Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish that originated in Hainan, a tropical island off the southern coast of China. (It was there that I got picked up by an elephant and ate mangoes the size of footballs on the beach, but I digress...) Soon the dish made its way to Malaysia and Singapore. In fact, it is so popular in Singapore, some would consider it to be the national dish. Singaporeans take chicken rice very seriously and will heatedly debate about which stall has the best chicken rice.

A whole chicken is slowly poached in chicken stock and the rice is cooked in rendered chicken fat and stock. Finally, the chicken is chopped up and served cold with cucumber slices, chicken rice, a bowl of stock, and dipping sauces.

*this is the first time I made this recipe so if you have any special tips, let me know :)

Hainanese Chicken Rice
For the chicken:
1 whole chicken, around 3 1/2 lbs
3 1/4in slices of fresh ginger
3 green onions
Lots of chicken stock (making chicken stock)

For the rice:
3 C long grain rice, washed and drained
3 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
1 green onion, white part only, thinly sliced (save the green top for garnish later)
3 1/2 C chicken stock from boiling the chicken

*I made the sauces to taste so the quantities are estimations
Chili Ginger Dipping Sauce
8 red chilis, or hot sauce like Sambal Oelek
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
1 tsp freshly grated ginger
2 tsp freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tbsp chicken stock

Soy Dipping Sauce
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp Sesame oil
2 Tbsp chicken stock

1 cucumber

For this recipe, you’ll need lots of chicken stock and a deep, thick walled (to retain heat) pot that can fit a whole chicken.

I can't say for sure how much stock you’ll need. It depends on the size of the pot you use and the size of your chicken but you need enough stock to fully submerge the chicken.

One way to tell how much stock you'll need is to add the chicken to the empty pot then add enough tap water to cover the chicken by an inch or two. Then remove the chicken. Make a mental note of the water level without the chicken. Dump out the water and add your chicken stock to the appropriate level. If you don’t have enough stock, you can add more water so you have enough. You don’t want to boil the chicken in only water because it will leech out too much flavor from the chicken.

Cooking the chicken:
Wash chicken, remove and save the excess fat, you’ll need it for the rice. Rub the entire chicken with salt. Set aside at room temp for about 30 minutes. Stuff the cavity with 3 green onions and ginger slices.

Bring enough stock to cover the chicken to a boil. Add the chicken breast side down and turn the heat down to the lowest setting so it’s barely (only a few bubbles) simmering. You don’t want to boil the chicken but you don’t want the stock to cool down too much either. After 25 minutes, gently lift the chicken out of the pot, let the stock from the cavity drain back into the pot, and set aside temporarily.

Quickly bring the stock back up to a boil, add the chicken, this time breast-side up, then turn back down to low heat, barely simmering, and cook for another 20 – 25 minutes.

Meanwhile in a wok or skillet, heat the reserved chicken fat over medium low heat to render out the oil. You’ll want about 2 tbsp for the rice.

Have a big bowl of ice water ready for the chicken. The chicken is done when juices from the thigh runs clear. When it’s done, submerge it in the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. This helps tighten the skin and makes it jelly-like and taste really, really good. Let it cool in the ice bath for 10 - 15 minutes, then take it out and cool to room temperature.

Bring the chicken stock up to a boil and skim off the excess fat and scum. Continue to boil and reduce the stock for a more flavorful soup.

Cooking the rice:
Heat the chicken fat in a skillet over medium heat and add the chopped white part of the green onion and rice. Toast the rice until each grain is evenly coated with fat and looks golden.

Stir in the ginger and minced garlic and cook for 30 seconds until fragrant.

Add 3 1/2 cups of chicken stock and transfer this mixture to a rice cooker. I have to admit I always let my rice cooker do all the work and consequently, I don’t know how to cook rice on the stovetop. But Chubby Hubby has some stovetop chicken rice instructions. After some research it seems like the gist is you bring the rice and stock up to a boil in a saucepan over medium or medium-high heat, let it boil until the water level gets down to the level of the rice. Decrease the heat to low, cover the rice and let it cook for 30 - 40 minutes.

While the rice cooks, chop the chicken into bite size pieces and slice the cucumber. Whisk together the dipping sauces. Ladle the stock into bowls and garnish with some sliced green part of the reserved green onion.

Serve the chicken with cucumbers, chicken rice, soup, and the 2 dipping sauces.


Anh said...

Amy, I too adore chicken rice. You are absolutely right about how Singaporeans love this dish. My BF family (Singaporean background) eats this so often and they still search and try for the perfect recipe! :D Yours look very nice!

Kalyn Denny said...

I've read about this on a few blogs inthe past, always from people in Asia who rave about how wonderful it tastes, so I'm quite curious about it. It certainly does sound good.

Wandering Chopsticks said...

Amy, You don't have to cook the chicken in chicken stock. Afterall, you're making chicken stock to cook the rice. :P Also, I don't do the ice bath b/c I feel it washes away all the flavor. I just put the chicken in a colander to drain. Put a bowl underneath to save those juices too. Once you take it out of the hot water, it stops the cooking anyway, and allows the juices to redistribute. Or put it in the fridge.

OK, I really need to get around to making this so I can post my recipe too.

Anonymous said...

Hahhaa...yes yes...I am one Singaporean always searching for the best chicken rice around *lol*
(not true for me...I just go back to the usual stalls that serve a good plate of chicken rice - good defined as : chicken meat is moist and tender even if it's chicken breast, rice that is fragrant and not lumpy, and the spicy chilli condiment that is homemade with ginger-garlic-secret ingredient mixture) ;p

There are too many variations in making good chicken rice. Some even say that the "key" is in the chicken itself. The best chicken rice uses "WenChang Ji" (WenChang Chicken - WenChang is a place in Hainan Island, I presume?).

After saying all these, I wasted some energy, so...can I have a plate of your chicken rice ?

Amy said...

Thanks! I'm still learning how to make this dish, there are so many little things that can be done differently, I wonder what makes the perfect chicken rice. :D

The rice is really tasty because it's so fragrant and the chicken tastes really refreshing.

That's a good point about the water washing away the flavor. I just read that you need to chill the chicken really quickly. I can't wait to see your recipe!

I loved the breast meat! Normally I don't like breast meat but this was so juicy and tender, it was really good. I think in China they use really old chickens to extract lots of oil. You're welcome to have some chicken rice any time. :)

SteamyKitchen said...

you inspired me to make that dish too! i just made it and haven't posted recipe or photo yet. i'll let you know when its up!

Amy said...

I can't wait to see your recipe. :D

Anonymous said...

I usually cook the chicken for 10 minutes over a simmer then leave it to soak in the hot water for half an hour or so until it's cooked. This probably decreases the chance that the chicken overcooks (Chinese people hate overcooked chicken!)
And I cook the rice in the rice cooker lol..
Also, in the Cantonese version, we always serve it with a spring onion and grated ginger sauce that's made really fragrant by pouring hot oil over it.
Hope this was useful, I'll try the cucumbers next time!

Unknown said...

Oh it looks great but in Singapore we eat it with a ginger chilli sauce that is a must have!!!


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