Much was written on-line about the glorious Tian Tian Chicken rice stall at Maxwell Road Hawker Food Centre, notably the comment that "if you see long queque of locals, the food must be very good".
Though Tian Tian has been selling its chicken rice for many years (some say 20 yrs plus), I find subtle yet gradual changes in its offerings of one of Singapore's famous dishes. Firstly, the chicken rice has become rather tasteless and are from the long-grained variety (cooked rather dry). Secondly, the steamed chicken, though tender and delicious, are served bathed in a rather slimy sesame-oil flavoured sauce, a taste which locals like, but I find it disguises the taste of the chicken slices. I find the strong and heavy taste of sesame oil does not enhance the delicate taste of the tender chicken slices.
On the same level/path where Tian Tian is located, but on the opposite, and a few stalls further, is one stall called "Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice" - though it is about 4 years old - which serves its steamed chicken sslices without swimming in the slimy sesame oil, hence one really taste the smooth texture of the tender chicken pieces. The sauce here is a very light soya-based sauce. From this stall I ordered a dish of chicken drum-stick boneless meat, a dish of chicken liver, and a dish of towgay/bean sprouts. The chicken rice was served in a separate dish, plus a bowl of hot soup. I could taste the tender chicken slices which is more yummy when dipped in the light ginger, thick black soya, or chilly sauces. My order was outside the suggested menu and the cook was happy to oblige. i paid a total of SG 9.50 which is a far more worthy meal for two than if I ate elsewhere. I have no regrets not going back to Tian Tian where one has to stand in a line first to pay, get a receipt, then stand in another line to collect one's food order. To be fair, Maxwell Hainanese Chicken Rice has also its own line of fans.
1) This Hawker Food Centre is very popular and extremely busy with office lunch time crowds - both for its yummy foods and its price-quality - hence not all stalls are open in the evenings. Suggest for tourists to go first for an afternoon tour of nearby Chinatown and then go around 6 p.m. for an early dinner. Do take note that after 8 p.m. the place will look nearly deserted and un-attractive. But if you plan to lunch there, be there by 12 noon, grab a table/seat, have a drink and you still have time to look at what the stalls are cooking before the office crowd turns the centre into a noisy, maddening, rush-hour "train station".
2) Be bold, instead of ordering what is suggested on the board posted with pictures of recommended menu and the set prices, ask the stall-keeper/cook what the price will be if you order certain favourites, like a dish of chicken liver only, or a dish of fried vegetables as side dishes to go with the chicken rice. Or ask for the rice to be served separate from the chicken breast slices you have specially ordered. But you can only do this outside the office rush hour.
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