Every few days our team will scour Shanghai’s dining scene for scrumptious dishes that’ll fill your belly without emptying your savings. Not to discriminate, we’ll search everywhere from bicycle carts to chic venues with twenty-course tasting menus, knowing that any spot could have the next Dish of the Day.
Your search for delicious Hainan chicken rice in Shanghai ends at Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice (not to be confused with the Singapore chain of the same name). This Singapore-run arrival knocks its namesake out of the park, doing a titillating rendition of one of our favorite marriages of meat and starch on earth.
For the laymen, making chicken rice might sound simple – you microwave this every Sunday when you need to clean the leftovers out of your fridge, right? Not quite. As this Hainanese immigrant dish is popular in Malaysia and Singapore (where it’s considered a national dish), recipes vary, but they usually entail slowly blanching or steaming a whole bird at a low-temp. Afterwards, the chicken’s dunked in cold water to halt the cooking process and ensure that the flesh remains tender and the skin gelatinous.
It’s then served room-temp like white-cut chicken to preserve flavor, and paired with soy, garlic, cucumber slices, chili paste, and most importantly, rice cooked in chicken stock and Pandan leaves until fat-slicked and fragrant (8RMB). Usually an afterthought, here the rice is the headliner. And Five Star’s is damn tasty, like they compressed the flavor of an entire chicken into each grain of rice. With each mouthful, your lips become more and more lacquered with delicious poultry juice. Think of it as the Eastern equivalent of mashed potatoes and gravy, but exponentially better.
The chicken itself is top-shelf too. When we first saw their big, buxom birds, we were reminded of textbook feedlot fodder, but Five Star sources its poultry from a small farm in Guangdong. They like them bulky as it means they harbor more oil. You choose between the chicken’s upper (38RMB) and lower torso (48RMB). Go with the lower, it’s more luscious.
Be warned, the crowds around Five Star make Yang’s Fry Dumpling seem like an Oklahoma bus stop during the Dust Bowl. And they sell out of their specialty pretty fast. The tedious preparation in the their rat-hole-sized kitchen means they’re only able to roll out around 20-30 birds every meal. But it’s totally worth it. Culinary Backstreets even named Five Star one of “Shanghai’s 5 restaurants worth the wait.”
Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice – 176 Jiaozhou Lu, near Xinzha Lu (胶州路176号,
近新闸路). Tel: (0)21-6256-8674. Hours: 12pm-5pm. Closest metro stop: Jing’an Temple, lines 2/3.
Last time on Dish of the Day: Fatty pork with fermented bean curd sauce @ Hong Qi Lin Lao Zhen
See a complete list of our Dish of the Day series here.
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