Like bolts of lightening strike the earth, and sometimes, hapless humans, cold weather strikes me with food penchants that must be met. I had to have some hainanese rice or else. Hainanese rice, get in my belly, I sez to myself.
I drove toward Absolutely Phobulous, which should be named, absolutely gagulous. I was tempted to just get an order of their watered down seafood pho, but no, hainanese rice said keep drivin' lady. So I did. I drove through Melrose because, going east on Melrose can be faster than taking Beverly. That's my theory anyways.
I finally got to Siam Sunset which looks like a small town's prison with its industrial grayish pink cinderblock construction and black wrought iron gates. Inside it's cheery in that Thai hole in the wall eatery aesthetic with pictures of Thai royalty, some fake flowers, perhaps a calendar and a clock and people getting down to bizness with their rice, curry, noodles, what have you with newspapers thrown to the side for the time being. I placed my order, walked down the road next to Jitlada to hit the ATM, then got my order.
It's the albino of the arroz con pollo world but only to the eyes. What is it about this dish that makes it so good? Well, of course, it's the rice which is what a chicken would taste like if it took the form of rice so you have the chicken flavor in this insanely chewy pellet form. There's a bit of a funky smell to the rice too bordering on being almost unpleasant like a medicinal whisper. I'm not sure what that is, I assume some herb or aromatic is being used to flavor the chicken stock that I did not grow up eating, so that note is exotic and foreign to me but I've learned to enjoy it too. It's like Opera music, a bit weird and strange at first, comforting and wonderful at the last.
I don't mess with the sauce on the side. I eat my hainanese rice plain jane because it's just fraught with flavor as is, straight up. And I want to enjoy the integrity of each grain of rice. I sip the chicken broth in between bites. I look for those small sections of the rice that have been singed so that the thinnest sheen of crispy rice has formed on them like the pre-stages of the rice at the bottom of a dolsot bibimbap, and then I give thanks to the Lord for inventing the Chinese or the Thai or the Singaporeans or whoever authored this chicken and rice dish, the purest expression of both these things together.
The korean word for the God of Abraham and Moses is "hainan-neem". Sounds a lot like hainanese rice to me. And though it is dark and cold outside, it is warm, chickeny good inside.