Hainan chicken, the poached birds that originated in China’s Hainan province and became synonymous with Singapore, have become increasingly popular in Los Angeles. Find my favorite version at Cluck2Go near Pasadena City College.
Qui Yang and daughter Jenny hail from Hangzhou in mainland China and now run three San Gabriel Valley restaurants devoted to poached and fried birds. The family started with Man Chan in Rowland Heights and run a second Cluck2Go in Hacienda Heights, though Pasadena remains their poultry flagship. They have no connection to San Gabriel’s Man Chan, which favors bone-in, Cantonese-style birds. Instead, Cluck2Go spotlights boneless Singapore-style chicken.
The basic space sports pastel green walls and houses wood tables with orange metal chairs. Food is clearly a bigger priority. I ordered Hainan Chicken ($9.95), which has a remarkable “dark meat only” option. I can vouch for their surprisingly juicy white meat, but of course prefer dark meat that packs more fat and flavor. Skin-on slices come with a dome of rice that glistens thanks to chicken fat and jus, a cup of complimentary chicken soup floating with scallions, bright ginger scallion paste, tangy red chili sauce, and house-made sweet soy sauce. Tangy pickled vegetables (cabbage, carrots, and peppers) proved to sweet for my palate, but their only disappointing element is entirely forgivable. After all, I didn’t drive 45 minutes each way to eat at a restaurant called Hainan Pickles.