It all started with a passionate exchange over the findings of this soy sauce chicken noodle taste test. Whenever foodies cum chicken rice afficionados are involved, the inevitable consequence of such an exchange is, of course, a chicken rice lunch.
One of the oldest chicken rice specialists in Singapore, Lee Fun Nam Kee has been around for more than 40 years. In the late 1960s, it began life as a humble hawker stall in a market in Toa Payoh Lorong 4. At that time, Toa Payoh was one of the newest public housing estates in Singapore. A few years later, Lee Fun Nam Kee moved into a corner shop unit a few blocks away, and since then, has been in operation there.
In the 1990s, an attempt by the second generation to expand the business resulted in an upmarket venture in Clarke Quay. This short-lived undertaking failed to maintain standards of the food, and drove away quite of number of their old-time fans, including my venerable foodie lunch mate for this meal, A.
And so, this meal was a re-revisit of an old childhood haunt for A. For me, it was a chance to discover their “white” chicken, and how it compared against their popular soy sauce chicken.
Here’s our comments on Lee Fun Nam Kee’s “white” chicken vs. soy sauce chicken:
Soy sauce chicken:
The meat was silky smooth, but its original flavor was smothered by the sweet, thick gravy. Somehow, it goes very well with their noodles — which was fabulously executed on my previous visit — rather than rice. However, there are fans who dig this serving style.
Hainanese “white” chicken:
We polished off this plate faster than the other. Smooth and tender, the juicy meat had a lovely springy bite. The bird had been properly chilled, resulting in firm yet not oily skin. The light soy and sesame oil dressing enhanced the chicken without overpowering it.
Loose and puffy, the rice was very old-school. It was mildly flavored with chicken stock, quite unlike the robust, ginger-infused version that’s more commonly available. On the upside, it was light and not greasy.
Fresh and vibrant, the chilli was a lively mix of spicy and tangy. Thumbs up!
This is a stellar example of how kailan should be served. Carefully picked to be free of tough and fibrous parts, these stalks were blanched to al dente on the crunchy side. They were then topped with oyster sauce dressing and — the piece de resistance — crispy pork lard cubes.
Many a times, I’ve had blanched vegetables or 油菜 that’s undercooked or overcooked, and topped with those horrible factory-made, fragrance-less fried shallots that come out of a bag. How I wish they’d take a leaf out of Lee Fun Nam Kee’s book (pun intended)!
Respectably plump, the shrimp dumplings made a pleasant accompaniment to the meal. The clear soup was rather light (read: not heavily loaded with MSG) and had stalks of spinach.
I don’t have prices of the individual dishes, because this was a lunch treat from A and his lovely wife HL. Thanks, A, for the lunch treat and enlightening foodie insights!
As a rough guide, we ordered the following and the total bill was about S$40 for three diners (for the chicken, they served us rather generous portions for three):
- Soy sauce chicken
- “White” chicken
- Shrimp dumpling in soup (6 pieces)
- 2 glasses of iced chin chow
- 1 glass of iced lime juice
Lee Fun Nam Kee’s chicken rice is a more refined and elegant rendition of the hawker version. It’s also pricier, but one must take into account the food presentation and posher ambience (clean & airy coffee shop, leather seats).
Lee Fun Nam Kee Chicken Rice & Restaurant
94 Toa Payoh Lorong 4
Tel: +65 6255 0891
Open daily: 11am – 3pm, 5pm – 9pm