Many have named this humble ensemble consisting of rice and chicken the easiest meal to assemble among all the individually-plated street fares out there. I mean, chicken and rice aren't exactly one combination that works one's creative juices to its core; with barely more than a handful of ingredients involved.
Let's count them ... rice, chicken, soup and chili sauce. Yup, got them all covered within seconds.
But were you aware that the art in creating a plate of chicken rice worthy of praises lies in many variables that have been since the topics of argument among so-called chicken rice connoisseurs?
There are those stalwart knights of yesteryears hoping that the younger generation would gradually learn to appreciate the immense effort to create the sauce by channeling energy and passion into the pounding of chillies, ginger and a squeeze of lime with mortar and pestle, instead of throwing everything into an electronic blender.
The golden-hued, yellow skin is a beckoning sign for true pursuers of good quality chicken; in this case, the free range chicken was poached to a firm yet tender texture. (taken at Loke Yun @ Ampang, Kuala Lumpur)
Regardless of the advancement in cooking up chicken rice fit for a king or a peasant, there is no denying the charm and convenience of having chicken rice during any meal of the day. In Malaysia, almost every coffee shop has a stall serving their brand of chicken rice; routinely throwing in roasted meats such as ducks, barbecued pork, pork sausages and even offals into the equation.
That being said, every region has its difference when dishing up the celebrated dish. In the city of Ipoh in the state of Perak (about 200km north of Kuala Lumpur), the combination of bean sprouts, chicken and oiled rice or smooth flat rice noodles (named "kuey teow") is very popular, and this ingenious combination has garnered ample external attention to the point of being featured relentlessly in the media. Just search for Ipoh "Nga Choy Gai" (Cantonese for Bean Sprouts Chicken) and you'll be swarmed with articles on the city's signature dish. This is helped tremendously by the fact that bean sprouts from Ipoh are claimed to be (and rightly so) extra plump, crunchy and juicy owing to the quality of the limestone hill water where the city's blessed with.
In the historical town of Malacca; you will find the rice mashed and rolled up in balls prior to serving. A novelty more than anything, the snaking lines in front of the shops even as early as 11am on weekends tell a lot about the fame that has since crossed regions and borders. Though the quality of the poached chicken in the three famous shops on Jonker Street (Famosa, Hoe Kee and Chung Wah) is far from the ideal, smooth and tender poached variety in Ipoh or even Kuala Lumpur, the crowd simply adores the balls of rice and the piquant chili sauce.
So, have you decided on your favourite yet?