September 29, 2009

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Chicken of Hainanese chicken rice. This dinner was accompanied by boiled veggies and mushroom omelette

My grandparents were born in Hainan (pronounced as 'hi naan') Island, a small island south of the main part of China. When the people from the Hainan island (Hainanese) arrived in Singapore/Malaysia, they made "Hainanese chicken rice" and hence its name. Even though it has its origins from Hainan island, it is popularly known as a Singaporean dish :)

I have attempted making this a couple of times (only in the past 2 years), from the most tedious methods, to the shortcut ways of making this dish. If you were to make this from scratch, it does take quite a bit of time, effort and ingredients. If you are interested, the recipe can be found here - from marinating the chicken, cooking the chicken, cooking the rice and making the chilli.

However, if you are short of time or getting lazy (like me :p), this is my shortcut method (this still takes about 1.5 hours for prep and cooking):

1 whole chicken (I usually buy corn-fed or free range chicken when they are on sale)
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp light soya sauce
1 tsp rice wine
2 pcs of 1-inch thick ginger, lightly bruised
1 garlic clove, peeled and lightly bruised
a small bunch of spring onion
1 tsp sesame oil

Prepare the chicken by removing extra fat (save this fat for the rice if you want to follow the long method of cooking the rice. Otherwise, throw it away). Rub the chicken and its cavity with salt. Then rub with rice wine and 1/2 tbsp soya sauce. Stuff the cavity with garlic, ginger and spring onion. Set aside for 1 hour (not in the fridge).

In a stockpot with sufficient water to cover the chicken, bring the water to boil. Lower the chicken into the pot and ensure that it is entirely immersed. Turn off heat immediately, cover the pot and allow to stand for 1 hour. At 15-min intervals, lift the chicken and drain water from the cavity so that the chicken will cook through. At the 30th min mark, reheat the water to almost boiling point then turn off the heat. Never allow the water to boil. At the end of the hour, remove the chicken and immediately put it into a large bowl with ice and water to arrest further cooking.

Once the chicken is cooled (about 15-20 mins), drain it thoroughly. Rub it down with 1/2 tbsp soya sauce and sesame oil. Set chicken aside, covered, until it is ready to serve. To serve, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Place on a serving platter over sliced cucumbers/tomatoes. Garnish with coriander sprigs.

1 jar of Hainanese chicken rice mix (available at Asian grocery store. Use either Lee Kum Kee or Wor Hup brand)
4 cups of rice (or however much you want to cook)

Wash the rice. Cook the rice in the rice cooker according to the instructions on the chicken rice mix. If you are able to, add a piece of pandan leaf (tied into a knot) for extra flavour.

Serve rice with chicken pieces and with special chicken rice dark soya sauce (or just the normal one will do), Lee Kum Kee chicken rice chilli (in a jar, available at Asian grocery stores).

As for the chicken stock left behind from cooking chicken, you may bring it up to a boil and add carrots or other veggies. Cook the veggies and serve them with soup with the chicken rice. Alternatively, most of the time, I will reserve the stock (freeze them if you are not using it within the next few days) and store them into containers. I like to use the stock to make rice porridge or cook instant noodles as a soup base for extra flavour. Never NEVER throw this precious stock away!

Using the chicken rice mix means that I need not wait for the chicken to be cooked and use the stock to cook the rice. I save on the time and effort to fry the uncooked rice with chicken fat, ginger and garlic. The mix has oil, ginger, garlic, etc in it that will fragrant the rice. You usually require quite an amount of chicken fat to make the rice fragrant and tasty. Otherwise, the flavour is just not there...

If you would like it easier, pop down to your nearest Asian grocery store and buy the Prima Deli Hainanese chicken rice mix that comes in a box with the full works - mix for the rice, mix for cooking chicken, authentic dark soya sauce, chilli and ginger sauce. All you really need is chicken, rice and water!

Enjoy! :)

1 other thoughts:

The Rust said...

wait Malaysia scold u ah... they said Hainanese chicken rice is Malaysian leh.

Though I've never come across a Malaysian of Hainan decent.

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