Hainanese Chicken Rice

 
I wrote a post on Hainanese chicken rice sometime last year, though without the detailed recipe. Before I go on, let me just say that this recipe was provided courtesy of Mr G. If there's one thing he loves to cook and can cook well, it's chicken rice. The only part I play in the whole cooking process is preparing the chilli sauce and supervising the food styling. I'm only too happy to let him hold the reins on this one as he has cooked this umpteen times for the last few years, and has become quite an expert at it.
 
This style of chicken rice is based on what we used to enjoy back in Singapore, where the chicken rice is served with a ginger chilli sauce and a thick black sauce to drizzle over the rice. If there's one Singapore street food that is better than Malaysia, it's definitely chicken rice. I think the difference lies in the texture and fragrance of the rice and the silky smooth and tender pieces of chicken. I should also mention that it is bursting with "umami" flavours, but that depends on your tolerance level for msg. I did not specifically include msg in this recipe, although I did use chicken stock powder (for extra flavour!).
 


The recipe looks really long, but I've managed to edit Mr G's version to be more reader-friendly and less "intimidating", I hope! For my relatives and friends who have been asking how to make Hainanese chicken rice, here you go!

Hainanese Chicken Rice (Singapore style)
(mostly by Mr G)

Ingredients

Chicken:

1.6kg (about 4 lbs) whole fresh organic or chemical-free chicken, removed from fridge 40 minutes before cooking
Salt
8 slices ginger
3 stalks scallions (spring onions)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sesame oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled
8 cups reduced-salt chicken stock to 12 cups water

Sesame-soy rub:
2 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp superior light soy sauce

Chicken sauce (combine in a bowl):
1 tsp chicken oil
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1/3 cup warm poaching liquid/stock

Ice bath with water to cover the chicken in another container after cooking
1 cucumber, halved lengthwise and sliced on the diagonal
2 scallions/spring onions, chopped/sliced for garnish
Coriander leaves, for garnish

Method

1. Prepare the chicken by removing the fat around cavity. Reserve the fat for later.

2. Pat the chicken dry with a paper towel. Rub a generous amount of salt all over the skin. Stuff the chicken cavity with 4 slices of ginger and all the scallions.

3. Tie a loop of string across the 2 legs at the ends of the drumsticks or get a meat hook that you can slip into the cavity of the chicken, as you will need this to dunk the chicken in the poaching liquid (make sure the string or meat hook is secure and can support the weight of the chicken).

4. In a 10 litre stockpot on medium heat, add the vegetable oil and sesame oil and fry the garlic and remaining 4 slices of ginger until fragrant. Add the stock and water, cover the pot, and bring it to the boil on high heat.

5. Once boiling, remove the lid from the pot. Lower the chicken into the boiling stock and lift it up again. Repeat this step twice. This helps the chicken skin achieve a smooth texture. Finally, gently drop the chicken into the stock and let it cook using the 20-20-20 rule as follows:

In the first 20 minutes, let the chicken cook in the simmering stock. Initially, the stock will stop boiling for some time due to the temperature change. Leave the heat on medium and let the liquid come to a boil again.  Then, immediately reduce heat to a gentle simmer.

In the next 20 minutes, turn the heat off, leaving the chicken to continue cooking in the pot, covered. Do not exceed this time. In the meantime, prepare the ice bath by filling a large bowl (that will fit the chicken in) with plenty of ice and water.

The last step is to remove the chicken from the pot, emptying the excess liquid from the cavity of the chicken (be very careful as the hot liquid may spill or splash. Then, place the chicken in the ice bath, fully submerged. Leave the chicken to sit for 20 minutes (and no longer).

(Make sure you follow the 20-20-20 timing, especially the last 20 minutes, as it will affect the texture of the chicken)

6. After the chicken has chilled in the ice bath for 20 minutes, remove and then rub the chicken all over with the sesame soy rub.  Use a cleaver or large knife to chop up the chicken into pieces. Debone the chicken if desired.

7. On a large serving plate, arrange the sliced cucumbers, and place the chicken pieces on top. When ready to serve, drizzle the chicken sauce over the chicken. Serve with chicken rice, chilli sauce, black drizzling sauce and a steaming hot bowl of soup.

Rice:

4 cups jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
3 eschalots
5 cloves garlic
10 slices ginger
2 pandanus leaves, knotted
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp chicken stock powder

Chicken fat, reserved from earlier
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp vegetable oil

Method

1. Blend eschalot and garlic into a fine paste and set aside.

2. In a pan on low heat, heat sesame oil and vegetable oil. Add chicken fat and fry slowly to extract the oil. Remove the pieces of fat, leaving the oil in the pan.

3. Add ginger and fry for a minute. Remove 2 tablespoons of the oil and place in a small bowl. Reserve this for later when making black drizzling sauce and chilli sauce.

4. With the remaining oil in the pan, add eschalot and garlic paste, and fry for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add the rice, salt and chicken stock powder and fry for a minute until well mixed. Place the rice mixture in the rice cooker and add pandan leaves. Pour the poaching liquid/stock over the rice until it reaches slightly above the 4-cup mark. Start the rice cooker according to manufacturer's instructions. Once cooked, give the rice a stir to fluff up the rice before serving.

Condiments:

Chilli sauce:

1 tbsp chicken oil
1-2 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp chinese white rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
4 tbsps warm poaching liquid/stock
1/2 tsp chicken stock powder
Salt to taste

Blend together finely:
8-10 long chillies (mix with bird's eye chillies if desired)
4 cloves garlic
2 inch ginger, peeled and sliced

Method

Add everything to the blended ingredients, and blend again until well mixed. Add salt to taste, and adjust the amount of sugar and vinegar used if necessary. The chilli sauce should take on an orangey colour.

Black drizzling sauce:

1 tsp chicken oil
2 tbsp Cheong Chan thick caramel
1 tsp sesame oil
1/2 tbsp caster sugar
1/2 tbsp warm poaching liquid/stock
1/2 tsp light soy sauce

Method

In a small bowl, dissolve the sugar in the warm stock. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Serve as a drizzling sauce over the chicken rice.

Soup:

Remove all the bones and scum  from the poaching stock. Add salt and pepper to taste if necessary, and add more water if it's too concentrated. I like to add some sliced cabbage for sweetness. Ladle into individual soup bowls and garnish with chopped scallions before serving.


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