A Hainanese dinner

It All Started With A Dinner...

This blog once sat at a lunch where a conversation – slightly modified for the younger readers – started with “The duck you looking at, Rich?”

Ah yes… Strong personalities and opinion; the product of intemperance and wine; the bread and butter (ahaha) of interesting meals. This blog belongs to a few informal and formal, for want of a better word, dinner groups. Like most gourmands, we have very distinct personalities and opinion. So much so to the point that sometimes the Yin cannot abide the Yang.

So it was with some caution I attended a wine dinner where friends from two different groups met for the first time. Granted they knew each other by reputation, but there was some careful courtesy in the meeting of makan-centric minds.

It was a success and during that dinner, two diners discovered that they were Hainanese and had roots in neighboring villages in Hainan. The conversation led to, as always, to food, particularly the Hainanese food they used to eat as kids, like the Chicken Rice and the Mutton soup. And when you get down to it, there is really no helping it but to organize a Hainanese dinner dinner featuring Hainanese dishes.


There is nothing quite like a large bowl of robust soup to stoke the fires of the soul and there is no other soup as robust as the Hainanese Mutton Soup. One of the major disappointments of most Hainanese mutton soups either lack of balance while maintaining the fiery heat or balanced to the point of being heavily diluted.

Hainanese Mutton Soup

Each bowl was a meal in itself and each spoonful was a powerhouse of flavor with tender chunks of mutton and beancurd skin and other good stuff like black fungus. Accompanied by a homemade chili sauce (we were taught to add fresh Coriander and Parsley to it) that was peppery and tart to accentuate the rich mutton, this blog was soon perspiring from the heat. But it’s a good heat. 🙂

Unfortunately, we were undone by the generosity of our host. It was so good, no one could bear to leave it unfinished, thus we were actually quite full when the Hainanese Chicken rice arrived.

Traditional Hainanese Chicken Rice, I am told, does not use hens. Our host hand-carried a young male chicken all the way from Thailand because he couldn’t get the actual Hainanese breed from Hainan in time.

Hainanese Chicken Rice

This is because the young male chicken, while less meaty, is more flavorful. Thus, for authentic old school Hainanese Chicken Rice, you need a young cock.

Accompanying the chicken rice, were pig intestines and stomach collectively known as pig innards as well as stewed fish maw and veggies.

Pork Intestines, Stomach, Trotters & Other Innards   2009July06-Hainanese-15

But for me, the pièce de résistance of the dinner would be the Pig’s Stomach Soup. This is a soup that will bring forth memories of home-cooked meals for a lot of Singaporeans. Only through the labor of love can you get something like this because it takes a lot of effort to clean the stomach and to construct the soup.

Pig's Stomach Soup

Hot, peppery and full of wok hei, the Pig’s Stomach Soup was outstanding. With thick slices of stomach, I was transported back to when my mom would make a large pot and I would gladly eat it over several days, happy as a pig.

Speaking of mothers, dessert was prepared by our host’s mother using the pandan leaves grown in their backyard. It’s called Ya Chi Buah, which is basically Coconut and peanut cake. Actually, it’s more than that: made with very good Gula Melaka and spices, predominantly dried orange peel with hints of Cardamon and Star Anise. It was a heavy but wonderful end to a perfect dinner.

Ya Chi Buah (Literally, Grated Coconut Dumpling)

This is how all dinners should be: someone cooks and everyone turns up with a bottle or two to celebrate the conviviality and fellowship. This is what the duck you should be looking at.

Hainanese Mutton Soup

Posted on 23rd Oct 2009 in Hainanese, Makankaki, Musings, Old School


There Are 5 Comments


popartgirl commented on October 23, 2009 at 9:11 pm

That chilli accompanying the mutton soup looks really good. I’m a Hainanese too, care to share where this gem is? =)


K commented on October 25, 2009 at 9:41 pm

the pictures make me hungry!! Is the food outing group open to join? cheers!


ivan commented on October 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

@popartgirl: Unfortunately, it’s a private dinner and the owner (and his mom!) cooked for us.


ivan commented on October 30, 2009 at 1:25 pm

@K: Alas, no.


[…] blog finally visited L’Entrepot Bistrot to see what the fuss is all about, had a meeting of Hainanese minds and had a magnificent lunch at the Tower Club. Speaking of fuss, a Singaporean pastry threatened […]

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