Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南鸡饭 was listed as one of the “world’s 50 best foods” by CNN in 2018. 

SAVEUR, the global guide to cooking, entertaining, and food travel, described it as one of the most beloved culinary exports of Southeast Asia.”

Besides all the recognition received across the globe, serving Hainanese chicken rice is deceptively simple. The chicken is poached in sub-boiling temperature, serve with chili sauce and ginger-garlic sauce, and with flavored rice.

And after poaching the chicken, the broth chicken feet are used to make the soup, and the fat is used for frying the rice before cooking. Every part of the chicken is useful.

Hainanese chicken rice 海南鸡饭 is the Malaysian/Singapore adaptation of the Wenchang chicken from Hainan province of China. Besides all the recognition received across the globe, serving Hainanese chicken rice is deceptively simple. The chicken is poached in sub-boiling temperature, serve with chili sauce and ginger-garlic sauce, and with flavored rice.

Origin controversy 

Hainanese chicken rice is the Malaysian/Singapore adaptation of the Wenchang chicken from Hainan province of China. There are a few stories about the origin of this rice.

One legend said that there was a Chinese called Wong Yi Guan came to Singapore in 1936. He started his chicken rice business by carrying the chicken rice in a bamboo basket with a pole hanging on his shoulder. After he accumulated enough capital, he started the first chicken rice restaurant in Singapore. Since then, many restaurants followed his successful Singapore Hainanese chicken rice recipe with their respective interpretations.

However, according to the Malaysian, the earliest Hainanese chicken rice was created by a migrant from Hainan province called 梁居清. He set up the chicken rice store in Malacca in the ’20s, and eventually move to Klang in the ’30s.

Regardless of the controversy of the origin of Hainanese chicken rice, it is the undisputed best selling rice dish in Singapore and Malaysia. There are already three stores serving it within five minutes walk from where I live. This Hainanese chicken rice recipe will follow closely to the style of those famous chicken rice store near me.

Let’s get started.

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The step by step guide 

1. Poach the chicken 

Prepare the chicken

Boil a pot of water. You need to get a pot large enough to put a whole chicken in it. Fill up the pot with enough water to submerge the entire chicken. Bring the water to a boil. 

Prepare the aromatics. Meanwhile, cut some ginger into slices, mashed a few cloves of garlic and chop a large stalk of scallion into 5cm sections. Add these aromatic ingredients to the pot to flavor the water, or insert into the cavity of the chicken and secure with toothpicks. Ginger, garlic, and scallion are three ingredients frequently used together in Chinese cooking as their flavor complement with each other.

Exfoliate the chicken with salt. Next, clean the whole chicken with running water. Remove the innards (my chicken vendor always does it for me). Then use some coarse salt to rub the skin of the chicken. This step will remove any remaining hair from the skin, and the chicken will have a clean and smooth presentation after poaching. 

Poach the chicken

Shower the chicken with boiling water. After cleaning the chicken, hook up the chicken, or use tongs to hold it above the boiling water. Ladle the boiling water over the chicken for one to two minutes. The heat from the boiling water will contract the skin and adhere tightly to the meat so that it will not detach from the chicken during poaching. 

Simmer for twenty minutes. Now lower the chicken into the water. Increase the heat of the stove to bring the water to a boil quickly. The chicken must be submerged fully in the water so that it will poach evenly. Add more water if necessary. 

Once the water is boiling again, adjust the heat until it is barely simmering at sub boiling temperature, only with a few bubbles ascending to the surface. Poach the chicken for twenty minutes. 

If you have a stainless steel hook, hang the chicken to the side of the pot. Chicken that stands vertically cooks more evenly. Put the chicken inside the pot if you do not have the hook. However, the area that is touching the bottom may overcook due to the heat from the stove. 

After twenty minutes, switch off the stove and let the chicken continue cooking in the water for another twenty minutes (actual timing depends on the size of the chickens and the amount of water.) Since there is plenty of chicken broth, it will cool down very slowly, and the heat will continue penetrating deep down the skin. By the end of the second twenty minutes, every part of the chicken should have been thoroughly cooked. Since there is no high heat involved in the process, the meat is very tender and soft. 

You can insert a kitchen thermometer to the thickest part of the meat to check the doneness. It should be at least 70°C/160°F, and no blood oozing out when you remove the thermometer.

Soak in cold water

  • Plunge the chicken into ice water to stop cooking instantly. Otherwise, the latent heat will keep cooking and toughen the chicken meat. 
  • Keep the chicken in the ice bath for twenty minutes or until it is completely cold.
  • Remove the chicken from the ice bath and hung to dry. The chicken is now ready. 
  • Garnish with scallion and coriander leaves. Cut some fresh cucumber to serve together. 

Important. The skin of the chicken is very tender, which can break and detach from the meat easily. Do not handle the chicken unnecessarily and be gentle. Use a sharp knife to slice through the skin.

2. Cook the chicken rice 

Rinse and drain the long grain rice as for the regular steamed rice. 

There are two ways to proceed from here.

Method 1

Mashed and chopped garlic and ginger coarsely. Sauté with the chicken fat or cooking oil. Add the drained rice and stir-fry fried for a minute or until aromatic. The proponents of this method believe that rice is more fragrance after frying. The oil also lubricates every grain and make it less sticky, preventing the rice from sticking together. Stir-frying rice is also the step I use in the Zongzi recipe

Method 2

Sauté the garlic and ginger with the chicken fat or some cooking oil until slightly brown. Those who advocate this method think it is aromatic enough and there is no need to fry the rice. 

The subsequent steps are identical, regardless of which method you follow:

  • Pour the rice, garlic, and ginger from the pan to the rice cooker.
  • Add the salt, and the chicken broth and two to three pandan leaves.
  • The amount of chicken broth is about 1.5x of the dry weight of the rice. 

Most of the restaurants will add chicken bouillon to the rice to intensify the flavor. I will leave it to you whether you want to use chicken bouillon, or you can purchase those with no MSG added.

Let the rice cooker to do its work. Fluff the rice with a spatula once the rice is cooked. The rice will cake together if you leave it unattended. 

Hainanese chicken rice 海南鸡饭 is the Malaysian/Singapore adaptation of the Wenchang chicken from Hainan province of China.  Besides all the recognition received across the globe, serving Hainanese chicken rice is deceptively simple. The chicken is poached in sub-boiling temperature, serve with chili sauce and ginger-garlic sauce, and with flavored rice.

3. Make the Hainanese chicken dipping sauce 

There are three dipping sauces for the Hainanese chicken rice, which are all straightforward to make. 

Ginger garlic sauce

The preparation is simple. Blend the ginger, garlic, oil, salt, and some chicken stock until homogenous. Use the mortar and pestle for a small amount. 

Hainanese chicken rice chili sauce 

  • Blend the red chili, bird’s-eye chili (optional), garlic, ginger, salt, and sugar.
  • You can also add a few drops of lime juice, and dilute the sauce with some chicken broth.

Soy sauce 

  • Just mix all the ingredients: light and dark soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, and the chicken broth.
  • Drizzle on the Hainanese chicken with soy sauce before serving. 

4. Prepare the Hainanese chicken soup

Hainanese chicken rice is not perfect if there isn’t a soup to serve with the chicken. 

There is no standard soup, but most are simple soup prepared by adding some vegetables to the broth after pitching the chicken.

One simple recipe is to make old cucumber and chicken soup. 

  • Boil the chicken feet that we reserve earlier with the chicken broth for twenty minutes. Remove the chicken feet.
  • Cut an old cucumber into pieces and boil with the broth until it becomes soft.
  • Seasoned with salt and pepper and serve. 
Yield: 4 servings

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice was listed as one of the “world’s 50 best foods” by CNN in 2018.

Besides all the recognition received across the globe, serving Hainanese chicken rice is deceptively simple. The chicken is poached in sub-boiling temperature, serve with chili sauce and ginger-garlic sauce, and with flavored rice.

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes

Ingredients

For the chicken

  • 5cm length unpeeled ginger, sliced
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 1 stalk of scallion
  • 1 whole chicken (about 1.8kg)
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Water just enough to submerge the chicken
  • Coarse salt for cleaning

For the rice

For the chili sauce

  • 6 big red chili (100g)
  • 3 bird’s eye chili (optional for extra hotness)
  • 6 cloves (30g) garlic (
  • 5 cm (25g) ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 tsp lime juice
  • 80ml chicken broth

For the ginger-garlic sauce

  • 90g ginger
  • 30g garlic
  • 20ml chicken broth
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 20ml cooking oil or chicken fat

For the soy sauce

For the soup

  • 1 old cucumber, cut into pieces
  • 400 ml chicken broth
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp ground white pepper
  • Chicken feet and neck for making the stock

Instructions

    1. Poach the chicken 

    1. Fill up the pot with enough water to submerge the entire chicken. Bring the water to a boil. 
    2. Exfoliate the chicken with salt. Then clean the whole chicken with running water.
    3. Add the ginger, garlic, and scallion to the pot. Alternatively, put them inside the cavity of the chicken and secure with toothpicks. 
    4. Ladle some boiling water to the chicken until the skin contracts and cooked. Hook up the chicken.
    5. Simmer the chicken for twenty minutes at sub boiling temperature.
    6. After twenty minutes, switch off the stove and let the chicken continue cooking for another twenty minutes.
    7. Soak it in cold water until it is cold.
    8. Cut the chicken into pieces.
    9. Garnish with scallion and coriander leaves. Cut some fresh cucumber to serve together. 

    2. Cook the rice 

    1. Rinse and drain the rice as for the regular steamed rice. 
    2. Sauté the garlic and ginger with the chicken fat.
    3. Add the drained rice and stir-fry for a minute or until aromatic. Pour the rice, garlic, and ginger into the rice cooker.
    4. Add the salt, and the chicken broth from the pot, and a bunch of pandan leaves. Cook the rice with the rice cooker.
    5. When the rice is cooked, fluff the rice to avoid it from clumping together.

    3. Make the sauce 

    1. Chili sauce. Blend all the ingredients until it forms a paste.
    2. Ginger garlic sauce. Blend all the ingredients until it forms a paste.
    3. Soy sauce. Mix all the ingredients until it is homogenous. 

    4. Prepare the chicken soup

    1. Simmer the chicken broth with the chicken feet for 20 minutes. Remove the feet.
    2. Add the old cucumber pieces and boil until it becomes soft.
    3. Season with salt and pepper.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving:Calories: 1343 Total Fat: 77g Saturated Fat: 21g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 43g Cholesterol: 272mg Sodium: 6878mg Carbohydrates: 69g Net Carbohydrates: 0g Fiber: 4g Sugar: 14g Sugar Alcohols: 0g Protein: 92g
This data was provided and calculated by Nutritionix on 8/22/2019

    2 replies to "Hainanese Chicken Rice"

    • KP Kwan

      Hi, this is KP Kwan. I am happy to see you in this comment area, as you have read through my recipe. I am pleased to reply to any questions and comments as soon as possible.

    • Ian

      Great tips thks!

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