat, drizzled in a fragrant dressing of soya sauce and sesame oil. It didn’t take me long to realise the chicken served here at Chin Chin is truly worth braving the crowds for. To top it off, they serve well-cooked, fluffy chicken rice tasty enough to wolf down on its own. Good enough for this fussy Penangite to eventually make Singapore his home and for his 6 year-old to consistently declare the chicken rice here her favourite dish.
|These ought to ‘spice’ things up a little….|
|Just a sprig of cilantro…and it’s good to go…|
You can wash down the chicken rice meal with a cold lime juice or Thai coconut juice. Besides the succulent chicken, we will always order their signature fresh handmade Ngoh Hiang (Deep fried Prawn Rolls in Bean Curd Skin), Hainanese Pork Chop, Sambal Sweet Potato Leaves and Hainanese Mutton Soup. These are the dishes which the Hainanese chefs honed after years of cooking for British colonial households.
|Our lunch…almost always.|
|Seeing is not believing…tasting is!|
Our family enjoy dining at local hawker fare establishments because it very much reflects our kaleidoscope of culture and values. In this globalized world, we need to teach our children to hold dear and appreciate our values and roots. What better way to do that than through our culinary heritage. In this regard, Chin Chin Restaurant is more than just a food icon but one that propagates our identity as Singaporeans. To me, no one else does chicken rice like Chin Chin. Try it to believe it!
|Just opened for the day…won’t be empty for long.|
|Surrounded by goodness…|
|Hainanese Chicken Rice….cooked by traditional Hainanese – you can’t go wrong.|
Chin Chin Eating House 津津餐室
Cuisines: Besides Hainanese Chicken Rice, they also serve a variety of Tze Char dishes.