First, a definition: Kao mun gai is a Thai chicken and rice dish made with gently poached chicken and schmaltz-slicked, broth infused-rice. The humble plate of poultry and starch is of Chinese origin, but it is likely best known in Singapore, where it is called Hainese Chicken Rice and is referred to as the tiny country’s national dish. Regardless of where it is served, kao mun gai falls into the category of healing comfort food; at its best it is a pure expression of chicken itself.
Kao mun gai barely made appearances on U.S. Thai menus until recently, but now the dish pops up on the menus of newer, foodie-focused Thai spots. (Portland’s food-cart-turned-restaurant, Nong’s Kao Mun Gai, might take some credit for this menu shift.) While traditionally made with a whole chicken, the plates of kao mun gai served in the U.S. are typically made with single, boneless chicken breasts. As long as they’re poached gently and served skin-on, chicken breasts are a surprisingly good choice; the rise of sous vide cooking has made it possible.
and Hawker Fare
, two of the newest Thai and Southeast Asian restaurants in the Bay, both have a version of kao mun gai on their menu. Does one shine above the other?