Hainanese food is more than just Hainanese chicken rice – not only is much of Singaporean hawker fare influenced by Hainanese flavours, the origins of these dishes reflect Singapore’s rich cultural diversity and multi-ethnic make-up.
During the British occupation of Singapore, many Hainanese people emigrated from mainland China and eventually found themselves in the employ of British colonial officials and affluent Peranakan merchants. It was here that their cooking began to be influenced by the cuisines of various cultures. For example, working in Peranakan homes exposed Hainanese cooks to Malay and Peranakan cooking techniques and ingredients, like the rempah (spice paste which forms the foundation of many dishes, like curry), while those working for the British eventually learnt how to cook Western-style dishes such as pork chop. This is how some of our much-loved Hainanese dishes, such as Hainanese Pork Chop and Hainanese Curry Rice, came about!
From Hainanese-Western food to lor mee (noodles in a thick braised gravy), we discovered just how many different types of Hainanese food there are out there. This smorgasbord of Hainanese food can be found all over the country. Here are a few recommendations located in the east of Singapore. From the acclaimed Tian Tian Chicken Rice branch at Bedok to homely Hainanese fare in Changi Village and specially curated Hainanese dishes at The Hainan Story in Jewel Changi Airport, we promise a food adventure that is sure to excite your taste buds!
1. Fill up on authentic Hainanese-Western food at Jacob’s Café
If you’re familiar with the Changi Village food enclave, you’ve probably heard of Jacob’s Café as well. This Hainanese-Western joint has been a popular fixture of the food scene in the east since 2000! Not only are the owners Hainanese, their dishes are also created by the owner’s mother, who used to cook in one of Singapore’s former British military camps.
Some must-tries include their Hainanese Mutton Stew, Pork Chops and Hainanese Braised Pork Knuckles. Their Hainanese Mutton Stew is served with traditional Hainanese ingredients, such as tofu puffs, bamboo shoots, wolfberries, and black fungus. Enjoy the tender mutton chunks with a helping of their homemade chili, which packs a punch!
Their Hainanese Braised Pork Knuckles is braised with earthy shiitake mushrooms and chestnuts, and served alongside a warm bowl of rice. The pork is fall off the bone tender, and the juicy shiitake mushrooms are a burst of flavour, especially since they’ve soaked up all that flavourful, herbal broth.
For a taste of truly authentic Hainanese-Western food, be sure to hit up Jacob’s Café!
Address: 5 Changi Village Rd, #01-2049, Singapore 500005
Opening hours: Weekdays — 10.30am to 10.30pm, Saturday — 10:00am to 11:00pm, Sunday — 10:00am to 10:00pm, closed on Tuesdays
2. Enjoy acclaimed chicken rice at Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice (Bedok branch)
Any foodie would be more than familiar with Tian Tian’s mouth-watering Hainanese Chicken Rice. Its main outlet at Maxwell Food Centre was even awarded the coveted Michelin Bib Gourmand – it’s just that good! If you’ve got a hankering for its silky-smooth chicken, flavourful rice, and fragrant chili, fret not, for you won’t have to travel far. Tian Tian has a few outlets islandwide, and one of them is right here in the east of Singapore.
What sets Tian Tian apart from other run-of-the-mill chicken rice stalls is its rice, which is boiled in chicken stock for that extra depth of flavour. If you’re not convinced, take renowned late celebrity chef Anthony Bourdain’s word for it – he said that Tian Tian’s rice is so fragrant that it can be eaten just on its own!
Bedok Branch: 12 Jln Pari Burong, Singapore 488678
Main Branch: 01-10/11, Maxwell Food Centre, 1 Kadayanallur St, Singapore 069184
- Clementi Branch: 450 Clementi Ave 3, Singapore 120450
- Bedok Branch: Tuesday to Sunday — 8:00am to 10:00pm, closed on Mondays
- Main Branch: Tuesday to Sunday — 10:00am to 7.30pm, closed on Mondays
- Clementi Branch: Tuesday to Sunday — 8:00am to 10:00pm, closed on Mondays
3. Dig into a hearty plate of Hock Gooi’s Hainanese curry rice
There’s something about a plate of Hainanese curry rice drenched in rich and spicy curry that just hits the spot. If you’re looking for a messy yet satisfying plate of hainanese curry rice to satiate your growling tummy, look no further than Hock Gooi Hainanese Curry Rice.
Hock Gooi Hainanese Curry Rice at Changi Village offers your favourite Hainanese Curry Rice staples at affordable prices; think Hainanese fried pork chops, chunky braised pork slices, and chap chye (braised mixed vegetables with cabbage as the main ingredient), generously topped off with fragrant curry. The aromatic curry is creamy and slightly sweet, which perfectly complements their homemade chili. Their generous servings of chap chye are a good balance to the creaminess of the curry.
For a hearty yet wallet-friendly meal, Hock Gooi should be right up there on your list of east-side eats!
Changi Village Hawker Centre, 3 Changi Village Rd, Singapore 500003 (Note: Changi Village Hawker Centre is currently closed for renovations, and is scheduled to reopen on November 15, 2022).
Market Street Hawker Centre, 50 Market St, Singapore 048940
Changi Village: Friday to Wednesday — 11:00am to 8:00pm, closed on Thursdays
Market St: Weekdays — 6:00am to 3:00pm, closed on weekends
4. Feast on your favourites and more at The Hainan Story Chapter Two
If you want a complete meal with main courses and desserts, The Hainan Story Chapter Two is where you should head to. The Hainan Story Chapter Two brings together all your favourite Hainanese foods, from Hainanese chicken rice to Hainanese-style lor mee (noodles in a thick braised gravy), as well as an impressive selection of pastries, desserts, and cakes.
Unique to Jewel, The Hainanese Story Chapter Two’s 218 Hainan Lor Mee stall takes Hainanese-style lor mee to the next level. Alongside your traditional braised egg and ngoh hiang (fried five-spice meat rolls), The Hainan Story Chapter Two’s lor mee is elevated with a side helping of fried black pork cutlet, Jiaji white braised duck, or grilled saba fish. A must-try if you’re looking for something different from your regular bowl of Hainanese lor mee!
If you’re looking for a sweet ending to your meal, try their cream horns. These come in your favourite local flavours such as Kopi Gao (strong local coffee) and Teh Tarik (‘pulled’ milk tea), which, in typical Singaporean Hainanese fashion, marries the best of western dessert and local flavours! Those who are craving something quintessentially Hainanese can opt for their Traditional Hainanese Yibua (Hainanese steamed dumpling dessert), stuffed with ginger, shredded coconut, and gula melaka (palm sugar). Its flavours will take you back to your childhood days!
The Hainan Story has different outlets across Singapore, each with their own signature Hainanese stall, so be sure to check them all out – one of them is even open 24 hours a day, which is perfect for your next Hainanese food supper run!
The Hainan Story Chapter Two: #B2-201/202, Jewel Changi Airport, 78 Airport Blvd, Singapore 819916
The Hainan Story Introduction: 01-15/16, Hillion Mall, 17 Petir Rd, Singapore 678278
The Hainan Story Chapter One: 01-09, Hotel Boss, 500 Jln Sultan, Singapore 199020
The Hainan Story Bakery: 01-43, Hillion Mall, 17 Petir Rd, Singapore 678278
The Hainan Story Chapter Two: Daily from 8:00am to 10:00pm
The Hainan Story Introduction: Daily from 7.30am to 9.30pm
The Hainan Story Chapter One: Open 24 hours daily
The Hainan Story Bakery: Daily from 8.30am to 9:00pm
5. Tuck into a Hainanese smorgasbord at Jin Wee Restaurant
If you’re looking to catch up with your fellow eastie friends over a sit-down meal, head on down to Jin Wee Restaurant. This unassuming, family-owned Hainanese coffee shop has been dishing out delectable Hainanese dishes since the 1960s!
When you first enter, you might notice a large earthenware pot at the front of the restaurant – what’s inside is the restaurant’s signature dish! Their Jiao Hua Chicken (Beggar’s Chicken) is slow cooked with charcoal in this large pot for hours, locking in the chicken’s flavours and juices. The final product is succulently tender chicken, and an intensely flavourful, umami-packed gravy infused with chicken flavour.
Located along East Coast Rd, this Hainanese eatery attracts snaking queues during dinnertime, so make reservations or come early to avoid disappointment!
Address: 928 East Coast Rd, Singapore 459117
Opening hours: Thursday to Tuesday — 9:00am to 9:00pm, closed on Wednesdays
6. Dine in vintage style at British Hainan
Looking to take a trip down memory lane? Then British Hainan is your place. Not only does it serve traditional Hainanese food, it boasts an impressive interior decked out with vintage furniture and trinkets, some of which date back to the British colonial era!
Much raved about is their Traditional Hainanese Oxtail Stew, which comes with a generous helping of oxtail chunks, potatoes, carrots, and a side of toasted baguette. The meat is so tender that you’ll barely have to use your knife to cut through it, and the gravy is rich with a hint of natural sweetness. What’s even more impressive is that British Hainan does not use MSG in any of their dishes, which further attests to their authenticity and culinary skills.
British Hainan has two other outlets, located at Kallang Way and Purvis St, but their vintage ‘museum’ outlet is located at Carpmael Rd, in the east of Singapore!
75 Carpmael Rd, Singapore 429812
#01-06, Performance Building, 158 Kallang Way, Singapore 349245
#01-01, 23 Purvis St, Singapore 188600
Carpmael Rd: Wednesday to Sunday — 11:00am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm, closed on Tuesdays
Kallang Way: Sunday to Friday — 11:00am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm, closed on Saturdays
Purvis St: Wednesday to Sunday — 11:00am to 3:00pm and 6:00pm to 10:00pm, closed on Tuesdays
The Hainanese have made a significant (and delicious) mark on Singapore’s culinary scene, and these numerous Hainanese food joints in the east of Singapore attest to that. From affordable places to get your quick fix of Hainanese Curry Rice, to full sit-down restaurants for your next get-together, be sure to have these east-side Hainanese food joints at the very top of your list!
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