I think everyone has their favourite chicken rice stall, and often, it is the one that they grew up eating. It certainly is the case for me.
My favourite? Pow Sing at Serangoon Gardens.
I'm not referring to big, air-conditioned Pow Sing Restaurant along Serangoon Gardens Way though. If you had grown up in the 80s and early 90s in Serangoon Gardens, you would know that there were 2 "Pow Sings". (They both had the same Chinese name: 報￼喜.) One is of course the restaurant I referred to. This used to be called Pow Sing Hainanese Chicken Rice when it first started, and serves steamed chicken with other nonya dishes. But before the owners set up Pow Sing Restaurant, they started the Posin chicken rice stall which serves roast chicken at the corner coffeeshop along the same row. And it's that stall that was my favourite chicken rice of all time.
We ate that chicken rice virtually every Sunday after church service, for as long as I can remember. I lived in Serangoon Gardens for 5-6 years, but my grandmother lived nearby till I was 17 so we always came back to the area.
Our Sunday lunches were routine affairs for most part: Roasted chicken rice for everyone with a side order of roasted pork (siu bak), and an extra bowl of the soup for me. And on top of our chicken rice, my sister and I, erm, also shared a bowl of prawn bee hoon-mee from the other stall. Yes, we were real gluts back then!
But back to the chicken rice: It was always a winner. Crispy brown skin over tender chicken. That lime that you squeeze over the chicken to give it. The cucumber on the plate, soaked in sauce. The fragrant rice. And all eaten with good chilli. I loved it. Even today, it is the only roasted chicken that I would order.
I panicked when a few years ago, the news broke that the corner coffeeshop, Cardon Restaurant, it was called, was going to taken over by a Citibank branch. I was losing my favourite chicken rice to a boring bank outlet??
Fortunately it appeared that the owners were prepared for this eventuality so they set up shop in a shop unit a few doors down. Whew, disaster averted.
I think it's undergone some changes since. Over the past weekend, we were in the area after attending little Teanne's birthday party and decided drop by to get our chicken rice fix at Pow Sing Kitchen.
It's been a while since I've been back and I was both surprised and delighted to see the boss himself chopping chicken that day. I've seen this man graduate from being behind the cleaver, to helping with the serving to mainly just supervising as the business thrived. So I was not expecting to see him sweating it out that day. Perhaps they were short-handed.
It is different now from the time when it used to be at the coffeeshop of course: cleaner and swankier, with some air-conditioning blowing through. You now also have the option of ordering many nonya dishes to go along with your meal. But we were there for the chicken, and I'm glad to say, the chicken was almost as good as I remembered.
It was a great walk down memory lane for me, and I left telling myself I must be back again, soon.
Which is your favourite chicken rice stall? Do share!