Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of my absolute favourite foods. I was first introduced to it whilst on holiday in Kuala Lumpur when I was sixteen [staying with a school friend who boarded in Perth] and oh my goodness did I have a good time there.  I, who had always been the pickiest eater known to mankind, who was pathetically skinny and sick and looked about eight years old, ate everything in sight and put on about five kilos in as many weeks.  [maybe this should have been a slight hint, just maybe, that I was gluten-intolerant, that I was well when eating all that rice? Duuuuuh.]  Finding a good HCR in Perth is just about impossible so the only solution when I get that craving is to make it myself. 

HCR is a classic Singaporean dish – it’s comfort food and everyone loves it; it is said the best way to start an argument amongst Singaporeans is to ask where to find the best HCR.  It’s really very basic; steamed chicken, accompanied by rice cooked in ginger-infused chicken stock, a couple of dipping sauces [traditionally a soy-ginger sauce, and a sweet chilli sauce], and a bowl of broth.  Generally the chicken is neatly sliced and arranged over sliced cucumber on a central platter with each diner having their own bowl of chicken-y rice and broth.  Add little sauce dishes around the central platter and everyone digs in. 

Just as every person will have their own preferred version, every person will have their own preferred way of eating HCR;  mixing everything up together, dipping chicken separately and eating with a mouthful of rice, drizzling sauces over chicken and rice, spooning a little more broth over the rice to add extra chicken-y flavour and soupiness …  Anything goes.  It’s all delicious. 

The ingredients list may seem very complicated but if you break it down to it’s constituent parts – poaching the chicken in water which makes the stock;  cooking the rice in the stock;  tarting up the rest of the stock a bit to make the soup;  mixing up easy dipping sauces – it’s really very simple.   You can also make the recipe over a couple of days; making the stock one day, and the rest of the dish – the chicken breasts, the soup, the rice, the sauces – the next.

In this recipe I’ve given the ingredients and method for each constituent part, then a section called Assembly where I bring it all together.

Serves 4.

. . . . . . . . . .

Ingredients:

Chicken / Stock

1 kg bone-in chicken pieces – drums, backs – preferably skin-on

4 chicken breasts, preferably skin-on

2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly smashed with the side of a knife

2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and roughly smashed with the side of a knife

6 spring onions, trimmed and chopped into 5 cm long pieces

1 tbs sesame oil

2 tsp salt

2 litres water approx – preferably filtered.  This is because usually cities’ tap water is nasty tasting, and if you’re going to all the trouble of making chicken stock from scratch, you want to make it with the freshest, clearest tasting water you can get.  Believe me, it makes a huge difference to the end product.  [I use Britta water filters but would looove one of those deluxe kitchens with water filters built into the tap.]

Plus:

1 Lebanese cucumber

Sesame oil

Rice

2 cups rice, preferably Jasmine [or if unavailable, other medium to long grain rice]

3 ½ cups chicken stock, approx

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced

2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely minced

1 tsp sea salt

1 tbs canola oil

Soup

4 cups chicken stock

¼ Chinese cabbage, shredded cross-wise

6 spring onions, trimmed and sliced into 2 cm diagonal pieces

Sesame oil

Sea salt

Dipping Sauces

I.   Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

2.5 cm piece ginger, peeled and finely shredded [eg with a vegetable peeler or microplane grater]

4 tbs soy sauce

2 tbs lime juice

II.  Sweet Chilli Sauce

4 tbs bottled sweet chilli sauce [I like Ong’s brand Sweet Chilli Sauce]

. . . . . . . . . .

Method:

Chicken / stock

Place the chicken pieces, ginger, garlic, spring onions, drizzle of sesame oil and salt into a large saucepan or stockpot and cover with approximately 2 litres of water, preferably filtered. 

Bring to boil, then lower heat to a very low simmer and cook for about 45 minutes.  Skim scum from the surface frequently with a spoon.  This results in a clearer, purer broth but the world won’t end if it’s still a bit scummy.  About 30 minutes in add the chicken breasts and keep on cooking at a low simmer.  Then turn the heat off, cover and allow to sit for another twenty minutes or so.  The chicken breasts will continue cooking in the stored heat until poached beautifully tender.

Remove chicken breasts from stockpot and set aside.  [NB:  If serving the entire meal later in the day or the next day, do not cook the chicken breasts until an hour or so before the meal.   Then, either poach them in a little stock or the stock retained for the soup until cooked tender.   You do not want to cook the chicken boobs the day before, then cover, refrigerate and then serve up at room temperature the next day.  One word (at least!):  salmonella.]

Strain the stock through a sieve or colander into another large saucepan [or series of medium pans] to separate the liquid from solids.  Place stock aside and allow to cool, then cover and refrigerate if using the next day.

Now you can either discard the chicken pieces or keep them for snacks [eg, brush drums with oil or preferred marinade and give them a blast on the grill – yum!  The meat isn’t dry or overcooked so can take a little high heat to finish] or pet food.  Pick out the bits of ginger, garlic and spring onion, and carefully shred the meat off the bones and see how your cat or dog likes it.  Some of the flavours might take a little getting used to but it’s got the tick of approval from my dogs and cats [they especially like it with a little warmed broth or gravy poured over … nah they’re not spoiled!] 

Rice

Now I’m a bit of a slacker and also love gadgets, plus we eat a lot of rice, so I happily admit that I adore my rice cooker . . . Which is to say that my rice cooking skills sans rice cooker aren’t the best.  SO here’s the challenge for you!

In a medium saucepan heat a little canola oil and gently, gently fry the finely minced garlic and ginger until starting to melt.  You do not want to burn the garlic!  If you do, start again.

Then, either add the garlic-ginger and oil to your trusty rice cooker, add enough rice for four or five people, the appropriate amount of chicken stock and a tsp of salt, stir through and cook according to the approved method.  When rice cooker pings, uncover, fluff rice with a spoon, cover and keep on warm setting until ready to serve.

OR – add rice to saucepan, add stock and salt and stir through.  Cover and cook by the absorption method for approximately 30 minutes [or your preferred method].  Uncover, fluff rice with a spoon and cover until ready to serve.  [okay that was reeaally pathetic … go Google or check out Jaden at Steamy Kitchen for the perfect steamed rice]

Soup

Shred the Chinese cabbage and chop the spring onions into pieces.  Set aside, covered, until required.

Sauces

I.  Soy-Ginger Dipping Sauce

Take two small, cute Chinese sauce dishes and divide the ginger between them – about 2 tsp in each.  Add 2 tbs soy sauce to each sauce dish, followed by 1 tbs lime juice.  Mix well with a spoon, “muddling” a little to really allow the flavours to infuse.

II.  Sweet Chilli Sauce

Again, take two small, cute Chinese sauce dishes and divide the bottled sweet chilli sauce between them.  If you like a little extra kick [even in your sweet chilli sauce] add a couple tsp finely chopped chilli or a tsp of bottled hot  chilli sauce [eg ABC brand] or to taste. 

Yes you can make your own sweet chilli sauce – and I will be posting a recipe at some point – but it takes time and the bottled stuff is pretty damn yummy.  Addictive, in fact, you better keep the bottle on hand …

. . . . . . . . . .

Assembly

When ready to serve the meal, here’s what you do!  Here in fact, is where you have to move your arse a little to bring everything together at the same time.

If you wish, slice a Lebanese cucumber into thin diagonal rounds and arrange in two or three rows down an oval platter.  Slice the chicken breasts cross-wise into neat 2 cm thick pieces, keeping the skin intact.  It’s up to the diners if they want to eat it or not!  Arrange the chicken over the cucumber and drizzle a little sesame oil over the chicken.  Place the chicken platter in the centre of the table.

Place sauce dishes in the centre of the table, around the chicken platter.

Bring the stock back to the boil, add salt if it tastes a little anaemic.  Take four small Chinese soup / rice bowls and divide the greens between them.  Drizzle a few drops of sesame oil over, and when the broth is hot enough ladle into the bowls.  Give a little stir to combine the flavours.  Place soup bowls at the diners’ places.

Serve heaped bowls of hot chicken-y ginger-y rice to each diner.

Dig in.

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Comments

  • jewel and abu  On Saturday 2 August 2008 at 12:50 am

    can I make this in Black Beauty (my crockpot)??I need some one to cook for me. I think Hubby may be tired toast and corn flakes. Hmm perhaps I should surf around a bit for more black beauty recipes. The 2 I know how to do have worn thin, you can only eat so much roast and taters 🙂

  • otterkat  On Saturday 2 August 2008 at 2:28 pm

    Hi Jewel, hope your w/e is getting off to a good start, that you’ve recovered from the barn move and the boys are settling in. Also that the breakthrough you and your little grey pony had together the other day continues – even if it slips back you know you can do it now! What’s the countdown / no. of sleeps til the show [and oooooh the Unveiling of The Tail]?

    Thanks for all your comments, I appreciate and enjoy them so much! I am so encouraged in the horsey endeavours; and I love that horsey folks comment and email on the beauty and foodie posts too, and vice versa, that’s so cool and unexpected. My blog is just a TEENSY bit eclectic and all over the place – which reflects my personality just a TEENSY bit, hee. And what’s wrong with wearing lashings of black, black mascara while horse-wrangling, covered in mud and sweat and slobber?

    Hmmm I can’t see why you couldn’t make the chicken rice dish in your Black Beauty [I name my favourite inanimate objects too – my bicycle was Phoebe, my Santoku knife is Uma after Uma Thurman in Kill Bill etc etc].

    I make a cheat’s version of the chicken rice so I’ll email you that, and ideas for how to make it in the crockpot. Let me know how it goes?

    Hey don’t knock the roast – they’re one of my favourite things! My mum is an awful cook but she makes the best roast dinners.

    All the best – big hugs to you & the Booster!

    Jules

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