At a glance, not much changed at Smallfry Seafood when it became Uncle in 2018. Sans-Arc Studio’s fit-out remains virtually as is and the name’s still plastered on the shopfront.
But a few light boxes that read “keeping tradition alive” signal the change at the Waymouth Street diner. Its second iteration, Uncle, pays homage to co-owner Jack Lim’s late uncle, who was a popular hawker in Penang. His specialty? Hainanese chicken rice. You can guess what’s on the menu.
Whole chickens, currently sourced from the Central Market, are cooked to Lim’s uncle’s specifications by newly appointed Malaysian head chef Tee Ng (who has ancestors from the Chinese province of Hainan, where this dish originated).
The “traditional” is slow poached for 90 minutes in a 76-degree broth; the “crispy skin” is marinated and lightly deep-fried at 170 degrees. Both will hang from a rack in the kitchen.
Continuously poaching chicken produces a sort of master stock with muted ginger and garlic notes. That’s used to cook the rice.
Each serving comes with chicken on a bed of bean sprouts next to fragrant rice and chicken broth. It’s served on baby-blue plateware from Malaysia – just like what they use in hawker stalls. Or you can take away.
Add-ons include Asian greens, laksa broth and a fried egg. There’s also loh bak – five-spice-marinated pork that’s folded in a soybean wrapper then deep-fried. Snack on complimentary prawn crackers while you wait.
Coconut juice and an iced lychee drink have been added to the drinks list. Smallfry’s three Asahi taps remain.