Le tour de Chicken rice: who holds the yellow jersey?

By Parsley, Van Pham   April 8, 2016 | 08:04 am GMT+7
Once the prosperity indicator under Vietnam's subsidy period, chicken is among the most versatile ingredients used in Vietnamese cooking, pleasing the taste buds whether steamed, boiled or lending a meaty taste to salad. But it seems chicken shines brightest when accompanied by rice.

Different cooking methods and different spices lead to different tastes, smells and textures. Throughout Vietnam, chicken rice has evolved to meet the tastes of different regions.

Fried rice with sauteed chicken of the north

In the northern part of Vietnam, chicken is served as a separate dish instead of being torn and mixed with rice.

Fried rice with sauteed chicken. Photo by Hoang Nhi

Fried rice with sauteed chicken. Photo by Hoang Nhi

The dish is a combination of chopped chicken sauteed with ginger and fish sauce, and rice fried in a big pan over an open fire. Some restaurants add egg to the rice to give it an attractive yellow colour and crispy texture.  With this much oil and and sauce, a pickled side dish is a must to help balance the fatty taste of both the rice and chicken.

The chunky all-in-one dish can be easily found along the likes of Tong Duy Tan street, Hang Buom street, Ma May street, Dao Duy Tu street…

Quang Nam chicken rice

Famous for its free-range chickens, Quang Nam boasts not one but two famous chicken rice dishes: one in Hoi An and the other in Tam Ky.

In Hoi An, the chicken is prepared and boiled until well-done. The meat and bones are then separated and the bones are returned to the broth to add more flavor. The rice is coated with turmeric until yellow, then it is rinsed thoroughly and cooked in the chicken broth with chicken fat.

The must-try chicken rice of Hoi An. Photo by Tuan Dao

The must-try chicken rice of Hoi An. Photo by Tuan Dao

Served with Vietnamese vegetables rau ram and hung que, the sparkling yellow rice topped with torn chicken will definitely catch your attention. Hoi An chicken rice is no stranger to both locals and foreign tourists, and together with the town's world-renowned banh mi, the city has earned its place on the global food map.

Tam Ky chicken rice, originating not far from Hoi An, shares the same method of preparing both the rice and chicken. The chicken is chopped into bite-sized pieces that makes the dish different from its neighbor, and side dishes are also a big bonus that make it differ from Hoi An.

A tray of Tam KY chicken rice consisting of both the dish and side dish. Photo by Hong Lien

A tray of Tam Ky chicken rice with side dishes. Photo by Hong Lien

Saigon's Hainan chicken rice with 'fat-rinsed' chicken

Originating in Hainan, China, this dish has a number of versions under its wing, including Singaporean, Malaysian, Indonesian and Saigonese.

Not that different from in Hoi An, Hainan chicken rice tastes more like fried rice thanks to the dry onions and garlic sauteed in chicken fat before they are added to the rice.

Saigon's Hainan chicken rice. Photo by Amthucsaigon

Saigon's Hainan chicken rice. Photo by Amthucsaigon

After the chicken is boiled through, it is rinsed with chilled water so the just-out-of-the-pot skin shrinks under the sudden change in temperature and gets sticky in texture.

Served with rice and garlic/onion sauteed soy sauce, Hainan chicken leaves diners stunned with its rich flavors and texture.

The fat rinsed chicken is more like a slow-cooked version of KFC without the crispy batter. The skin gets super transparent and sheer, cracking between your teeth like thin hard candy.

Just like the famous com tam, Saigon's chicken rice is to be found everywhere, with the smell enticing diners to immerse themselves in the search for the best one-course experience.

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