Tanglin Halt is one of the oldest estates in Singapore. You can tell, by the sheer numbers of retirees milling around the public benches and void decks. Quick aside: We don't mean to be patronizing but the Hubs raised a valid observation (which I totally agree with): that the LTA may want to consider increasing the timing allowance of the pedestrian crossings in this estate to accommodate the old folks' walking speed. We watched an elderly lady, slowly ambling along, barely make it across the 10 meter long pedestrian crossing. *end of aside*
And with any mature estate, cheap and good food is aplenty. One particular derelict, stuck-in-the-50's, non-descript coffee shop houses one of the best-kept secrets on our island: Shen Ji Chicken Rice, an old-school chicken rice stall that old-timers frequent. Even without any writeups or online publicity, this small stall does an admirably roaring sell-out business. Everyday. It always sells out by early afternoon, so you'll do well to eat early, before 2 pm just to be safe.
The best part of lunch here was the fact that it cost us an eye-poppingly low 13 bucks for half a chicken with 2 plates of rice and soup. This is exactly what I love about my little country. You can eat damn well for very little. Even with our recent austerity measures, our quality of life isn't lowered.
The rice is fragrant enough but not super flavoursome, but it does set up the fresh chicken and gravy superbly. The chilli here is also tongue-numbingly spicy, so you may want to go easy on the chilli. Even the Hubs, who eats chilli padi off the bat, was sniffling through this chilli here. The soup, while a generic MSG bomb, isn't as loaded with MSG and salt as most other places. It's a little lighter than expected, which was nice. I wasn't as thirsty as I usually am after finishing up the entire bowl of chicken broth. This is the half chicken portion of a mix of both the poached and roasted chicken varieties, more than enough to comfortably fill up 2 big eaters like us.
The Roasted Chicken sells out real early, at about 11.30 am on weekdays, and probably earlier on weekends. It's easy to understand why. This is just beautifully done, with a toasty dark golden skin and juicy succulent flesh.
The Poached Chicken is very very fresh, which was noted by the Hubs at first bite. It had that clean, organic, fresh chicken taste that was so great.
What sets Shen Ji apart from every other chicken rice establishment, is that it uses that rich, brown, thick, sesame oil and soy-based gravy instead of the usual watery sesame oil-soy emulsion. It's luscious and totally awesome, and the Hubs actually tookaway a packet of rice alone with the gravy to eat. You can't quite see its thick consistency from the picture here, but you just gotta trust me when I say that the gravy here is da bomb.
The shop facade for reference.
The coffeeshop facade for reference. The cze char eatery in this same coffeeshop, that only opens in the evenings for dinners and suppers, is also pretty good.
Shen Ji Chicken Rice
Guan Kim Restaurant
Blk 47 Tanglin Halt Road