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Asia Minute: Singapore Chicken Rice Recipe Sells for Tens of Thousands of Dollars

Jun Seita / Flickr
Jun Seita / Flickr

You may have a favorite family recipe---or a whole set of them.  While recipes are often passed down through generations, sometimes there are secrets involved.  Think of Colonel Sanders’ fried chicken—or the formula for Coca-Cola.  In Singapore, there’s a new twist on an old recipe—a very lucrative one. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

Chicken rice may be the unofficial national dish of Singapore.  You can find it all over the city—from hotel restaurants to hawker stalls—you can even get it on most flights of Singapore airlines.  The meal originally comes from Hainan, in southern China.

It starts with poaching an entire chicken…then plunging it into cold water.  You skim off stock and some fat to use in the dish…and combine it with ginger, garlic, and other ingredients….and serve with a chili sauce and maybe some sliced cucumbers.

The precise recipe can vary--- and can be worth tens of thousands of dollars…at least to Niven Leong—owner of the “Uncle Chicken Rice” stall.  The Straits Times reports he sold his late father’s recipe for “Sin Kee Famous Chicken Rice” for $42,800 Singapore dollars---he says that was his father’s favorite combination of numbers.  That’s about $31,000 dollars US.

But he didn’t want to sell to just anyone—he says he rejected several buyers as being too commercial.  A pair eventually were selected--a workplace safety officer and an information technology consultant.  Both are now working part-time as Leong’s trainees….but plan to quit their other jobs to take a deeper dive into the world of chicken rice.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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