Ji Kun Hainan Chicken Rice slings quintessential southeast Asian comfort food. A simple dish, savoury and rich yet collectively light on the palate – and the belly – chicken rice is one of those things that folks are undyingly fond of scrutinising. Like roast duck or dim sum, this speaks more to the personal connection to the dish than anything, but we're going open ourselves up to the onslaught and just say it: Ji Kun serves up some damn fine chicken rice. Oh, and it's actually cheap (48RMB per set; 168RMB for a whole bird suitable for four, not including rice).
With a tiny, open and meticulously spotless kitchen devoted solely to poaching whole birds in their unique blend of spices (mainly cinnamon, cloves, ginger and pandan leaves), Ji Kun has the time and energy to turn out one of Beijing's best, hands down. The rice is made using the leftover poaching broth, while the fragrant grains are topped with golden crumbs of fried garlic. The three components – the rice, the broth and the chicken – are taken together for maximum effect. The skin glistens with a yellow-golden shimmer, but that's all by way of adornment. Wash it down with a glass of Ovaltine (16RMB), a malt and milk drink long popular in the former colonies of southeast Asia.
Bowls of salted ginger puree and a potent thick fish sauce are on offer for those after a bit more kick, but for us the subtle flavours and aromas of the spice-infused chicken are the main event. Ji Kun proves that sometimes less is more.
By Nick Gollner