Ah Keat Chicken Rice, Bukit Merah: A culinary leap of faith by a 27-year-old young hawker

What would you expect a culinary school graduate to be doing at the youthful age of 27? Probably learning the ropes in a well-established restaurant as a protege, hoping to climb one’s way to the top. Not for Wei Keat, though, who instead went on to open Ah Keat Chicken Rice.

Prior to starting his own business, Wei Keat trained under the owner of Leong Hainanese Chicken Rice as part of the Hawkers’ Development Programme. There, he picked up not only cooking knowledge but also skills of the hawker trade.

Upon completing the programme, he finally opened Ah Keat Chicken Rice in the unassuming Bukit Merah Central Food Centre, where he and his mother run the stall.

We visited them on a late weekday morning, just before the lunch crowd started streaming in. Although there was no lack of chicken rice stalls in the food centre, a short line eventually formed in front of them. It got us lowkey excited for what we were about to try.

What I tried

Ah Keat Chicken Rice has two main dishes, the first of which is none other than Chicken Rice (S$4).

Right off the bat, it wasn’t the cheapest plate of chicken rice. However, it did possess a substantial and generous amount of chicken meat, which I felt justified its price instantly. 

Upon closer inspection, I also noticed that the chicken meat was glistening all around — a sign of how tender and moist it was.

True enough, the chicken meat was ultra tender and not dry at all. It was cooked just right, with a thin layer of silky chicken skin atop every piece. That said, what stood out for me was how clean-tasting it was. It wasn’t super oily, like other chicken rice stalls.

We tested their chilli too, as no chicken rice is ever complete without a zesty chilli sauce, right?

To our satisfaction, the chilli sauce from Ah Keat Chicken Rice hit all the right spots. It was the perfect combination of spiciness and tanginess, with a good kick from the ginger, making it an excellent complement to the milder-tasting chicken. Add their dark soy sauce to the mix and you’ll find yourself on a one-way VTL flight to Flavourtown. 

Next up was the rice. I believe the rice can make or break a chicken rice dish, so this was crucial.

To our initial disappointment, we felt the rice wasn’t fragrant enough. It didn’t exude a fatty chicken flavour nor was it screaming “chicken rice” to us. 

However, we came to realise and made peace with the fact that “clean-tasting” was a recurrent theme here. In fact, strangely, the more rice I ate, the more I wanted to take another mouthful. It wasn’t cloying, and it had a hint of chicken flavour just enough to retain my palate’s interest.

The other main dish at Ah Keat Chicken Rice is their Signature Porridge (S$6).

I have to admit, I’m not the biggest fan of porridge and so wasn’t my dining partner. However, the porridge turned out to be our favourite dish.

To start off, there was a plethora of ingredients in the huge bowl. The boiled peanuts provided a tinge of sweetness in every mouthful of porridge.

Meanwhile, the fried shallots and spring onion made for a great textural contrast to the mushy porridge. They also uplifted the porridge’s flavour profile with a touch of savouriness.

Not only that, but the porridge also included a Ramen Egg (S$1) – yes you read that right. I’d never come across a ramen egg in a porridge dish so it was quite a unique and refreshing touch. The yolk was gooey and the whole egg carried a nice umami taste.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t say the exact same for the egg we got as an add-on for our chicken rice. Just from looking at the yolk, it was clearly overcooked. As such, consistency is definitely an area that needs some work here!

Lying beneath all those condiments was a lavish portion of chicken meat. Again, for the amount you get, it was certainly a steal.

Every piece was thick and possessed a decent bite, making the porridge an extremely wholesome dish.

Last but not least was the porridge itself, which we felt was the best part of the dish. 

We suspected that the porridge was cooked using their chicken rice itself; we were able to taste a hint of ginger and chicken fragrance that’s characteristic of chicken-flavoured rice. Did I mention the serving was enormous too?

Final thoughts

Make no mistake, Ah Keat Chicken Rice has by no means the most sinfully delicious plate of chicken rice. However, precisely because of its light and clean taste, I can see myself having their dishes over and over again without any guilt.

I believe with more practice and experience, Ah Keat Chicken Rice will definitely refine their dishes to perfection eventually. Besides, it’s not every day we see young local talent stepping up and into the hawker scene, so let’s give them some support and encouragement!

Expected damage: S$4 – S$7 per pax

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Price: $

Our Rating: 4 / 5

Ah Keat Chicken Rice

163 Bukit Merah Central, #02-35, Singapore 150163

Price
Our Rating 4/5

Ah Keat Chicken Rice

163 Bukit Merah Central, #02-35, Singapore 150163

Operating Hours: 9.30am - 3pm (Mon to Thu), 9.30am - 1pm (Fri & Sun), Closed on Sat

Operating Hours: 9.30am - 3pm (Mon to Thu), 9.30am - 1pm (Fri & Sun), Closed on Sat
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