The first time I ate Hainanese Chicken Rice was at a birthday party for my sister. A Chinese friend and I had voluteered to create dinner for 12 or so of us. I can’t remember what I cooked, but I do remember he cooked Hainanese Chicken Rice. I have to say I was very worried about how bland it would be – chicken poached skin on with rice cooked in the chicken stock has a very uniform colour (ie. beige), but the flavour is sensational. It is comfort food at it’s best, and when eaten with chilli and coriander and other condiments, takes it to new levels of deliciousness.
Hainanese Chicken Rice is classic Malaysian/Singaporean hawker food. Wikipedia says:
“Hainanese chicken rice is a dish adapted from early Chinese immigrants originally from Hainan province in southern China. It is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore…Catherine Ling of CNN describes Hainanese chicken rice as one of the “40 Singapore foods we can’t live without”. It also listed at number 45 on World’s 50 most delicious foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.“
The recipe I used is from a book we received as a wedding present 15 years ago! At this time, I just liked the way it looked and haven’t really cooked from it a great deal but have recently found it to be a mine of information about Asian cooking across the board. Which I guess you’d expect given the title – Encyclopedia of Asian Food: The Definitive Guide to Asian Cookery by Charmaine Solomon. I had wondered whether it might be out of print, but it appears to still be available on Amazon, re-released in 2010. I’ve adapted this recipe and added some elements from a recipe I found on Gourmet Traveller, which you can find here.
It feels like there’s heaps to do here, but given much of the time is just waiting for the chicken and rice to cook, it’s not that labour intensive. Traditionally it’s paired with some coriander and fresh cucumber, but I felt I needed some acid to compliment the dish, so I made some quick pickled cucumbers, as below.
HAINANESE CHICKEN RIC
1 whole free range chicken
2-3 spring fresh coriander
15g fresh ginger, bashed with the side of a knife to bruise
3 spring onions, chopped
2 Tbsp salt
For the rice:
500g long grain rice (I used basmati, GT recommends Jasmine)
2 Tbsp peanut oil or canola oil
2 Tbsp sesame oil
5 chopped shallots (or 1 onion, finely chopped)
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp sliced ginger
For the sauce:
100ml stock from cooking chicken
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sesame oil
- Rub the bird inside and out with salt.
- In a large saucepan, bring 4 litres of water to the boil with the coriander, first portion of ginger, spring onions and salt.
- Gently lower the chicken into the boiling water breast side down until the chicken is completely submerged. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes, then cover tightly, turn the heat off completely and let the chicken cook in the residual heat for 40-45 minutes or until completely cooked through.
- Meanwhile, wash the rice and drain thoroughly.
- Heat the oils in a large pan with a heavy base. Add garlic, ginger and shallots and fry, stirring until cooked and fragrant. Do not brown.
- Add the rice to the pan and cook, stirring, until the rice grains are coated with oil.
- Pour over 4 cups of stock from the chicken and add to the pan. Bring to the boil, stir, then reduce the heat to low, cover and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to cook, covered for another 10 minutes.
- To make the sauce, combine all ingredients in a bowl.
- Remove chicken from stock and cut into bite sized pieces. Serve with the rice and sauce, extra coriander leaves, chilli sauce, sesame or chilli oil, pickled cucumber and steamed vegetables.
QUICK PICKLED CUCUMBER
1/2 telegraph cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp sea salt
- Combine vinegar, sugar and salt in a bowl and stir until sugar is dissolved
- Add cucumber and toss gently to combine
- Set aside for 15 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse then serve.