Hainanese food is a dying trade as many older generation hawkers retire and their children are not keen to take over the business. The newly opened Hainan Story is a 5 in 1 food court concept located in Hillion Mall in Bukit Panjang. You can order from 5 different Hainanese stalls under one roof from a central ordering system and collect your order once it is ready.
The 5 stalls here are household names like Wee Nam Kee Chicken Rice and Ah Chiang's Porridge, along with newcomers The Hainan Story, Newspaper Curry Rice, and Uncle Robert Western.
We decided to drop by during lunch on a weekday to check it out. And my oh my there was a queue of heartlanders from the nearby housing estates, but we were pleasantly surprised that the queue moved pretty fast and we were seated within 15 minutes.
We started off with comfort "breakfast" of homemade Gula Melaka Kaya with Butter Toast, 2 soft boiled eggs and Kopi O with butter.
The homemade Gula Melaka was sweet but not overpowering on the palate, balanced with a hint of caramel. We were told by the staff that no preservatives were added to the Gula Melaka. Retail jars of the Gula Melaka are also available for takeaway, but they need to be consumed in 1 week. This is proof that there are no added preservatives indeed.
After "breakfast", we moved to lunch. We ordered the Newspaper Curry Rice, which is essentially Hainanese Mixed Vegetable Rice served on newspaper which gives it a nostalgic touch. Out of the 6 sets available, we chose the Pork Belly set with fried egg, crackers, sambal tempeh and long bean vegetables.
Next up was the Curry Chicken Rice set.
We were served a full chicken drumstick slathered in traditional Hainanese curry gravy marinated in spices from a secret recipe. The curry was robust and full of flavours, and the beautiful thing was that we did not feel "jelak" (bloated) after that.
Traditional Hainanese Lamb Stew in Claypot.
The gravy was still bubbling when our order was ready. The lamb was soft and tender, stewed for many hours, and did not have a "gamey" taste associated with lamb which can put some people off. We lathered the gravy on top of our rice and whooh it was simply heavenly.
We ordered the Oxtail Stew next.
Again the meat was soft and tender and fell off the bone cleanly when we ate it. The tomato based gravy also paired really well with our rice.
Next up was Fried Rice with Chicken Cutlet.
The rice was expertly fried over a big fire and full of "wok hei". The chicken was a tad too dry though for our liking.
Hainanese Chicken Rice "Hei Bai" Roasted and White.
Ah, chicken rice - Singaporeans' favourite go-to food. The meat was tender and succulent and paired really well with the homemade chilli and ginger dip.
Verdict: Great restaurant quality Hainanese comfort food at wallet friendly food court prices. We will return again another day to try the other dishes.
The Hainan Story
Hillion Mall #01-15/16, 17 Petir Road, Singapore 678278
Tel: +65 6970 8191
Opening Hours: 7:30am – 9:30pm (Mon – Sun)