Hainanese Delights: barbecue and Hainanese chicken rice

If you Google “Hainanese Delights”, the results will give you the web sites of (1) a restaurant in Penang, Malaysia and (2) write-ups and the Facebook page of a Philippine restaurant with the same name. Whether the Philippine Hainanese Delights is related to the Malaysian Hainanese Delights, I do not know. But, judging from the very different menus, I don’t think they are related. This is a review of what we ate at Hainanese Delights SM Masinag branch. Despite the tagline, there were very few delights in the many bites we took.

First, a background of how we landed there in the first place. Speedy and I were supposed to see a movie yesterday. I discovered that The Raven wasn’t showing yet (it actually opens today) so I said we could just eat out, walk around, relax and just skip the movie part. We ran some errands first, Speedy went to the optical shop for new reading glasses then we tried to decide where to eat. There was YakiMIX Sushi & Smokeless Grill, I was in the mood for a buffet, we scanned the dishes on the buffet tables and, well…

Let’s put it this way. Because I am allergic to shrimps, prawns, crabs and all other crustaceans (not mollusks, just crustaceans), I wouldn’t be able to eat half of the dishes in the buffet. So, I went straight to the dessert table to check if, at least, I could gorge on sweets. Unfortunately, I wasn’t impressed with the dessert items. So, we left.

There weren’t many other restaurants to choose from, same-old same-old mostly, and the only one that was new (to me, at least) was Hainanese Delights. I love Singaporean food so I suggested we eat there. The menu looked okay, we asked for the specifics of each dish before ordering just to make sure we knew what we were getting, we could have unlimited Hainanese rice with our meat (nice, I thought), so we made our choices and waited.

While we waited for our food, I took photos.

There was this huge image on one wall explaining and extolling the Hainanese rice, and I figured that they must know there Hainanese rice well.

First came the complimentary soup. Chicken soup, apparently. A bit salty but not bad.

Then came the fried tofu. Soft tofu. Freshly cooked with the outside all crispy and nice. The tofu came with a nice dipping sauce too.

Next came Speedy’s chicken. Steamed then fried. Tasty and tender. The sauce was okay although nothing to rave about.

The highlight, the Hainanese rice, the main feature of the restaurant, was a dud. Oh, what a total dud! Didn’t taste of chicken or herbs or spices. In fact, it tasted like salted rice with a little yellow color stirred in. If you’ve never had Hainanese rice before, you probably wouldn’t know what a rip-off it is, and you’ll just wonder what all the praises about Hainanese rice was all about anyway. But real Hainanese rice is VERY GOOD. I’ve had real Hainanese rice (in Singapore and in the Philippines) and I cook very good Hainanese rice too, and I could tell that what we were served at Hainanese Delights was plain bad.

Then came the dumplings. Kutchay (Chinese chives) and pork. We asked for steamed (as opposed to fried) dumplings. But what we were served were so soggy — the dumplings tasted like they had been dumped in boiling water then scooped out.

But wait! I haven’t mentioned the worst of the lot. After such a long wait, my order finally arrived. Beef brisket.

I don’t know how and where they but their beef. I don’t know how they cook their beef. But I’ll describe the dish as best as I can.

1. Some beef pieces were tough as leather; others were good and tender.

2. Although the meat was well-seasoned, the whole dish tasted like it was assembled this way: Pre-cooked beef was cut. Vegetables were cut. Everything was blanched then tossed with the sauce. It would have been okay except for two things.

(a) The vegetables were tough. SO VERY TOUGH.

(b) The sauce tasted like water mixed with soy sauce then thickened with starch. And nothing more.

Okay, Hainanese Delights food is cheap. No dish over PHP200.00 (about US$4.50). Still, that’s no reason to say they’re serving Hainanese rice when the rice was nothing like real Hainanese rice. The Singaporean food angle is the whole selling point, Hainanese rice is something close to a national dish in Singapore, and we got rice so anemic both in texture and flavor. Of course we’re never going to eat there again.

  • u8mypinkcookies

    the beef doesn’t look nga ms. connie!

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Win some; lose some. :)

  • Tin

    Maybe because it was “unlimited” the restaurant felt that it could sacrifice quality in favor of quantity.

    • http://casaveneracion.com/ Connie Veneracion

      Maybe. But how expensive can rice cooked in broth be? Scrap bones can be had for a song.

  • peterb

    Ate there a couple of times….yeah, far from authentic…was looking for hoisin sauce…good thing they had the ginger sauce….yun..naubos ko..hehe

  • natzsm

    I have been disappointed way to often with restos selling Hainanese Rice.To satisfy my craving, I simply cook it at home using your Hainanese Chicken and Rice recipe. Simple and may times better than those being sold around the metro.

    Like you, I still need a lot of practice chopping the chicken into those small pieces though. Hehehe, sometimes I just chop the whole chicken in half then dig in!

    The resulting broth from the chicken is also more than enough for a couple of rice recipes.

  • nina

    i think from the ‘unlimited’ hainanese rice angle, magduda na rin ako, considering how much profit restaurants put on every dish.

    I have my home version of hainanese chicken rice, chopped chicken thrown in with the rice in a rice cooker saves me a lot of time but does not sacrifice the flavor.

  • A

    Iced tea and unlimited rice–Iced tea costs what, P5 a glass to create. Most bottomless iced tea costs 70 pesos. Imagine drinking 14 glasses of iced tea to offset what you paid for!

    Ganun din sa rice.

    Unfortunately. bumebenta. The gullible masses far outmeasure those who want quality. Haaaay. Sad.

  • sophie

    Hi Ms Connie,

    I was appalled by looking at the Hainanese Rice, you are right it does not mean to have that yellow color but more of the sheen, the correct texture, and what’s important is the authenticity of the flavor. I cannot count how many Hainanese Chicken Rice (steamed or grilled) I ate at different Hawker Centers or even cooked my own (well with the help of some instant Hainanese Rice package or best your shared recipe).
    Tried their branch at Robinson’s Galleria only once but never repeated that ordeal, same sentiment I was disappointed with the food itself.

  • golds

    and i thought, maarte lang ako! i didn’t like any of their dishes, we ate at their SM Fairview branch.

  • http://facebook.com jeraldzpelon

    try to eat at robinson irmita :)

  • noel

    we went to metro east. we added the ginger puree to the rice and it does not taste that bad. we took advantage of the unli rice because of it and ayun. busog at sulit. sometimes you just have to add flavor in it kahit cheap and hindi kilala.