Hainanese Curry Rice in Singapore
Hainanese curry rice is a uniquely Singaporean cuisine characterised by a combination of Curry Chicken, Porkchop, Chap Chye (Braise Cabbage) and Kong Bak (Braise Pork).
The selection of these four key dishes, together with the skilful cooking techniques of the Hainanese created a plate of flavorsome dish that has delighted the taste buds of Singaporeans for generations and for generations to come.
The four classic dishes accompanied by a generous serving of thickened curry gravy sets the Hainanese Curry Rice apart from economic rice stalls which are a dime a dozen.
It has been said that the origin of the dish stems back to the end of the second world war between the Japanese occupation of Singapore and the city’s return to British colonial rule. The British colonials and the wealthy Chinese Peranakans living in Singapore after the war engaged the services of talented chefs from the Chinese province of Hainan. These chefs are well known for their culinary expertise and their lighter and more delicate cooking styles. Borrowing from these three cultures and cuisines, Hainanese curry rice was born.
What is Hainanese curry rice?
Simply explained, Hainanese curry rice is generally four classic dishes with many variations which include seafood and tofu accompanied with a generous serving of comforting and thick curry gravy. However, the Hainanese curry rice is far from a simple dish. It is actually a complex unification of cultures and cuisine, held together by a secret signature curry recipe.
Each Hainanese curry rice stall has its own protected curry recipe. Often, the curry sauce recipe has been handed down over generations and the curry sauce can take several days to prepare. Some Hainanese curry rice stall holders use different curry gravies for different dishes while others, like Hong Seng Curry Rice, uses just one very closely guarded curry sauce recipe for all of their dishes.
Authentic Hainanese Curry Rice Dishes
The four key dishes for an authentic Hainanese Curry Rice include:
Crispy fried pork cutlet
The inclusion of pork cutlet is a British influence. The cutlet is crumbed, fried till golden brown then sliced into portions and served. The cutlet should be crispy and crunchy. In former times, crushed crackers were used to crumb the cutlets.
When the Chinese migrated to Malaysia and Singapore in the 15th and 16th century, the meeting of cultures gave birth to a new one, known as Nyonya or Peranakan. Nyonya cuisine is abundantly popular in Singapore for its fusion flavours and the Nyonya style chicken curry sauce served as part of a Hainanese curry rice plate should be slightly rich and aromatic.
Chap Chye (braised cabbage)
This is another dish originating from Nyonya and Peranakan cuisine. The braised Chinese cabbage is served as a vegetable side dish to add sweetness and contrast to the saucy curries.
Babi Ponteh (braised pork)
Pig trotters is traditionally a Hokkien dish. However, the pig trotters served at Hong Seng is a fusion of Peranakan and Hokkien flavour as the 2nd generation chef of Hong Seng was handed the recipe from a retiring Hokkien chef. The recipe handed down by the Hokkien chef was adapted with the original Peranakan recipe to create the current dish of pig trotter served at Hong Seng to this day.
Please request at the stall to taste this flavourful fusion of Peranakan and Hokkien dish with a robust and satisfactory herbal aroma as this dish is not displayed and is by request only. This is also an ideal substitute for those who prefer not to have anything spicy.
The selection of these four key dishes, combined with the skilful cooking technique of the Hainanese chefs, created a flavoursome combination that has delighted the tastebuds of Singaporeans for generations and will continue to delight for generations to come.
To enjoy an authentic Hainanese curry rice in Singapore, head down to Hong Seng Curry Rice at 85 Redhill Lane #01-74, Singapore 150085 from 10am to 11pm. Closed Thursdays. Follow us on Facebook.com/hongsengcurryrice.