Hainan Chicken Rice Shop, Kuantan

Chicken rice is serious business in my family - comes with being Hainanese, I think. It surprises people sometimes, when I tell them how much of a staple feature chicken rice is in our celebratory menu. Chinese New Year - check, Chap Goh Meh - check, mooncake festival - check, dumpling festival - check, birthdays - check; well, you get the point. It goes without saying that we're pretty hard to please when it comes to chicken rice, especially when it comes to the condiments and we're always on the lookout for a good, authentic chicken rice spot. (For the days in between festivals, you know)

Hainan Chicken Rice Shop
52-62 Loring Tun Ismail 8,
25000, Kuantan, Pahang

The descriptive name can be quite difficult to uphold - but this outlet has gotten the nod of approval from the generation above mine. While not exactly like our home-cooked fare, it passes the test, and with accompanying roast pork, one cannot complain.


Chicken prep is a delicate affair when it comes to chicken rice - getting the cooking time right is key as one doesn't want to end up with raw chicken, but there's also that fine, fine line between perfection and over-cooking. We've had many a debate over methods in my family - everything from cooking times, to amount of garlic needed, to whether or not to use an ice bath as the final step. They've managed to get their cooking time just right here, resulting in succulent, smooth chicken, doused in delicious salty-sweet soy sauce. Our version of the chicken employs far, far more garlic than anything you get outside and that still holds in this case. There are times when I wonder if all that garlic that we so liberally stuff our chicken with is accepted practice only in my family.

And of course, the special little bonus - a serving of crispy-skinned roast pork, which come to think of it, is one of those dishes that transcends all dialects, doesn't it? 

To balance out the meat, fresh, crunchy, just-cooked beansprouts.

A (refillable) bowl of soup, some fragrant rice, or white rice, if you prefer and lots of pounded ginger and chilly - and you've got yourself a hearty meal.

With that said, I'm still on the lookout for garlicky chicken - any recommendations, anyone?

Holiday Foodsteps: Donald and Lily, Malacca

We did a bit of asking around before a recent trip to Malacca and were told that Donald and Lily Restaurant would be worth a visit for some Nyonya fare. There was a bit of confusion though, as a quick Google search of the place on the smartphone revealed conflicting addresses for the outlet - it's a good thing that the restaurant proprietors maintain a Facebook page, with up-to-date information. Really, I do wonder sometimes - what would we ever do without social media? 

Donald and Lily Restaurant 
No 16 (Ground Floor), 
Jalan  KSB 1,
Taman Kota Shahbandar, 
75200, Malacca 

The laksa, which came highly recommended, and for good reason. Punchy and flavourful, with gravy that was drinkable by the spoonfuls. 

Nasi lemak, with chicken curry (pictured below) - the brother's choice (I think you're probably beginning to see a trend here). I'm all for greens, and this nasi lemak came with a side of kangkung.  

The curry was of the thicker sort and quite different from the usual nasi lemak-accompanying curry. 

Mee siam, which like the laksa, seemed to be a popular choice. I always expect mee siam to have an appetising tangy-ness and this one didn't disappoint, with its addictive sambal-gravy.

Comforting ayam pongteh. Malacca and ayam pongteh have become synonymous in my mind so the meal would have felt incomplete without the dish. While their rendition probably wouldn't top my list of ayam pongtehs, it still provided a fix. 

I can never say no to rojak, of any sort. This was interesting, and again, a bit different from anything I've ever had before. While perhaps not the star of the menu, the rojak provides a nice foil to the richer dishes. A sort of palate cleanser. 

I remember this being the start of the holiday cendol spree - because the gula Melaka in Malacca is exquisite and cendol provides a really, really good excuse to have as much gula Melaka as you want.

Hai Peng Kopitiam, Kuantan

The original Hai Peng Kopitam in Kemaman is quite the icon, one of those must-stop tourist spots that is almost always has a crowd. Its spin-off (I wouldn't really call it a branch) in Kuantan is, however, more of a local spot for a coffee and comfort food rather than a hustly-bustly tourist attraction - which I actually very much prefer.

Hai Peng Kopitiam 
Jalan Haji Abdul Aziz
Kuantan, Pahang 25300

I love a good roti bakar - its something so beautifully simple, something that really hinges on how good the individual components are (and there aren't that many!) and getting the proportions right. The roti bakar in Hai Peng is perhaps one of my favourites - the home-made bread is thicker (and deliciously fluffy) than most versions and toasted just right, the kaya is lovely and the butter is the bridesmaid, as it should be (I'm not a fan of butter-overpowered renditions). For an added flavour dimension, I like to dunk corners of the roti bakar into the chicken curry.

Another must-have - the punchy, satisfying laksa. You'd be hard-pressed to find a table in the kopitiam that doesn't have a bowl of this. 

Nasi lemak with chicken curry, which is the brother's go-to (and yes, that's the chicken curry that the roti bakar gets dunked in).

And of course, what's a trip to the kopitiam without a good cup of white coffee? Hai Peng started out being about the coffee - and it doesn't disappoint. 

As far as kopitiams go, Hai Peng is probably always going to be somewhere at the top of my list and it you were to make me vote - the one in Kuantan would win, hands down.