Review: Sam Leong St Chicken Rice retains its heritage in a snazzier setting

By Gary Lim April 19, 2024
Review: Sam Leong St Chicken Rice retains its heritage in a snazzier setting
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere
  • The 32-year-old Sam Leong St. Chicken Rice brand has upgraded to a spanking new restaurant since February
  • You’ll find all the classics from the original stall, along with new items
  • Dishes we recommend include the roasted chicken rice, fried chicken wing and chicken soup with tea tree mushroom

Whenever someone asks me about where I’d take tourists to for Hainanese chicken rice, my instinct is always to direct them to more famous institutions — the likes of Maxwell’s Tian Tian and Ah Tai, as well as Tiong Bahru’s eponymous Hainanese Boneless Chicken Rice. 

Occasionally, I might even suggest the ubiquitous Boon Tong Kee, which now has several locations islandwide.

After all, all these spots are a lot more accessible and tourist-friendly than those in the suburbs. But what I really want to do is to take them to the smaller players; the under-the-radar gems that rarely get featured in the media but have their own pool of devoted regulars. 

I’m talking about places like Uncle Lou’s Famous Chicken Rice or today’s subject — Sam Leong St Chicken Rice, which has operated for more than 30 years at a small stall in Little India.

The backstory

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
Orange is the color of choice for Sam Leong St. Chicken Rice’s new rebranding. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Don’t confuse this place with the celebrity chef Sam Leong of Forest 森 fame, though.

Sam Leong St. Chicken Rice is named after Sam Leong Road, where the original stall sat for decades — just a few units away from the current premises. 

The brand’s elderly Hainanese founder passed away last year and his widow eventually shut down the stall, at least, until a new owner — reported to be the parent company of Putien — took over and refreshed the brand in a comfy new air-conditioned restaurant at Verdun House.

Here, there are high tables at the side, booth-style seats, as well as a curvy communal table that can accommodate larger groups. 

While you can always place your order with someone at the counter, patrons can also simply order from a screen near the entrance and collect their food from the front — and yes, you’ll have to return your trays later.

Our verdict

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
The refurbished Sam Leong St. Chicken Rice has its history laid out on the wall. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Looking for quality chicken rice in a comfortable setting that’s still very affordable? Then, this is the place for you. 

Considering a plate of chicken rice starts from just $3.50, the portions are generous and the new fast food-style model suggests it can easily accommodate the surge of diners during meal hours. My food was ready within two minutes when I visited at 1.30pm.

The menu is fairly large for a chicken rice place, complete with the standard selections such as gizzard, liver, braised beancurd puffs, along with newer items such as chicken feet and fried chicken wing. Combo sets are also available. 

The chicken soup of the day is another new thing at Sam Leong St.’s new premises — the soup has a roulette of ingredients such as olive, cordyceps flower, tea tree mushroom, ginseng, and black garlic. 

Given that Sam Leong Chicken Rice is pretty much a heritage brand, it’s nice to see it coming back with some form of its heritage still intact.

What it’s good for

The poached chicken rice goes for a very affordable S$3.50, with nicely cooked chicken that’s soft with a somewhat-slippery skin. 

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
The steamed chicken is tender and juicy but has quite a bit of bones. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The wing tip is especially gelatinous, with a thin layer of jelly under the skin. The meat doesn’t taste particularly seasoned, but you do get that pure unadulterated taste of chicken, elevated by a light drenching of soy sauce that runs at the back of your tongue.

As for the rice, it’s nothing short of wonderful, cooked so perfectly that each grain is plump, moist and fluffy; there’s a strong chicken fragrance and a hint of ginger in every bite.

Help yourself to the ginger sauce, chili and dark soy sauce from the side of the restaurant. 

The vibrant-orange chili has a lovely fresh taste — it’s not overly spicy or tangy but instead, is intensely garlicky with a hint of ginger. In comparison, the ginger sauce, while fairly aromatic, lacked that spicy kick that would have worked so well with the chicken rice.

If you get the combo set (from S$9.80 for one diner), your chicken rice also comes with half a braised egg

Otherwise, you can top-up S$1.20 for a whole egg, but I don’t think it’s much to shout about, taste-wise. 

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
Roasted chicken that’s full of flavour. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

When it comes to Team Poached or Roasted, it’s a toss-up between the two, but I’d say the roasted chicken here is a tad better than the poached. 

Even the breast meat, which is typically tougher and drier than other cuts, is smooth, juicy and has great flavor. I can easily eat a whole plate of Sam Leong’s poached chicken, no rice needed.

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
The chicken soup with tea tree mushroom has a rich and earthy aroma. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

While the chicken rice here doesn’t come with soup, you can order a premium soup of the day (S$4.80) that features a chicken soup base. The accompanying ingredients, on the other hand, rotate daily between cordyceps flower, tea tree mushroom, ginseng, and black garlic. 

Each bowl comes hot with some boiled chicken that’s unsurprisingly a bit tough, seeing as it’s likely been stewed for ages, but the flavour is still there. 

The soothing soup I got on the day of my visit combines wonderful chicken essence with the subtle umami of tea tree mushrooms. There’s barely any salt to it, but you don’t really need much for it to taste great.

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
The sides here include chicken feet, chicken liver and fried chicken wings. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Steamed chicken liver (S$1.20) is a mainstay at chicken rice stalls, and when compared to pig liver, is more palatable for those new to innards. For one, chicken liver here is not rough and grainy, but instead softer and a bit more powdery. The ones here have clearly been cleaned well and go great with the condiments.

The chicken feet (S$1.20) are soft, tasty and also incredibly well-priced. I’ve had more flavourful and more gelatinous ones elsewhere, but you can’t beat this value — most places would charge much more for chicken feet. 

The fried chicken wing (S$3.60) is an interesting one, tasting like a cross between barbecued chicken and the lightly battered kind (though there’s no batter here) you get at nasi lemak stalls, with notes of dark soy sauce, white pepper, garlic, and sesame oil. 

Squeeze some lime juice over, like you would with a barbecued chicken wing and you’ve got a very flavourful snack on your hands.

Sam Leong Chicken Rice
The pre-bottled drinks here come branded. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

For beverages, you’ll find coffees, teas, canned drinks, and some coffeeshop classics such as lime juice (S$2.80) and barley (S$2.80) already packed in bottles.

If you like the taste of monk fruit, the luo han guo drink (S$2.80) is cold and refreshing, with just enough sweetness and a mild herbal aftertaste — it both quenches your thirst and whets your appetite.

What it could improve on

No significant complaints here — you’ll find really good value at this heritage brand that retains the spirit of the original. 

If I had to nitpick, it’d be that some of the chicken cuts served (mostly near the ribs) are somewhat difficult to eat due to the amount of bones, but it’s really a non-problem that can’t be helped. 

That, and the fact that all dishes are served in disposable plates, bowls and with plant-fibre cutlery that sort of tastes like paper — it might be for operational efficiency, but it does take a bit away from the dining experience, given that this is a supposedly “more-elevated” spot.

Our quick takes

Is it conducive to conversation? Only during off-peak hours. 

Is a reservation necessary? No reservations needed.

How to get there? The eatery is a 6-minute walk away from Farrer Park MRT Station Exit A.

HungryGoWhere paid for its meal at this restaurant for this review.

For more food stories, read about how this former chef from the US is now serving up Chicago deep-dish pizzas from his home in Singapore, and our compilation of the best spots for Greek food in Singapore

Do explore the GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals.

You can also book a ride to the new Sam Leong St. Chicken Rice at Verdun Road. 

Sam Leong St. Chicken Rice

12 Verdun Road
Nearest MRT: Farrer Park
Open: Monday to Sunday (8am to 3am)

12 Verdun Road
Nearest MRT: Farrer Park
Open: Monday to Sunday (8am to 3am)

Gary Lim-HungryGoWhere

Gary Lim


Gary eats and knows things, which he attributes to over 30 years of eating and drinking — surely that must count for something, he surmises. He was previously the deputy editor at City Nomads and content lead at Burpple.

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