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Singaporean personality Sheikh Haikel opens Hainanese chicken rice restaurant at Bugis

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The first time 48-year-old rapper Sheikh Haikel tried Hainanese chicken rice, his mind was blown. He told 8days.sg: “When I was young, I had the chance to try chicken rice from a famous stall. Those were the days they only sold chicken rice, and didn’t have [pork] zi char dishes. My gosh! It just turned my world around. I was thinking about how there’s no pork in chicken rice, so I’m sure I can find somebody who can achieve the same [authentic] taste, but halal,” he excitedly shared.

That somebody turned out to be him. He recently opened a legit Hainanese chicken rice eatery named Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice, a clever play on his name Haikel. He set up the 50-seater Bugis restaurant together with his celeb wife, Anna Belle Francis, 46, and five other business partners.

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Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice co-owner Sheikh Haikel. (Photo: Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice)

The full-service eatery opened on Jul 7 and is the latest of the rapper’s F&B ventures: Sheikh Haikel also co-owns halal yakiniku joint Wakuwaku Yakiniku and the now-defunct burger joint, Fatpapas.

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Some of the dishes at Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice. (Photo: Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice)

Of all the local foods, why did the rapper choose to specialise in Hainanese chicken rice? Sheikh said: “Chicken rice is a local staple: Every foreigner that comes to Singapore, people tell them to try chicken rice. It’s a dish you can’t play around with.”

Though Hai Ge Ji isn’t the first to sell chicken rice with halal ingredients, Sheikh noted that the other stalls aren’t at the scale of bigger brand names. “I think it was high time that we had a halal Hainanese chicken rice shop that plays at the same level as the old-school big boys like Boon Tong Kee and Five Star Chicken Rice,” he explained.

Anna Belle told us they have plans to expand: “We are concentrating 100 per cent on the launch of our first outlet, but yes, discussions have taken place about expansion into chains in the future.”

To ensure that their dish remains true to taste, Sheikh and Anna Belle hired a team of four Chinese cooks, one of whom hails from Hainan, China, and another who worked at a “famous chicken rice chain” (they tell us which one off the record) in Singapore.

“We wanted an authentic experience, and we can only replicate this if we work closely with our Chinese cooks,” Anna Belle explained.

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Anna Belle Francis (left) and Sheikh Haikel (right). (Photo: Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice)

What exactly is this authentic taste? Sheikh emphasised on the soya-based sauce and chilli: “If the sauce is done right and has the right consistency, it clings onto and gets absorbed by the chicken meat. The chilli has to be hot, sour, and can’t slide off the spoon so easily.” The restaurant also uses “premium halal chicken”, and jasmine rice.

While we haven’t tried Hai Ge’s chicken rice yet, Sheikh boldly declares it “the best Hainanese chicken rice” in a video he posted on his socials. What makes them the best exactly? The celeb said: “Aside from being halal, the restaurant replicates the complete Hainanese chicken rice experience with traditional recipes, Chinese chefs, Chinese decor and ambience”.

At the time of writing, they'd only officially opened for one day, but he said the response had been overwhelmingly good: “I’m very humbled: It has been packed nonstop and full-house [since opening].”

Some of Hai Ge’s supporters include fellow celeb friends like Gurmit Singh, Diana Ser and Patricia Mok.

Hai Ge Ji’s chicken rice starts at S$8 for a single portion of their signature a la carte Hai Ge Ji Chicken Rice, and goes up to S$13.80 for a Hai Ge Ji Chicken Rice Single Set with thigh or drumstick. The set comes with soup and a veggie side of either baby kailan or bean sprouts. The eatery also sells a whole steamed or roasted chicken for S$42, and a half portion for S$24.

Hai Ge Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice is at 783 North Bridge Road, Singapore 198751. Open daily 11:30am to 3pm; 5pm to 9.30pm. Tel: 9478 2070.

This story was originally published in 8Days.


For more 8Days stories, visit https://www.8days.sg/


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