Chicken Rice: The Origin & Its Historical Background

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Since time immemorial, Malaysia and Singapore have admitted to each other that chicken rice is a dish from their respective countries. But is it really from one of these countries? Let’s dive deeper into the history of this interesting chicken rice.

Historical Background

According to history, this chicken rice comes from a dish created and brought by Chinese immigrants in Southeast Asia. According to, they explain that chicken rice or Hainanese chicken rice is adapted from a dish called “Wenchang Chicken Rice” which comes from Wenchang on Hainan Island, China.

hainanese chicken rice
Source: Google (Hainanese Chicken Rice)

The difference between the chicken rice in Malaysia/ Singapore and Wenchang chicken rice is the way the chicken is cooked and the seasoning uses yellow paprika instead of chili. Not only that, wenchang chicken rice sauce is also very simple because only oil, calamansi pickle, garlic and ginger are used. This is because chicken meat is the focus of this dish. The rice is also plain white– not yellow like chicken rice in Malaysia or Singapore.

Chicken rice first arrived in Malaysia in 1939 when the first warung selling chicken rice appeared in the country. While a year after that, the first chicken rice stall in Singapore appeared in 1940. Until now, the sale of chicken rice still remains and still receives a lively response from every food lover.

honey chicken rice
Source: Resepi Che Nom (Honey Chicken Rice)

Malaysian Chicken Rice vs Hainanese Chicken Rice

So, Hainanese chicken rice and chicken rice are named so because of their origin from the Hainan Chinese population in the Nanyang area. This version of chicken rice that is available near Malaysia and Singapore is the one that has been combined with local elements to follow the dietary tastes of Southeast Asians.

right way
Source: Google (Right Way to Cook Chicken Rice)

Hainanese chicken rice is a simple dish of juicy boiled chicken and aromatic rice, usually served with seasonings such as crushed ginger, thick soy sauce and chili sauce. While the usual chicken rice sold in Malaysia is different in terms of chicken dishes that are usually grilled or fried. Hainanese chicken rice dish is also a healthier choice and good for people who are on a diet or watch their diet because it is not fried.

Source: Google (Chicken Rice Stall)

That is the origin of chicken rice that came from far away in China until it reached our plates today. The more we learn about the origin of this food, the more we appreciate and enjoy its unique taste and origin. Thus, be diligent and read the history of food in Malaysia too!

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Article written by Nurul Humaira’ Hasan.

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