By Tana Kosiyabong
Aside from my trip to Japan and Thailand, I rarely venture out of downtown Vancouver for my Cheap Appetite missions. However I think it’s time to find out what the Greater Vancouver has to offer. Recently, LotusRapper, one of my regular readers, suggested me a few restaurants. Hawker’s Delight was among them. The name sounds so interesting I must check it out.
Conveniently, I hopped on the No. 3 bus in front of my condo and headed east. Twenty minutes later I was in front of Hawker’s Delight at Main St and E King Edward Ave. The restaurant bright red exterior is hard to miss. The interior painted bright green and yellow throughout. Hawkers Delight is quite small and crowded with tables and chairs. At lunch time, this restaurant is the claustrophobes worst nightmares. But it didn’t scare me off. I marched in, put on my brave face and ordered a Hainanese chicken rice ($5) and a vegetable spring roll ($0.75).
Hawker’s Delight offers over 17 Singaporean and Malaysian dishes. Many are quite similar to Thai food I’m familiar with. Soon after, the chicken rice was served in a banana leaf design plate. The restaurant gave a generous portion of poached chicken leg quarter and rice. The chicken skin was almost jelly-like. The dark chicken meat was firm yet tender. The trick is to poach them just under the boiling point. The rice was well-cooked but I wish I could taste a bit more of the yummy chicken fat. The dipping sauce was sour and sweet with a little kung-fu kick. It was made of pounded chilies, pounded ginger, rice vinegar, sugar and perhaps a pinch of salt to round them all up.
I grew up with a very similar dish called Khao Man Gai (ข้าวมันไก่) in Thailand. The dish was also made of poached chicken and rice cooked in fatty chicken stock. Some even throw in a few garlic cloves and ginger slices to the rice for another layer of aroma. The dipping sauce, however, are quite different from the Hawker’s Delight version. Khao Man Gai sauce was made of chopped Thai chilies, chopped ginger, chopped garlic, fermented soy bean, dark soy sauce and vinegar. When eating with the dipping sauce, therefore, the Khao Man Gai is saltier and spicier than the Hainanese chicken rice.
Another Thai offshoot of the Hainanese chicken is Khao Man Gai Todd which serves with deep-fried chicken instead. The dipping sauce is very similar to the sweet Thai chilies sauce found in Asian grocery stores. Boy, I almost drooled just thinking of it.
The vegetable spring roll came in a small plate topped with sweet dark soy sauce. The fillings were the usual cabbage and carrots, and the unusual bamboo shoot. The spring roll was crispy yet not too greasy. The sweet dark soy sauce complimented the spring roll so well I wish I had tried this flavor combo a long time ago. Since the dark soy sauce is one of the ingredients in Khao Man Gai dipping sauce, I ingeniously scraped the excess amount of the sauce on the spring roll plate to mix with the Hainanese sauce. Voila! A poor man’s version of Thai Khao Man Gai sauce was made. However, I would urge you to try the original dipping sauce first before you mix in the dark soy sauce
Unfortunately, Hawker’s Delight didn’t serve chicken broth soup along with the Hainanese chicken rice. In Thailand, Khao Man Gai always comes with the soup. I assumed Singaporean and Malaysian restaurants would also serve it. But I could be wrong.
Hawker’s Delight prices range from $0.75 to $7.75 (most dishes are under $5.25).It’s so affordable I’ll be back to try every one of them. It may take a few years, but eventually I will conquer.
Hawker’s Delight Hainanese Chicken Rice: ©©© ¾
Hawker’s Delight Vegetable Spring Roll: ©©© ¾
Remaining Budget: $277.14
Budget Spent: -$5.75
Budget Available: $271.39
For LotusRapper Review on Fan Favorites section, click here.
For review on other Hawker’s Delight dishes, see Ben’s review from Chowtimes.com.
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