The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land.” – G.K. Chesterton

Friday, 15 August 2008

Revisit of Hainan Chifan, Tokyo

We wanted to introduce our friends Shan and Leigh to Malaysian food, and we had a choice of bringing them to either Mahathir Restaurant, or to Hainan Chifan. Whilst I'd enjoyed the food at Mahathir's, which tasted authentic and close to the real stuff back home, I wondered if the food would be too robust and spicy for S and L. Hainan Chifan serves dishes that seem more suited to the gentler tastebuds of the non South-East Asian population, so we thought Hainan Chifan was the safer choice of the two. Besides, I wanted another opportunity to revisit and try the house specialty, Hainanese chicken rice. Since I've already done a review of Hainan Chifan, this entry will be a sort of supplementary material to the original review. Note that the names of some of the dishes in Japanese on the menu are different to the names I'm using (for example, asking for horfun would draw blank looks from the waitstaff - I had to describe in broken Japanese that I meant Charkueyteow in ankake (Japanese starchy sauce)).

We ordered the Laksa and Horfun again, but the horfun tasted different to the one we had last time. It was still quite nice, although the white pepper and MSG was a lot more pronounced this time. For the Hainanese Chicken, there were three options: the single-order plate of chicken rice (~1000yen or AU$10), a half chicken (~1700yen) or a whole chicken (~3000yen) We ordered the whole chook with a couple of large bowls of plain chicken rice (250yen each). It's been a long time since I'd had Hainanese chicken rice, and I really liked how it was prepared here. Three sauces accompanied the chicken: ginger, garlic chilli sauce, and thick dark soy sauce. The rice was really good too - full of chicken-y flavour and goodness.

I spotted one of my favourite dishes on the menu - Chai Tau Kueh (790yen), a dish of stirfried 'carrot cake' - or more correctly, 'white radish cake' - made with giant white radish also known as chai tau in Hokkien and daikon in Japanese. You can choose 'white' or 'black' chai tau kueh, with the 'white' one being about 100yen (~AU$1) cheaper, but naturally I ordered the 'black' version since that's the one I like. It was tasty, but not quite as good as the one I grew up eating in Malaysia, nor my dad's, nor the one I used to eat back in Perth. But it'll do because as they say, "beggars can't be choosers". We also ordered Char Kuey Teow (950yen), which got Rob's approval, and he especially appreciated the presence of lap cheong in the dish. Me, I would have liked having the salty see ham (cockles) in there, but I must admit that it does require a bit of an acquired taste to appreciate the taste of see ham.

Chai Tau Kueh and Char Kuey Teow (yes, they sound similar):

For dessert, S wanted to try the Durian Ice cream (380yen), and L liked the idea of Pisang Goreng which is battered and deep-fried banana, sorta like banana fritter (480yen). When we saw our old favourite Bubur Pulut Hitam aka black glutinous rice pudding/porridge (380yen) on the menu, there was no doubt what we were ordering for dessert. The durian ice cream was nice, but not as good as the one made-on-premise-with-fresh-durian-flesh at Mahathir's. S was afraid of having durian breath for the rest of the day so she ate only half. I didn't try any of the pisang goreng, but L said it was "very good". The pulut hitam was delicious with the sweet coconut milk. I should ask my parents to bring some black glutinous rice grains to Japan when she visits so that we can have this anytime we want at home.

Pisang Goreng and Durian Ice cream; Bubur Pulut Hitam:

It was great catching up with friends, and it's always fun introducing people to the cuisine of my home country.


  1. hehehe ... I say a big no to durian breath! :)
    Great to see you guys, Shan xx

  2. Hope you guys enjoyed the food! :)