In the heart of Singapore's Chinatown, there is a magical wonderland known as Maxwell Food Centre.
Near the entrance, there's a guide for lost souls.
Inside, the ravenous multitude stake their claims.
As for me, I have come to Maxwell Road for one reason, and one reason only-- Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice. At 2PM, the queue is still astonishingly long, but I will accept no substitutes.
The menu is simple and concise.
After thirty minutes, I reach the cashier's window and hand over my money.
At the next window, I pick up my precious orders and take a few moments to admire them.
Behold! Tian Tian's world-famous chicken rice meal for SGD3.50 (US$2.80).
And a small plate of beautifully stir-fried bean sprouts for SGD2 (US$1.60).
To wash it all down, a refreshing lime drink from the next stall, SGD1.50 (US$1.20).
I've had Tian Tian HCR before (see my post from 2010) at their branch on Joo Chiat Road. Although I wasn't 100% satisfied then because of the dry and bland rice, it was still the best Hainanese chicken I ever had. Until now.
Plump, silky, juicy, an explosion of flavor in every bite. Deceptively plain and humble, but a veritable work of art that takes a lifetime to master. The one I ate at Joo Chiat was a pale shadow pala.
I drizzle the sweet, salty, treacle-like soy sauce over everything. The homemade chili sauce provides brightness and zing. I don't miss the minced ginger at all.
And the rice is sheer perfection.
This is what he was talking about.
I would fly back to Singapore in a heartbeat to have this exact same meal, over and over again. I can't stress it enough: Every person who sets foot on Singapore must eat at the Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice stall in Maxwell at least once.
Location: Maxwell Food Centre #01-10/11
Hours: 11AM to 8PM