3 Sauces Hainam Chicken Rice
There’s not really a more efficient place to get a haircut, buy some pants, and grab a meal than the basement of Chinatown’s Richland Center. Despite its fairly small size, this underground food court/mall combo crams in a surprising number of great food stalls. 3 Sauces Hainam Chicken Rice is one of these, and their namesake dish is the main reason we descend into this subterranean oasis.
Originally from China, Hainanese chicken rice—carefully poached slices of chicken on a bed of rice cooked in fat—has found popularity in many Southeast Asian countries. In Chicago, 3 Sauces is the only restaurant dedicating itself to this famous dish, with a short menu completely revolving around it. And this food stall’s concentrated effort pays off.
3 Sauce’s chicken rice is sublime. The meat is buttery, with soft, chewy skin. Hints of ginger and scallion emanate from every juicy piece, like the palpable excitement of a Disney adult on a flight to Orlando. Three sauces are served on the side for additional flavor—sweet soy, ginger, and bright peppery chili sambal—so you can calibrate everything to taste. And the pillowy rice and comforting soup complement the chicken’s simplicity by adding richness and herbaceous flavor.
They also have other variations on the chicken, like a fried, panko-crusted version or a noodle soup with a richer broth, both of which are fine. But the Hainanese chicken rice is the reason we go out of our way to spend time in a food court full of metal chairs, tables, and fans working overtime to add some ventilation. Ambience-wise, well, there is none. But when you’re spending quality time with the best Hainanese chicken rice in the city, it doesn’t matter.
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Crispy Shrimp Rolls
Yes, we know, this isn’t chicken. But juicy pieces of shrimp in a crispy wrapper dipped in a spicy chili sauce are an ideal starter for the incoming chicken feast.
Hainam Chicken Rice
This is why you’re here. Each pleasantly soft-yet-chewy piece of meat has an essence of ginger, scallion, and other herbs. And that flavor is enhanced when you season the chicken with chili, soy, and ginger sauces that add spice, sweetness, and tang. When eaten with spoonfuls of the light broth, and rich rice cooked with chicken fat, it's a comforting and filling $12 meal.
Fried-Nam Chicken Rice
This version of chicken rice has a tasty, salty panko breading, but lacks the juiciness of the original dish. It does come with a tangy mayo and sweet chili sauce that we like, but we prefer the poached version.
Southeast Asian Chicken Noodle Soup
The chicken is the same as the original dish, except this time it’s paired with light pho noodles, and a more robust broth with green onions, parsley, and a hint of lime. The added herbs and vegetables give the soup an enhanced flavor, making it a great alternative if you want to mix things up.