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Eight Hainan Chicken Dishes Worth Flocking to in Los Angeles

These places aren't just winging chicken and rice.

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If there was a way to determine personality traits based on someone's favorite food (in my mind, the process would be akin to divining personality traits via astrological sign), the description for loving Hainan chicken would go something like this:

You chose Hainan Chicken. Pragmatic and Instagram-averse, you maintain an unassuming demeanor. Those who take the time to get to know you are rewarded with an immensely satisfying experience that's made only more pleasant with the addition of a little spice and/or ginger.

A convoluted metaphor, to be sure. But while Hainan chicken seems a little plain ("Poached chicken? Seriously?" the uninitiated might ask), there's flavor at practically every corner of the experience. Chicken is gently poached in a brine of white pepper, ginger, green onions and pandan leaves. The residual broth is used to cook the rice, which results in a slightly oily rice that's infused with chicken flavor. From there, add cucumber and tomato (Singaporean and Thai), some pickled radishes and carrots (some Vietnamese preparations), or a bowl of chicken broth (Thai).

Dipping sauces also vary from the country of preparation, but most involve a dark soy sauce, a spicy pepper-based dipping sauce, and nam, a slurry of ginger (Malaysia and Singapore), or tauchu, a yellow soybean paste similar to Korean doenjang (Thailand).

However you like it, here are the best places to experience the low-key dish with major key flavor.

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Note: Restaurants on this map are listed geographically.

Side Chick

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Is there a better Hainan chicken option anywhere in Los Angeles? Johnny Lee (of Sticky Rice, Genghis Cohen and Eggslut fame) is slinging an excellent rendition of the poached bird out of the Westfield Santa Anita's new Food Alley concept (located right of the Din Tai Fung entrance down the hall). The chicken is just on the warm side of lukewarm (it's normally supposed to be served room temperature), but the flavor of the poaching brine sneaks in through a silky and tender bird.

Dong Nguyen

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Though Dong Nguyen doesn't provide pickled vegetables with its rendition of Hainan chicken, the Alhambra establishment serves up a genuine-article Vietnamese preparation of the dish. The skin is tinged a pale gold, the result of not blanching the chicken skin. The rice has a distinctive grain and goes easy on the flavor to allow the chicken to take center stage.

Savoy Kitchen

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Savoy's Hainan Chicken is a user-experience marvel. The supple, oily rice lends itself a little too well to eating by the spoonful and would break even the most carb-averse diner. White meat is plenty juicy and well-executed, but the dark meat only option costs extra for a reason. Rich, fatty meat comes in a heaping 8.5-ounce portion and served alongside three dipping sauces. The fine grate of the ginger dipping sauce keeps the punch in check for a worthy standard-bearer of Hainanese chicken rice in L.A.

Photo by Euno Lee

Sticky Rice

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Sticky Rice's Khao Man Gai (Thai-Hainan Chicken Rice) was an instant hit in its alpha stages when it was the first of the new wave of eateries to hit Grand Central Market. Alongside Sidechick chef Johnny Lee (the chef at Sticky Rice in its earliest stages), restaurateur Dave Tewasart might have been responsible for the resurgence of Hainan chicken for those disinclined to driving into the San Gabriel Valley. It's easy to see why: Flavorful, juicy chicken is paired with garlicky rice to make converts out of even the finickiest of fowl fans. Chef Justin Baey is no slouch at the dials, and the quality of the dish has endured, endearing itself to bustling Angelenos from all walks of life.

Green Zone Pasadena

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Green Zone prides itself on organic ingredients, and they don't fool around with the fowl. For a beak-to-tail dish that's especially dependent on the quality of chicken, Green Zone has it in spades. Topped with a smattering of slivered green onion, Green Zone's rendition is a little dainty on the portions but big on flavor, with a ginger slurry to rival Sidechick's.

Sham Tseng

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Sham Tseng isn't terribly popular with the Yelp crowd (turns out it's hard to replace a Sam Woo even in the SGV), but its meat dishes are mostly standout. While the soy sauce chicken is an under-the-radar classic, the Hainan chicken is serious business, too. The white meat is tender and flavorful and for a preparation that's cleaved without regard to bone placement, the meat separates nicely from the bone.

Nha Trang

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Nha Trang is probably better known for its noodle soup dishes like its phenomenal bun bo hue, but don't skip the Hainan chicken. The skin on Nha Trang's bird maintains structural integrity and neatly drapes soft chunks of decently juicy white meat.

Sanamluang Café

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Sanamluang's rendition of Thai Hainan Chicken does run a tad dry on the white meat, but the sauce can cover up a multitude of sins, and the mountain of not-that-greasy-yet-surprisingly-flavorful rice will help you forget that you ordered Hainan chicken. It's a standard bearer of the Thai format and accessible to those in LA proper.

Side Chick

Is there a better Hainan chicken option anywhere in Los Angeles? Johnny Lee (of Sticky Rice, Genghis Cohen and Eggslut fame) is slinging an excellent rendition of the poached bird out of the Westfield Santa Anita's new Food Alley concept (located right of the Din Tai Fung entrance down the hall). The chicken is just on the warm side of lukewarm (it's normally supposed to be served room temperature), but the flavor of the poaching brine sneaks in through a silky and tender bird.

Dong Nguyen

Though Dong Nguyen doesn't provide pickled vegetables with its rendition of Hainan chicken, the Alhambra establishment serves up a genuine-article Vietnamese preparation of the dish. The skin is tinged a pale gold, the result of not blanching the chicken skin. The rice has a distinctive grain and goes easy on the flavor to allow the chicken to take center stage.

Savoy Kitchen

Photo by Euno Lee

Savoy's Hainan Chicken is a user-experience marvel. The supple, oily rice lends itself a little too well to eating by the spoonful and would break even the most carb-averse diner. White meat is plenty juicy and well-executed, but the dark meat only option costs extra for a reason. Rich, fatty meat comes in a heaping 8.5-ounce portion and served alongside three dipping sauces. The fine grate of the ginger dipping sauce keeps the punch in check for a worthy standard-bearer of Hainanese chicken rice in L.A.

Photo by Euno Lee

Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice's Khao Man Gai (Thai-Hainan Chicken Rice) was an instant hit in its alpha stages when it was the first of the new wave of eateries to hit Grand Central Market. Alongside Sidechick chef Johnny Lee (the chef at Sticky Rice in its earliest stages), restaurateur Dave Tewasart might have been responsible for the resurgence of Hainan chicken for those disinclined to driving into the San Gabriel Valley. It's easy to see why: Flavorful, juicy chicken is paired with garlicky rice to make converts out of even the finickiest of fowl fans. Chef Justin Baey is no slouch at the dials, and the quality of the dish has endured, endearing itself to bustling Angelenos from all walks of life.

Green Zone Pasadena

Green Zone prides itself on organic ingredients, and they don't fool around with the fowl. For a beak-to-tail dish that's especially dependent on the quality of chicken, Green Zone has it in spades. Topped with a smattering of slivered green onion, Green Zone's rendition is a little dainty on the portions but big on flavor, with a ginger slurry to rival Sidechick's.

Sham Tseng

Sham Tseng isn't terribly popular with the Yelp crowd (turns out it's hard to replace a Sam Woo even in the SGV), but its meat dishes are mostly standout. While the soy sauce chicken is an under-the-radar classic, the Hainan chicken is serious business, too. The white meat is tender and flavorful and for a preparation that's cleaved without regard to bone placement, the meat separates nicely from the bone.

Nha Trang

Nha Trang is probably better known for its noodle soup dishes like its phenomenal bun bo hue, but don't skip the Hainan chicken. The skin on Nha Trang's bird maintains structural integrity and neatly drapes soft chunks of decently juicy white meat.

Sanamluang Café

Sanamluang's rendition of Thai Hainan Chicken does run a tad dry on the white meat, but the sauce can cover up a multitude of sins, and the mountain of not-that-greasy-yet-surprisingly-flavorful rice will help you forget that you ordered Hainan chicken. It's a standard bearer of the Thai format and accessible to those in LA proper.

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