In a previous entry I said that the Tao Yuan Restaurant along Malvar Street in Manila serves the best Hainanese chicken rice in Manila.
Now I think this eatery has a worthy competitor for the title, and it isn’t even a full-service restaurant: STV’s Hainanese Chicken.
Owned by executive-turned-restaurateur Stevie Villacin, his reputation and that of his signature dish spread almost exclusively over the Internet, to be more specific among Metro Manila’s many food bloggers. Here’s an interesting fact: Dessert Comes First says Mr. Villacin only started producing his version of Hainanese chicken rice only late last year.
So one Sunday morning I picked up the phone, dialed (0906) 508-4155, and ordered a single Hainanese chicken rice set for lunch, only to find out that I should have done so a day in advance. Naturally I was crestfallen, but I was told that I could place an order for dinner that very night. When the appointed time came, Mrs. Unlawyer and I hastened to Mr. Villacin’s Bel-Air, Makati address to claim our order. We received two trays – one for the chopped whole chicken and the other for the rice – plus a small bag for the sauces.
The difference between Mr. Villacin’s Hainanese chicken rice and those that one would find in Singapore is that the chicken is immersed in its own broth, as opposed to this liquid being served separately. I suppose he has good reason for doing so, mainly having to do with preventing the chicken from drying out while customers drive home with their prize. At any rate, the fat in the broth did its job well, too well in fact, to the point that Mrs. Unlawyer remarked that the chicken was rather greasy.
The chicken I received was well-cooked with just a few traces of blood.
Note that the Hainanese chicken is garnished with a carved tomato, some cucumber slices, and coriander stalks. Did you know that the price of a kilogram of this herb, also known as wansuy in these parts, costs about PHP 700 or so?
What would Hainanese chicken rice be without, well, its flavored rice? Some sources say that the stock used to prepare the rice must be created specifically for this purpose, but the reference I now have on hand, The Best of Singapore Cooking by Leong Yee Soo, makes no mention of this necessity. It doesn’t matter really if Mr. Villacin used either technique – the rice tasted good.
It’s interesting to note that The New Mrs. Lee’s Cookbook, originally written by Lee Chin Koon, makes no mention of a recipe for Hainanese chicken rice.
Anyway, Stevie’s Hainanese chicken rice comes with the usual dipping condiments: pounded ginger, chili sauce, and a dark soy sauce with the consistency of hoisin sauce, plus a topping sauce. The chili sauce supplied by Mr. Villacin was not to our taste so we supplemented it from our stash of sambal.
Each set, which costs PHP 950, serves five persons. What do you do if you are stuck with leftovers after your meal and want to partake of it again the next day? Mr. Villacin has pretty detailed instructions on how to deal with it: don’t reheat the chicken. Set it on a table to thaw and at the same time heat the broth it came with until it comes to a boil. Pour the now-hot broth on the chicken and let it warm the meat.
Here’s a map to Stevie’s place:
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STV’s Hainanese Chicken is located at 21 Libra Street, Bel-Air Village, Makati City [GPS coordinates: 14.55923º N., 121.03800º E.]. Phone (0906) 508-4155. Orders for one to two sets can be made at least a day in advance, while orders for three sets or more must be made in two. Cash only.