Chicken rice is intergral to the meal culture of Singapore. In fact it has it's roots so deeply entrenched into the innermost strata of this country's heart of cuisine, you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who hasn't heard of it or eaten it. Really. It comes in more nuances than Baskin Robins has flavours. It's easily the most served food item around here and yet, the subtleties ranging from the grease of the rice to the tenderness of the chicken and the flavor of the chilli can spark the most unmanageable debates as to whether which vendor is actually the better. Of course ultimately, one will and can always say that boils down to individual taste and the cost of the dish.
Which brings us to the point of cost of chicken rice. Food quality has long been associated with its price. The superficial subscription would be, if it cost more, it's probably tastier or of better quality. Or is it? In my childhood, I remember delicious tasting plates at $2. Today a regular plate of that would usually cost about a dollar more. Boon Tong Kee with it's televised coverage has justified their high premium through a documentary like walk through of their gruelling process of creating their famed quality steam chicken and mouth watering rice. On an even higher tier, Chatterbox has been around for some time in Mandarin Hotel, offering their pasta priced common fare at a cost only some will be willing to pay. If these premium chicken rices places have and still do continue to thrive, there must be continual support of a steady stream of customers to uphold truth to the quality that justifies the cost, is there?
The case we're looking at today is (Bugis Street) Ming Kee Chicken Rice-Porridge located at Blk 511 of Bishan St 13 in Kim San Leng coffeeshop. My dinner. For those of you who are not familiar with the region, this stall is located behind the bus interchange at Bishan. It's really not difficult to locate. There is usually a long queue that draws attention to the stall.
The above picture is the sight when I arrived sometime between 7.30-8.00pm. This, if you would believe me is not a third of the full queue. Patience is normally not a virtue of mine and to me, a queue of that manner is a turn off. However, since I happen to be there and was mentally tuned into having chicken rice for dinner, I took exception and joined, albeit with some reluctance. The time from the commencement of the queue to the time after I've made my order and had the rice served was approximately 20 minutes.
This is how it looked like 20 minutes after the 20 minutes that I spent on ordering dinner
Let's rewind a little back into dinner. It's not the first time I've had chicken rice at Ming Kee. In fact, there is a quality about the chicken rice from this store that keeps me coming back for more once in a while, despite it being out of the way for me. The chicken that is served here comes in what I consider the moderation between hearty chewy meat and soft tender bites. It will not satisfy those that look for the most tender of chicken dishes, and neither will it match the hard dry textures of roasted chicken from the muslim stores. This falls really, somewhere in between, closer to the tender camp. The same can also be said of the chilli sauce that accompanies the rice. There is enough hooks in the spiciness to keep you intrigued and yearning for the next mouthful. It doesn't tease weakly, nor does it come on to you in an aggressive blatant manner to attract unnecessary overdosage of attention. The chilli is good and there is no best in good. It is a matter of fact, just good.
You can see from the picture above that the servings of the chicken rice is rather generous. Examine the cuts of the meat and count them. Compare them with the plastic utensils if you will. It is filling. Take it from some that can finish an upsize prime rib from Hog's Breath. As most people are wont to say, good things don't come cheap. And cheap things aren't really the thing in a location like Bishan. Or is it?
A grand massive whopping total of $5 for 2 plates.