Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice at Home
Updated: Feb 21
Growing up in Singapore, Hainanese Chicken rice is a staple in our community. For just $3-$4, you can get a plate of deliciousness at any hawker centre or slightly more at a restaurant. I wanted to challenge myself to create this dish at home, and have found the perfect recipe.
The star of the show is obviously the chicken, so buy an organic chicken if you can. Poaching chicken means it is cooked in its own flavours and I feel organic is best here. And if you ask anyone, the chili is what makes or breaks the dish. I've tried countless recipes for this and found that blending the whole calamansi with the skins on is what gives it its distinct taste - and of course generous amounts of ginger and garlic. Please taste as you go as the quantities in this recipe is only an assumption.
The recipe requires a number of steps, but after your first try - you'll realize that everything can be done in tandem - making this a very quick meal to make! If you have leftover chicken and rice, I like to make chicken porridge the next day. Just boil down the rice (and add more rice if needed) in the leftover broth, add the chicken and you have a fabulous new meal! #lifehack
Recipe serves 4 people. 15 mins prep time, total cook time approximately 50 mins.
For the poached chicken
1 whole organic chicken, feet and head removed
2 whole bunch garlic
1 bunch spring onion
1 pinch turmeric (optional)
2 pandan leaves, tied in a knot
1 whole white onion, halved
1 chicken stock cube (optional)
Salt to taste
For the fragrant rice
2 cups rice
2 cups chicken broth (use the broth created from poaching the chicken)
2 pandan leaves, tied in a knot
3-4 whole garlic
For the chilli sauce
50g red chili
2-3 chili padi (optional)
5 whole calamansi
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 tablespoon chicken broth (use the broth created from poaching the chicken)
Salt to taste
1.5 tablespoon soya sauce
1 tablespoon sesame seed oil
3 tablespoon chicken broth (use the broth created from poaching the chicken)
Cucumber, sliced thinly
Coriander & spring onion to garnish
There are a number of parts to making this dish but do not be overwhelmed - I will share my directions the way I do it, with multi-tasking in mind.
Poach the chicken
1. Prep your chicken. Since the chicken is the star of the dish, we need to clean it thoroughly before poaching. Remove all feathers and fat. Generously rub salt and 1 small pinch of turmeric all over the chicken skin to remove any impurities and soften the skin - exactly like a salt scrub on your body! The turmeric gives the chicken colour and is completely optional.
2. Stuff 1 whole garlic bunch, 5cm whole ginger, knot of pandan leaf in the cavity of the chicken. This will give it all sorts of flavours from inside out.
3. In a large pot enough to hold the entire chicken, heat 1 tablespoon of oil, gently fry 1 whole bunch of garlic, the halved white onion and knot of pandan leaf. Fry until aroma releases.
4. Add water until half full. Put in the chicken breast side down. This is important as the chicken breasts take longer to cook.
5. Pour in more water if needed until the whole chicken is covered. Add the chicken stock cube and whole spring onion bunch into the pot. Salt to taste.
6. Cover and let cook on medium heat for 20 minutes.
While the chicken is cooking
1. Grind 2cm ginger and 3-4 whole garlics in a mortar and pestle. You can blend it too but I like the coarse consistency in the rice once cooked.
2. Pan fry ground up ginger-garlic mixture in a tiny bit of oil until fragrant. Wash rice and set aside in rice cooker until chicken is cooked and the broth can be used to cook the rice.
Make the chili
1. Make your chili! This is by far the most important part of the 'cooking'. In a food processor, simply blend 50g red chili, 2-3 chili padi (optional), 100g ginger, 100g garlic.
2. Add the whole calamansi one by one with the skin on until you are happy with the taste.
3. Add salt to taste. I urge you to taste the chili and add more/less ginger or garlic until you are happy. You can use a ginger/garlic paste too when making these adjustments.
4. Once happy with the chilli, stir in 1 tablespoon vinegar, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon light soya sauce, 1 tablespoon chicken broth from the poaching liquid. Add sugar if needed, this is optional.
Chicken is ready!
1. After 20 mins, the chicken is cooked. Prepare a large pot/bowl/pan that can hold the chicken. Fill it up with water and ice.
2. Gently take the chicken out of the boiling pot and submerge immediately in the cold water. The chicken is now getting a cold water bath to give it's skin a plump and gelatinous feel.
3. Set aside until ready to serve.
Time to cook the rice
1. In the rice cooked with rice that has been washed clean, add the ginger-garlic mixture that you set aside. Add knot of pandan leaf and 3 cups of chicken broth from the poaching liquid.
2. Stir the ingredients slightly, add a tiny bit of salt and cook according to your rice cooker's instructions.
Ready to serve
1. In a small mixing bowl, stir in 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon light soya sauce, 2 tablespoon chicken broth from the poaching liquid. This will be the sauce you will pour over the chicken right before serving.
2. Slice up the chicken so you get boneless pieces. There is no perfect way to do this and I suppose it comes with practise but watch this video to get an idea how.
3. In a large plate, place sliced cucumbers at the bottom of the place. Add your chicken pieces on top, and pour over some of that sauce over the chicken. Garnish with chopped coriander.
4. Serve immediately when rice is cooked with a side of that yummy chili and a hot steaming bowl of the poaching broth. Garnish soup with chopped spring onion. Enjoy!
ALY'S COOKING TIPS
1. It is important to prep your chicken properly. Salting it removes any impurities on the skin so that the finished product is nice and plump. Removing the fats ensures your broth is not oily, and rubbing it with turmeric makes your chicken 'tanned'. Just like me, I like my chicken golden and tanned vs. pale and white!
2. The chili is super important to the quality of this dish. You should note that my measurements are not exact, and I normally taste as I go until I am happy with it. To make things easier, you can use the garlic-ginger mixture prepped for the rice to add little by little till it tastes perfect - just make sure not to use all of it!
3. The rice should be fragrant and have a heavy chicken broth taste. So make sure when poaching your chicken, you add as much aromatics into it to make this happen. Salt it generously as well as it will flavour the chicken... and the rice at the next step!
4. Stir-frying and browning the garlic-ginger paste for the rice is optional but I prefer to do this so the rice has a deeper flavour.
5. Before serving, I like to leave the sliced cucumber in the sauce for awhile as it softens and somewhat pickles it. Trust me - it is much tastier and does not lose its crunch!
6. DO NOT skip the ice bath step. This step stops the cooking and ensures your chicken is juicy all the way through. It also creates a gelatinous skin that soft and silky - and honestly just looks more presentable too.