Tong Kee Chicken Rice: Famous dish with inaccurate name

Not to be confused with Boon Tong Kee, the chicken rice chain that I personally believe has diluted its brand, Tong Kee Chicken Rice at Margaret Drive Hawker Centre is the one and only of its kind.

tongkee- hawker centre

Founded in 1969, it was located at the original Margaret Drive Hawker Centre that opened in that same year. When the hawker centre closed in 2011, Tong Kee Chicken Rice moved to Tanglin Halt and 2022 marks the stall’s return to its original site. Well, close by, at least.

tongkee - storefront

Now in the hands of a second generation of chicken rice specialists, it continues to build on a rich legacy and attract a new legion of fans. Located in one corner on the first floor of the double storeyed building, it always has one of the longest queues at this hawker centre.

I was eager to find out whether it deserved the 4.1-star rating that it holds on Google. And the only way to settle that debate is to EAT!

What I tried at Tong Kee Chicken Rice

tongkee - plates of chicken rice

Tong Kee Chicken Rice serves plates of Roast Chicken Rice (S$4/S$5/S$6) as well as Char Siew Rice (S$4/S$5/S$6).

Perhaps a little explanation is warranted here. What is known as “Roast Chicken Rice’ is not quite roasted chicken— it’s actually deep-fried chicken. Yeah, that’s the same face I made when I first heard about this. Of course, without a thick layer of KFC-style batter, the ‘roast’ chicken comes out with thin dark brown skin instead of KFC’s thicker crispy skin.

There was no getting past ordering the Roast Chicken Rice (lucky me!) as it is definitely the reason behind the stall’s success and name. I also decided to try the Char Siew Rice for a change and asked for a mixed char siew-roast chicken plate (S$5).

My 2 plates were served in about 3 or 4 minutes but I was fourth in the queue and the wait was about 10 minutes.

tongkee - chicken rice plate

The first thing I noticed was that the serving size of the meat is right for the price (I got the small for S$4), which earns the stall an automatic point. They are a bit stingy with the cucumber, though.

Continuing with my visual inspection, I saw that tell-tale seasoning marks all over the chicken flesh, a sign that the preparation was very carefully done. It made my mouth water in anticipation.

tongkee - close up of chicken

My very first bite gave away that the chicken had been ‘roasted’ as the meat was noticeably firmer than what you get at other chicken rice specialists where it is poached instead. That’s not a complaint— I liked the refreshing change from the usual as the meat was still wonderfully dense with flavour.

My dining companion complained that the meat was dry. I believe poached chicken does have more ‘juice’ but it’s a matter of preference and I was completely fine with the level of ‘juiciness’ of my chicken.

tongkee - char siew rice plate

The char siew was not very different from what I have had elsewhere. It did not have the distinctive texture and flavour, nor did I find that the seasoning was anything special or different. That doesn’t mean I didn’t finish it and enjoy every bit!

tongkee - close up of char siew

Wow, do the meals here really come with a spicy kick or what?! The chilli was hotter than the usual fare at most stalls. Even the soup had a beautiful peppery heat that blazed a trail down my throat when I swallowed. It was especially welcome because I had visited on a rainy day and the wind was having a field day with the open-plan layout of the seating area.

Much has been said about the rice at Tong Kee Chicken Rice because they are one of the few remaining stalls that still cook it manually instead of in a rice cooker. While the process is obviously longer and more tedious, the end result is more fragrant and has a more ‘springy’ feel.

There is also a more substantial flavour and aroma because the herbs and spices are absorbed more thoroughly in the cooking process. It’s these little things that can separate good chicken rice from the best.

Final thoughts

After over half a century of recreating virtually exactly the same recipe, Tong Kee Chicken Rice has a winning formula that draws crowds from near and far. Their style of preparation infuses the meat, rice and soup with an additional dose of flavour missing from most of their competitors.

tongkee - chickens hanging at stall

I have to add that the service is slightly on the terse side. I put it down to how busy they are but it’s one of the things that takes away from the complete experience. Still, I was there to eat and eat very enjoyably I did. Margaret Drive is quite a distance from where I live but if I am ever in the area, Tong Kee Chicken Rice is one of the top candidates to earn my lunch money.

Expected damage: S$4 – S$6 per pax

Other articles you might like:

Xing Yun Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice: Michelin Plate hawker specialising in steamed chicken in Jurong East

10 stalls you must try at the new double-storey Margaret Drive Hawker Centre

Price: $

Our Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tong Kee Chicken Rice

38A Margaret Drive, #01-36, , Singapore 142038

Our Rating 3.5/5

Tong Kee Chicken Rice

38A Margaret Drive, #01-36, , Singapore 142038

Operating Hours: 10.30am – 3pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon

Operating Hours: 10.30am – 3pm (Tue to Sun), Closed on Mon