The Best Hainan Chicken Spots In LA

7 outstanding spots for this popular Southeast Asian dish.
The Best Hainan Chicken Spots In LA image

Southeast Asia has gifted humankind some of the world’s finest foods, including (when done right) soft, succulent, incredibly juicy hainan chicken. It’s typically served with rice cooked with chicken fat and stock, providing a little oomph to your standard bowl of starchy grains. Hainan chicken is also exactly what we want when we’re in the mood for something light, comforting, yet full of flavor. It comes in various styles, from Chinese to Thai to Malaysian, and more, all of which you’ll find in this guide. Here are our favorites in LA.


photo credit: Heng Heng Chicken Rice


Thai Town

$$$$Perfect For:Casual Weeknight DinnerLunch
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Heng Heng Chicken Rice serves a Thai-style version of chicken rice that goes big and bold with flavor. This casual spot in the heart of Thai Town offers a choice of either poached chicken or fried chicken, but if you ask nicely, you can order half and half (which is the way to go, clearly). Each plate comes with broth that’s light and nourishing but spiked with enough white pepper to send a pleasant heatwave up your nose. The chicken, on the other hand, is moist and milder in flavor, which works well with the mountain of fragrant garlic rice and funky chili fish sauce that comes alongside.

Cocoin Kitchen is a quick-service strip mall spot in Hacienda Heights that offers simple, visibly juicy hainan chicken plates for $15. The poultry here glistens under the restaurant’s fluorescent lights, which, as a result, tells our brain to eat this sliced poultry immediately. Thankfully, it tastes as good as it looks. The skin falls off the meat, there’s a subtle hint of soy sauce in each bite, and the soft rice is rich with chicken fat without overdoing it.

We love Steep’s version of hainan chicken because it combines big, tender slices of thigh, well-made sauces, and pretty plating (we’re suckers for handmade ceramics). In addition to the rice and chicken, the Chinatown tea shop includes pickled cabbage with a good crunch and a surprising amount of spice. Rather than a fine, paste-like ginger scallion sauce, theirs is coarsely chopped and thick, closer to a slaw. It’s a nourishing dish that belongs on your “I’m feeling under the weather and need something to nurse me back to life” shortlist.

The menu at this decades-old Alhambra restaurant is long—you’ll find anything from creamy mushroom pasta to shrimp pizza to escargot—but there’s no debate they’re best known for their hainan chicken. So much so that it’s painted along the side of the parking garage—“Famous Hainan Chicken since 1982.” The dish itself is pretty simple. You won’t find any accouterments or bone broths here, but instead, a simple presentation of poached chicken, rice, and three colorful sauces. The ginger garlic sauce here is particularly garlicky (ask for extra).

Despite the on-the-go name, Cluck2Go is a casual sit-down restaurant with locations in Pasadena, Rowland Heights, and Arcadia. Aside from a few snacky sides, the menu is entirely focused on hainan chicken, headlined by a traditional poached chicken, as well as a deep-fried version (with options to choose light or dark meat). For roughly $13, you get two rows of soft, supple cuts of chicken delicately stacked, plus half a box of rice. The ginger-garlic sauce is nice and citrusy, and there’s a small container of pickles as well, ranging from tiny jalapeños to slices of carrots. Our only complaint is that the soup here is a bit bland, and not nearly as flavorful as the competition.

Hainan chicken might not be what you’d think to order at this Thai Town institution, but theirs is a wonderful take nonetheless. The moist chicken is cut thinner than the others on this list (think more shredded than slices) and comes with a side of clear chicken broth and a bright, tangy cilantro that’s a little sweet and (like a lot of dishes at Jitlada) very spicy.

Ipoh Kopitiam in Alhambra is one of the few restaurants around LA specializing in Malaysian cuisine, and among dishes like beef rendang and kaya toast, one of their most popular items is a standout Singapore-style hainan chicken rice. You might not be able to pick Ipoh’s somewhat plain-looking version out of a lineup, but it’s got charm where it counts: the chicken is well-seasoned and perfectly poached until soft and supple, and the three dipping sauces on the side (chili, sweet soy, and garlic-ginger) pop with flavor. 


Dish: Hainan Fish Rice

If you order just one dish at Yang’s—a fantastic Taiwanese-Chinese spot in downtown Alhambra that’s one of our favorite restaurants in LA—make it this one. Available only at dinner, this take on hainan chicken involves a thick, flaky cut of dry-aged barramundi over a mountain of chicken fat rice doused in chili butter, as well as pickled cucumbers and garlic-ginger sauce on the side. It’s the kind of dish that everyone at the table will simultaneously take a bite of and then stare at each other in silence.

Dish: Hainan-Style Chicken Salad Sandwich

Jeff’s Table, the sorta-but-not-really secret deli in the back of a liquor store in Highland Park, specializes in excellent sandwiches that are one-of-a-kind. Among them is the hainan-inspired chicken salad sandwich, made with gingery chopped chicken, cucumber slices, arugula, crispy shallots, and a healthy dollop of spicy chili crisp on a sesame roll. Don’t expect subtlety here—there’s a surprising amount of heat going on, but the punchy flavors all work together. Just plan on stopping by for an early lunch: some days they sell out before their 3pm closing time.

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