A little known secret – Our local Hainanese chicken rice chain in Singapore Boon Tong Kee has set up a solitary shop right in the heart of the bustling Zhong Xiao East Road in Taipei for many years now.
The shop in Taipei named Boon Keng Chi is relatively nondescript and there hasn’t been any expansion or scaling up of the business over the years to my knowledge. I wonder what the strategy is.
I find BTK in Singapore fairly average (although they have their following) so why is the quality here so much better ? Well for starters, the chicken here is plump and yellow – a bit like the chicken found in the “kampung chicken ” shop found in Tiong Bahru but much fatter and tastier. I suppose it is the breeding and the “terroir” here.
But the rice ? Why does it taste that much more fragrant ? And why can’t they replicate this in Singapore ?
Someone suggested to me years ago it could be the water used to cook the rice. You could tinker with the type of rice used and the cooking method but the water you use to cook the rice will always be dictated by your sources. Our water in Singapore is proudly fit for drinking straight from the tap but it is also reportedly heavier on the alkaline side like ionized water, so this may affect how the rice turns out and tastes. By the way, despite popular contrary belief, the chlorine content in PUB water is on the low side as compared to WHO standards.
Credible theory ? But how else do you explain why a large chicken rice chain cannot replicate the quality of their rice in Singapore if they get it so right in Taipei?
The final verdict ?
I have thought from the first time I tasted Boon Keng Chi at least 10 years years ago that this chicken rice beats most of the brands in Singapore. I went there again earlier this year and the chicken rice at Boon Keng Chi is still very good – chicken is plump and tasty, chilli is more than decent and the rice is extremely fragrant and moist.
Boon Keng Chi serves many other side dishes as well and they are all decent and some are downright delicious. I particularly love their pig liver with Chinese chives – steeped in flavour and sliced nice and thick to offer a crunch. Bring your cholesterol pills.
For Singaporeans who are chicken rice mad, this shop is a must try in Taipei if you are there for more than a few days, and start feeling homesick and crave some familiar flavours.
PS: By the way, the Taiwanese like their chicken rice shredded and seemingly dry (See last 4 pictures above ). This may seem weird to those of us who grew up on Hainanese Chicken rice Singapore style but which may explain why Boon Keng Chi has not taken off in Taipei in a big way.
Boon Keng Chi Chicken (文慶雞新加坡文東記雞飯) Address: 219-1, Zhongxiao E Rd Sec 3, Taipei City (台北市忠孝東路三段219-1號)Telephone: (02) 2731-5522
Open: 10:30am to 9:30pm