Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Slow-poached chicken drizzled with a soy and sesame oil dressing and garnished with coriander leaves

There are plenty of recipes for Hainanese chicken rice out there, so I decided not to post it here. If you've never attempted making it before, well, don't be daunted by it. It's actually pretty simple. I will summarize it here:

  • We usually use organic or chemical free chicken as they seem to have a better texture and taste to it. If you don't want to use a whole chicken, you can just use chicken marylands (thigh and legs) if you prefer. But cooked properly, chicken breast meat is actually really tender and flavourful as well. So it's up to you.
  • Rinse and dry the chicken, then rub it all over (inside and out) with salt. Then, place some garlic, ginger and scallions into the cavity. Oh, and before you do that, remove the excess fat from the chicken, which you will find near the thigh area. You need this for cooking the rice and making the chilli sauce.
  • Bring some canned chicken broth (I usually use Swansons and Campbell's chicken stock to add more flavour to the chicken) and water (ratio of about 1:3) to a boil in a large pot. Add a few white peppercorns if you like. Boil the chicken for 20 minutes, ensuring it's submerged. Then turn off the heat and cover with a lid. Let it stand for another 20 minutes. Prepare a large bowl of iced water. Remove the chicken from the pot immediately and submerge it in the ice bath, making sure it's cold at all times. Leave it for 20 minutes, then remove it immediately. The skin and fat should have gelatinized by then. Don't leave it too long, otherwise the chicken will be too cold and tough. Rub some sesame oil and soy sauce over the chicken before chopping into pieces (or you can debone it if you wish).
  • Garnish with scallions and/or coriander, and drizzle a mixture of soy, sesame oil and sugar for the sauce.

  • Fry the chicken fat until all the oil is extracted. Reserve some for chilli sauce. To the remaining fat in the pan, add the raw rice (washed) together with ginger, garlic and pandanus/screwpine leaves. Season with salt. Place everything in rice cooker and add chicken broth from earlier and cook as usual.
  • The chilli is just a mixture fresh red chillies blended/pounded with plenty of ginger, some garlic, lime juice, rice vinegar, chicken fat and chicken broth, seasoned with salt and sugar. Pounding it with a mortar and pestle yields a better result as it extracts the "juices" from the chillies.
Thick soy drizzling sauce:
  • You can serve the rice and chicken with a drizzling of thick soy sauce which you can make by combining thick caramel (thick dark soy) with sugar and a little sesame oil.
To serve:
  • Serve the chicken on a large plate with some sliced cucumbers. Dish out the chicken rice onto individual serving plates. Have your condiments ready,  ie. chilli and soy drizzling sauce, and little bowls of soup using the chicken broth used for poaching the chicken (you probably need to dilute the soup as it might be quite concentrated). Season the broth/soup with salt. Sprinkle chopped scallions in the soup before serving. much for summarizing! Now you've got the basics, go ahead and make some Hainanese chicken rice. The proof is in the poaching!