Queues at Maxwell's Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice start from 8am on Saturday before M'sia export ban kicks in

The owner said that they will continue to sell poached chickens for as long as they can get a supply of fresh chickens.

Fiona Tan | May 29, 2022, 12:11 PM

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Chicken rice stalls in Singapore are among those that will be most affected by the impending Malaysia's chicken export ban.

The ban will take effect on June 1 onwards.

On May 28, we spoke to the owner of famous chicken rice, Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice, about their plans in response to the ban.

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice

If you're a chicken rice aficionado, you're bound to have heard of Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice.

Its chicken rice -- luscious and plump white poached chicken, homemade secret brown sauce and chilli, and fluffy fragrant rice -- is popular locally and internationally, winning approvals of culinary legends such as Gordon Ramsey and the late Anthony Bourdain.

Image by Fiona Tan.

Image by Fiona Tan.

While the chicken rice brand now has three outlets, we went to their original outlet at Maxwell Food Centre to speak to Tian Tian's first-gen owner Foo Kui Lian.

While Foo Kui Lian has passed her reins down to her daughter Loi Mui Yin in 2009, the spritely 73-year-old is still very much involved in the day-to-day operations at the Maxwell outlet.

Photo by Fiona Tan.

Long queues started earlier than usual

It was an extremely busy day, and Foo told us that the queues started from as early as 8am on Saturday (May 28).

Many had flocked to the stall to savour their delicious chicken rice before Malaysia's export ban on fresh chicken kicks in.

Image by Fiona Tan.

Photo by Fiona Tan.

Image by Fiona Tan.

Foo disclosed that this was not normal as queues only usually start around lunchtime and added that business was busier than normal in the past few days.

Curious to know what her plans are after the export halt kicks in, I asked Foo more questions while she packed the sauces at the chicken rice stall.

1) Will Tian Tian stop selling poached chickens from June 1 on?

Foo: No. We want to clarify that we are still selling poached chickens, and we will continue to do so until our supply of fresh chickens runs out.

We will be able to continue selling poached chickens after June 1, but only for a few days when our suppliers can bring in fresh chickens.

We are open to using fresh chickens from other countries, if available, so that we can continue selling poached chickens.

Image by Fiona Tan.

2) Why can't frozen chickens be used to make poached chickens?

Foo: We only use fresh chickens from Malaysia at our stalls. Frozen chickens can be used to prepare roasted chickens, but not poached chickens. We've tried it before and it's just not the same.

A poached chicken made with frozen chicken is visibly different from what we usually serve. For example, the bones of a frozen chicken are red, even after it's cooked, and this may colour the meat closest to the bones.

We only want to serve our customers the best, so quality is something that we will not compromise on.

Image by Fiona Tan.

3) What's your plan when fresh chickens run out for Tian Tian?

Foo: When that happens, we will still continue to sell chickens, but only roasted ones, which we are already selling at our stalls. We may also consider selling fried chicken.

We are likely to sell other dishes like Hainanese pork chop, stir fried vegetables, salad you tiao (fried dough sticks stuffed with seafood paste), et cetera. These items used to be on the menu at our Simpang Bedok outlet.

We are still in the midst of figuring out what we can sell in lieu of poached chickens.

4) Will you pivot to selling duck rice or other roast meats?

Foo: (Laughs.) No, our business in the past 30 years has always been selling chicken rice.

Tian Tian Hainanese Chicken Rice outlets

Maxwell outlet

Address: 1 Kadayanallur Street, Maxwell Food Centre #01-10, Singapore 069120

Opening hours: 10am to 7:30pm, daily (Closed on Mondays)

Bedok outlet

Address: 12 Jln Pari Burong, Singapore 488678

Opening hours: 11am to 8pm, daily (Closed on Mondays)

Clementi outlet

Address: 450 Clementi Ave 3, Singapore 120450

Opening hours: 10am to 8pm, daily (Closed on Mondays)

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Top image by Fiona Tan.