When specialists appear on the culinary landscape, it’s always something worth celebrating. They take the time to focus and hone their craft on a very specific dish or cuisine, and you hope in being a specialist, that they deliver noteworthy, perhaps even legendary offerings in what they do.
In recent years, it seems there’s been a bit of a Hainan Chicken Rice boom locally, with various restaurants presenting their versions, many have been fine, some have been excellent. And now, a new Hainan Chicken Rice specialist has arrived on the scene:
Marden’s Chicken Rice is a new pop-up from Chef Simon Tan, who originally got his start at Joe’s in Venice. He went on to work under Chef Daniel Boulud’s team at Bar Boulud, then Gramercy Tavern, and State Bird Provisions. It turns out “Marden” is the name of his grandfather, Marden Tan, who taught him how to make his family’s recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice, and that is the only thing on the menu. Neat.
For those new to Hainan Chicken Rice, it’s a dish that’s popular from its origins by Chinese folk from Hainan Province in China, to Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and beyond. It’s usually made up of a fantastic Chicken-infused Rice, along with Poached Chicken, and served with a variety of Dipping Sauces.
Chef Tan offers 2 varieties of Hainan Chicken Rice, one with White Meat Chicken, and one with Dark Meat Chicken. You can add a Soup as an option (and you should). Once you arrive at the agreed upon drop off point (in West L.A.), the items are nicely packaged separately, along with instructions on how to prepare at home (and it carries home beautifully).
Hainan Chicken - White Meat:
Hainan Chicken - Dark Meat:
Following the chef’s instructions at home, you can quickly assemble the items, and this is the end result:
Hainan Chicken Rice (Half White Meat + Half Dark Meat):
Taking a bite of the Dark Meat Chicken with a dab of the Homemade Ginger Sauce:
Moist, perfectly cooked Poached Chicken Thigh meat, the fat is all rendered out leaving just a thin sliver of beautiful Chicken Skin to pair with the Chicken meat itself. The Ginger Sauce is lightly spicy, aromatic and accents the Chicken perfectly (not overly salty).
The Chicken Rice is stunning! Flavorful, delicate, real Chicken flavors in each bite.
The Poached Chicken Breast is moist and perfectly cooked through as well! Chef Tan has the timing down so the Chicken comes out ready without any pink / lightly bloody meat seen in some versions around town.
Homemade Ginger Oil Sauce, Singaporean Dark Soy Sauce, Homemade Chili Sauce:
The trio of Sauces included with the Hainan Chicken Rice is also stellar and unrivaled locally: The Homemade Ginger Oil Sauce is a nod to the way Chef Tan’s Grandfather had it in Singapore, although we’re used to seeing Ginger + Green Onion & Oil Sauce locally, apparently Chef Tan said a pure Ginger Oil Sauce was traditional in Singapore. And it pairs beautifully with the Chicken.
The Dark Soy Sauce is imported from Singapore, and it is stellar! It’s thick, rich, and not overly salty at all. It’s quite unique in flavor.
The Homemade Chili Sauce has got a nice immediate heat to it, but it’s quite enjoyable, never getting uncomfortably spicy (it tastes about the same heat level as Serrano Chili Peppers at the most). It also pairs fantastically with the Hainan Chicken Rice. It was a recipe taught to Chef Tan by his uncle in Singapore, and it’s another standout.
But in a nod to customer preferences, Chef Tan also includes finely chopped Green Onions, so you can mix them in the Ginger Sauce to create…
Green Onion & Ginger Oil Sauce:
Oh yah! This is the flavor we’re used to, and I thought Marden’s Chicken Rice got even better when we added the mixed Green Onions & Ginger Oil Sauce with the Chicken and some of the Rice!
In a nice touch (very thoughtful), Chef Tan includes a small vial of ultra concentrated Chicken Stock distilled down to potent levels with some Sesame Oil. You heat it up in the microwave for 15 secs (to get it in liquid form - it’s gelatinous in the vial, that’s how concentrated it is!), pour it over the Chicken and Cucumbers and enjoy. It’s fantastic!
Homemade Chicken Soup:
But the sleeper surprise might very well be Chef Tan’s Homemade Chicken Soup that comes with the Hainan Chicken Rice. Most versions of the Chicken Soup that is included with Hainan Chicken Rice around town taste like… light, simple Chicken Broth, a bit watered down, simple. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
Marden’s Chicken Rice’s Homemade Chicken Soup is absurd: It’s insanely concentrated Poultry essence, deep, rich, but light, so Chicken-y, and we would be glad to order this as is, a glorious starter for any meal at a restaurant. So take a sip of the Homemade Chicken Soup, enjoy some Hainan Chicken and Rice and you have another great flavor combination (even without the Dipping Sauces). Lovely.
Marden’s Chicken Rice has made a stunning debut, a new specialist led by Chef Simon Tan, that focuses on delivering outstanding Hainan Chicken Rice, and that’s it. This allows Chef Tan to hone in and perfect every aspect of the dish, and it shows:
The Dark Meat and White Meat Chicken is perfectly poached, both options are juicy, tender, and standout. The Chicken Rice has a lovely flavor, real Poultry essence in every bite, fragrant and delicious. The trio of Sauces are noteworthy as well: The Homemade Ginger Oil Sauce (with option to add Green Onions) is nice in that it’s not overly salty like many versions are. The Dark Soy Sauce imported from Singapore is also stellar, thick, rich and not salty like many versions that are just super salty Soy Sauce. And the Homemade Chili Sauce is flavorful, with a nice immediate kick, but fades away quickly so as to not leave a lingering burn in your mouth.
And that Homemade Chicken Soup is pure, distilled down, Chicken in liquid form. Ridiculous. I could see why Chef Brandon Hayato Go of legendary Hayato fame, proclaimed it his favorite Hainan Chicken Rice he’s ever had. He couldn’t stop recommending it to us. With all the aspects combined, you have the best Hainan Chicken Rice in Southern California.
Marden’s Chicken Rice
Check their Instagram for Next Pop-Up and Ordering Instructions:
Update 1: A follow-up visit. Just as wonderful as before.