Hainanese chicken rice is one of my absolute favorite childhood dishes. It is a national dish of Singapore, one can find it in every restaurant, cafe and street food stalls in the country. It is even served exclusively in some restaurants! However, according to research, this dish is believed to be originated from Hainan province in China (hence the name), and apparently the recipe was brought to other South East Asia countries by the Hainanese immigrants and it then became one of the most popular dishes in places like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, and Hong Kong). There are many different ways of cooking the chicken, usually it is poached or steamed or even roasted, served with rice, dipping sauces and a light broth on the side. My version is a little different than the traditional one by first simmering a whole chicken for a very short time, and then keeping it ‘poached/steeped’ (heat off) in the same hot fragrant broth (consists of few aromatic asian herb and spice such as ginger, lemongrass and spring onion) until cooked through. This ‘long-poach’ cooking method produces tender and succulent meat (I have been making it this way for years but I couldn’t remember where I learned that from). The chicken then served with white rice cooked in the flavorful broth, so every single grain of rice is pumped up with wonderful flavours. The crucial element of the whole dish is the piquant dipping sauces that give the extra kick to your taste buds, every component of this dish, whether is the taste or the texture, compliments each other beautifully.
I have made Hainanese Chicken Rice countless times, and I have experimented with different herbs and spices, so there is always something a little different each time. Sometimes I serve the chicken boneless when I have guests who are not used to eat chicken on bone, and other time, I serve it bone in for a more authentic experience (since the chicken is always served on the bone in Asia). As for the dipping sauces, I have made several different ones as well and each has something special to contribute to the dish. My favorites are ginger and spring onion oil and Sriracha lime sauce (these are the two which I would like to introduce to you). I also experiment with adding spicy sesame oil in the ginger, spring onion oil which was also a delight.
Although the list of ingredients may seem daunting, but some of them are repeatedly used in different section of the recipe. You will find the total quantities of these repeatedly used ingredients at the end of the list so you don’t have to do the math!
For the chicken:
- 1 whole free-range corn-fed chicken (approx. 1.2-1.5kg)
- 3 spring onion, trimmed the root and cut into about 6-8cm long batons
- 1 thumb size ginger, sliced
- 2 medium carrots, halved and then quartered
- 8 whole black peppercorns
- 1 stalk lemongrass, trimmed the top and end, bruised with the back of the knife
- 1/4 cup salt (for salt rub) plus 1 tbsp. salt (for poaching)
For the ginger and spring onion oil:
- 1 thumb size ginger, (5-6cm) finely chopped
- 4 stalks spring onion, finely chopped
- A generous pinch of salt
- scant 1/3 cup (70ml) vegetable oil
For the chili dipping sauce:
- 4 tbsp of Sriracha chili sauce
- 2-3 tbsp. chicken broth (from the poached chicken)
- 2 tbsp. lime juice
- 1 scant tsp. sugar
- 1/2 tsp. grated ginger (optional, for extra heat)
For the rice:
- 1 cup long grain basmati or Jasmine rice
- 1.5 cup chicken broth (from the poached chicken)
- 1 stalk lemongrass (prepared as above)
- 1 tbsp. of Coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
- Fish sauce (optional)
For the crispy garlic, lemongrass toppings:
- 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 stalks lemongrass, finely chopped
- 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil
Ingredients which are repeatedly used: (quantity in total)
- 2 pieces of thumb size ginger (5-6cm)
- Spring onion, 1 bunch, about 7-8 stalks
- 4 stalks lemongrass
- vegetable oil, roughly about 100ml
Serving suggestion: steamed Pak Choi (or other leafy green)(optional)
Rub the chicken with salt all over for a minute and rinse it with cold running water. Pad dry with kitchen towel, stuff 1/3 amount of the spring onion batons and the ginger slices in the chicken cavity, set aside.
In a sauce pan big enough to accommodate the whole chicken, fill half way with water. Then add the chicken and the rest of the chicken ingredients, pour more water until the chicken is submerged in the water. Cover and bring to boil. Skim off the foam and turn the heat down, low simmer for about 15 minutes to 20 minutes (for a larger bird). Remove from heat and let it stand, covered, for 45 minutes to 60 minutes (for a larger bird).
While the chicken is poaching, prepare the dipping sauces:
Ginger and spring onion oil – combine the ginger and spring onion in a bowl. Heat the oil in a small sauce pan or frying pan until it starts to ripple, carefully add the ginger mixture in the oil for about 10 seconds, remove from heat. Transfer the content to a bowl and add a generous pinch of salt and stir with a spoon until everything is well combined. Set aside.
Sriracha lime sauce – Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. It should be spicy, tarty, savory and a little sweet. Adjust the seasoning as desire.
When the chicken is cooked, remove the lid from the sauce pan and use the broth to cook the rice. Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil or vegetable oil in a small sauce pan, add drained rice and fry for a minute until the rice are coated with oil. Carefully ladle in the broth, and the lemongrass, bring to boil and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for about 20 minutes, when the rice has absorbed most of the liquid, place a piece of clean towel over the sauce pan and place the lid back on (to absorb the condensation, making the rice light and fluffy) and removed from heat. Let the rice covered and set aside until serving.
To make the crispy garlic, lemongrass topping: fry the garlic and lemongrass in hot oil until they turn golden brown and crispy, remove from the oil and drained on kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil, set aside.
Cut the chicken in pieces, with or without bones, and divide the chicken, rice, vegetables (if use) on warm plates, sprinkle the crispy garlic topping on top of the rice (or on everything). Served immediately with the dipping sauces on the side.