When funny meets hungry
Recently, I've been really into comedy. I'm still really new to the game, but I've been doing a lot of writing and studying, with my eyes set on performing stand-up one day. Last week, I decided to head to an open mic comedy show in Shibuya to see what the scene is like in Tokyo. On my way to the Tokyo Comedy Store show, I stumbled upon Khao Man Gai.
Too many high hopes, too many disappointments
After living in Japan for four years or so, I've learned to not have high hopes when visiting a restaurant that serves up Asian food, apart from Japanese of course. It's either overpriced or really bland... or both. Believe me, I've tried a lot and it's difficult to find authenticity in Asian food (once again, non-Japanese), in Japan. I've actually talked about this in a recent podcast. If you wanna know more about my take on this topic, click here.
800 yen for a plate of chicken rice?!
The sad truth is 800 yen for a plate of chicken rice is considered cheap in Japan. Having grown up in Singapore (hailed by most news sources as the most expensive city in the world), 800 yen for a plate of chicken rice is preposterous. I would never pay that amount for chicken rice in Singapore. Highest I would go is 400 yen and there are loads of places that sell this amazing dish for lower, but I'm not in Singapore anymore, am I? 800 yen for chicken rice is the cheapest I've seen in Japan! If you add 50 yen, you could get a bigger portion of rice! That's a bargain in a place like Shibuya!
Khao Man Gai, Chicken Rice, Nasi Ayam, which is the best?
Who cares?! I'm living in Japan. If I can somehow manage to find a decent plate of chicken rice here, I will not be arguing about little technicalities like which country serves up the best version (it's Singapore by the way, no doubt because of the option of getting roasted chicken and the chili sauce is unparalleled). There are three types of chicken when it comes to chicken rice. There's roasted, steamed and fried. My favorite is roasted, followed by fried and finally, steamed. Also, there's the chili sauce. This is the main differential between chicken rice from different countries. In Singapore, the chili sauce is consistent in texture (all ingredients blended together) and has more of a garlicky flavor with a tinge of citrus. In Indonesia, it's more chili paste rather than sauce. It is made using sambal which is heavenly. Google it! In Thailand, it has pieces of cut bird's eye chili in the sauce with bits of fermented soybeans in a dark soy sauce concoction. All three sauces are spicy and add a different dimension to the dish.
Khao Man Gai's chicken rice. Yay or nay?
Khao Man Gai only serves up steamed chicken. As mentioned before, this is my least favorite way of cooking the chicken when it comes to chicken rice, but they steamed that chicken brilliantly. It would have been nice to have different options to the cooking style of chicken, but hey, I'm not complaining. It was tender and juicy. Also, the rice was fragrant and they used Thai rice, which is the way it should be. I've been to a few places that serve up chicken rice using Japanese rice and that is just wrong. How would my Japanese friends feel if I made sushi using Thai rice?! Game over! I would hear the whole country going, "Ehhhhhhhhhhhhh!" Kudos to Khao Man Gai for keeping it real with the Thai rice. Rice-wise, Khao Man Gai was on point. I do have one issue with Khao Man Gai's chicken rice though, and that is its sauce. It was not spicy at all. It's just sour and sweet because of the dark soy sauce and fermented beans. No chili in chili sauce! What?! As you can see from the picture above, I drenched my chicken rice with 3 little cups of their sauce and still nada. With that being said, overall, Khao Man Gai's chicken rice gets a thumbs up from me. It is cheap, considering its competition and location, and it manages to capture the essence of chicken rice. In the future, I'm just gonna sneak in a bird's eye chili or two.
Honorable Rating: Mmm, This Is Good (4/5)
Khao Man Gai, 3-15-2 Shibuya, Shibuya, Tokyo Prefecture