The palate appeal of this evergreen dish crosses national boundaries and age groups. Whoever has eaten Hainanese Chicken Rice, whether it was through their residence in Singapore or elsewhere – this dish is an instant magnet! During my travels in different parts of the world, I have cooked it for friends and relatives for many years. At times the chilli sauce or the black soy sauce may be a little different from those back home but its appeal has never waned.
The photo above does not show bowls of heart-warming cabbage and carrot soup that is a common accompaniment. When you cook this dish you are making a complete meal.
Jenny, Mike, George, Lauren and Charlotte – such great memories of Kuala Lumpur and then Connecticut. In honour of those lovely times, I am posting this recipe for you and your friends (like Yvonne).
Some Comments about the Ingredients
for the Chicken and the Rice
- Thai Fragrant jasmine rice. I’m afraid there is no substitute. When we lived in Tokyo in the early 2000’s it was an exercise and a half to buy this type of rice so we tried Japonica short grain rice, uruchimai (粳米). It was not the same for us. Jasmine rice is softer than other types of long grain rice.
- Dark Soy Sauce. The one that is served with Chicken Rice is dark and thick. It is not Kikkoman soy sauce which is Japanese and neither it is sweet flour sauce which is used for Poh Piah (Singapore-style fresh spring rolls). Please note that locally, different brands of soy sauce will give you quite a range of viscosity and taste of dark soy sauce. Locally these brands include Tai Hwa, Tiger, Lee Kum Kee and Kwong Woh Hing.
- Chilly Sauce. There are several brands of chicken rice chilly. What you are looking for is something that is garlicky and a strong presence of ginger besides chilly. The sauce should be thick and not finely ground. A chain of local chicken rice restaurants also sell bottles of their own chilly sauce.
Measurement HINT: one rice cooker cup is equivalent to 180 ml or 3/4 US cup. White or mixed long grain rice weighs 150 gm (rounded off).
Preparation for the Rice
Wash, peel and slice the ginger, shallots and garlic. Wash and knot the pandan leaves. The jasmine rice should washed twice and drained well. Be gentle so that the rice grains do not break.
Rinsing rice prevents clumping as it removes starch; yields a clean, fresh taste. Use your hands to stir the rice in circles several times and the water will turn cloudy since this process loosens the starches in the rice. Drain away the murky water and rinse once more.
HINT: this cloudy water promotes healthy plant growth so water your plants with it!
Preparation for the Chicken
STEP 1. Wash, peel and cut the onions and carrots. Wash and cut the cabbage. Clean chicken and drain it.
(a) you will notice that I have a packet of home-made chicken stock (click here) in the photo above. My family loves the cabbage and carrot soup which is cooked using the chicken stock created from boiling the whole chicken and its feet and neck as well. This packet of stock is added into the stockpot at the end stage for making a larger serving of soup which is superb accompaniment.
(b) In place of a whole chicken, you can use whole chicken legs and breasts. Method is similar but cooking time will be shorter. It is hard to tell you precisely what it is since cooking time is very dependent on the size of the legs and breast.
Cooking the Chicken
STEP 1. Fill your large stockpot half-full with water. Add in the wedged onions, chicken feet and neck and a tsp of salt. Bring contents to full boil for 5 mins. Add in cleaned chicken.
STEP 2. Cover stockpot and once water is back to full boil, lower heat to medium low and continue cooking. The length of time is dependant on the size of the chicken. If the chicken is about 1.5 kg, the chicken should be left cooking at medium low heat for another 15 mins or so. Switch off heat and leave chicken in the stockpot for about 30 to 40 mins so that the chicken thighs are fully cooked.
STEP 4. Fill a large basin half full with cold water. Using tongs, lift chicken from stock pot, carefully drain hot stock from cavity back into stock pot, then place chicken into filled basin to cool down. Ensure cavity is filled with water too. This step yields smooth chicken skin and stops chicken from overcooking in its own heat. Do not skip this step.
Cooking the Rice
STEP 1. Heat wok over medium high heat, add 2 to 3 Tbsp of cooking oil. After oil heats up, add the ginger, garlic and shallot. Stir fry for a minute or two till a slight fragrance reaches your nostrils and they are very slightly caramelised.
STEP 2. Pour well-drained rice into the wok with the knotted pandan leaves. Stir fry for no more than 2 minutes or else the rice will break when it is cooked later on.
STEP 3. Dish the rice and aromatics into the rice cooker and add in the chicken broth. Cook according to your rice cooker’s settings.
General rule of thumb about how much liquid to use. 1 ¼ cups water for each cup of long-grain rice yields firm, chewy, dry rice. Rice labelled new crop is from a fairly recent harvest, which means that it has not had as much time to dry. Because of its relatively high moisture content, it typically requires slightly less water.
The all important condiments and garnishes
To prepare the ginger sauce, peel and grate about 150 gm of fresh ginger and cook grated ginger in a small sauce pan with 3 Tbsp of cooking oil for about 3 mins.
Peel and slice half a cucumber (local or otherwise) and a large tomato. Lay them on a large serving platter and drizzle 2 tsp of light soy sauce and a tsp of sesame oil over them.
Chop the cooled chicken into bite size pieces and arrange them neatly over the sliced cucumber and tomatoes. Garnish with shredded spring onions and cilantro.
HINT: Here is a you-tube video on how to Chop a Chicken, Asian Style – https://youtu.be/MH88Ll4PcWM
Cooking the Cabbage and Carrot Soup
Cut up half of a large cabbage into large chunks and slice 2 peeled carrots. Add these into the stock pot after you have lifted out the cooked chicken. Cook these vegetables for about 15 mins to soften them. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve this soup in individual bowls.
- One cleaned whole Kampong Chicken (about 1.5kg)
- 1 whole large peeled onion, thinly wedged
- 600 gm long-grain jasmine rice, washed and drained
- 2 to 3 Tbsp cooking oil
- l tsp. sesame oil
Aromatics for rice
- 20 gm ginger slices, peeled
- 20 gm (4 nos) shallots, peeled and cut into quarters
- 10 gm (3 cloves) garlic cloves, peeled
- 2 pandan leaves, washed and knotted
Vegetables for Soup
- Half a medium green cabbage, washed and cut into 4 cm size pieces
- 1.5 large carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
- 2 to 3 spring onions, washed, cut into 4 cm sections and then finely shredded lengthwise
- 2 plants of fresh cilantro, washed and roughly chopped
Cooking the chicken
1. Prepare a large stockpot (large enough for chicken to sit inside) with tap water till it is abut 1/3 full, add in the wedged onions, chicken feet and neck. Start boiling and continue to boil for 5 mins after it comes to full boil.
2. When water is on rolling boil, carefully lower whole chicken into stockpot and continue boiling till water comes back to rolling boiling. Lower heat, keep pot covered but put the lid at a slight angle to let out steam. Boil chicken for another 15 min. Switch off heat and leave chicken immersed in pot for another 30 to 40 min so that the whole chicken is fully cooked (test by pricking the area between the breast and thigh).
3. Meanwhile, get a clean medium size basin or pot and half fill it with cold water. Lift chicken carefully out of stockpot but drain hot stock from its cavity into stock pot then lower it into basin of water to cool chicken and stop it from cooking further. Make sure cold water enters chicken’s cavity and keep tap water slowly running as this keeps water cool. Leave chicken in water till it cools completely. Drain well and chop chicken.
Cooking the Rice
1. Heat wok over medium high heat, add 2 to 3 Tbsp of cooking oil. After oil heats up, add the ginger, garlic and shallot. Stir fry for a minute or two till a slight fragrance reaches your nostrils and they are very slightly caramelised.
2. Add rice and fry for about 2 mins. Not too long as it will cause grains to break.
3. Pour everything into rice cooker pan and add chicken broth from the stock pot in which chicken was cooked. Start rice cooker.
Cooking the Soup
1. About 15 mins before serving the meal, bring remaining stock to boil and add the cut pieces of cabbage and carrots. Cover stock pot and boil contents over medium heat till vegetables are cooked. Dish into soup bowls and garnish with some chopped spring onions.
Complete this delicious meal with dessert
Now that you have prepared a full complete meal for the family, their taste buds just require a dessert to be fully satiated! May I suggest one the following? Except for No 3, they can be prepared a day or 2 ahead and kept refrigerated.
1. Almond Jelly + Longans. Click here.
2. Coconut Jelly with Can Lychees. Click here.
3. Sweet Potato Dessert Soup. Click here.
4. Orange Agar Agar Wedges. Click here.
5. Sago Pudding. Click here.
6. Caramel Custard. Click here.