Jul 12 2011
Khao man gai, the Thai variant of the original Hainanese chicken rice, is hugely popular in Thailand and found just about anywhere you go in the kingdom. Known in China as wenchan chicken it was brought to Southeast Asia by Hainanese merchants and sailors, so presumably spread out from ports frequented by traders from the Chinese island of Hainan (Singapore, Penang, Phuket, Bangkok and so on.) Local variations are indeed common today throughout Malaysia and Singapore, too.
The Thai name literally means oiled chicken rice since the rice is boiled in a mixture of water and oil — but it tastes a lot better than it sounds! Very simple but tasty, a plate consists of slices of the said boiled chicken breast on a mound of rice with a few slices of crisp cucumber. It’s accompanied by a small bowl of clear soup that comes from the chicken stock.
Specialist khao man gai restaurants typically only sell the chicken dish plus related offerings, such as crispy chicken, duck and perhaps red pork, so it’s not a common restaurant menu offering. Our favourite is Nan Talam, which is located in Thanon Srimankhalajan — to get here, go up Huay Kaew Road past Central and turn left at the first set of traffic lights – see map here. It has the classic chicken version, a crispy fried alternative and optional side dishes of pork sate.
Now you won’t see many tourists in there but it’s well known among locals — at lunchtime you can sometimes be hard-pressed to find a table there. It’s open from 07:00 to 14:30 daily except Sundays.
A standard plate of chicken and rice is 30 baht but our favourite for 45 baht is half and half, boiled chicken/crispy fried chicken, pee set — (extra large) — so that’ll fill you up for the equivalent of US$1.50, which is rather affordable even by Chiang Mai restaurant standards. Pork sate sticks go for 3 baht each and though locals think I’m a crazy farang I’ll order the sate for the peanut sauce alone since it just seems to go really well with the chicken! The standard sauce for boiled chicken is known as tauchoo, a mixture of soy sauce, ginger, chilli, garlic and vinegar, while crispy chicken comes with a sweet chilli sauce.
… Our favourite waiter is Eddy, who not only speaks decent English but also gives guitar lessons in his spare time.
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