Monday, September 21, 2009

Secrets of Hainanese Chicken Rice

Recently there is a little storm in the tea cup over who owns "signature dishes" like Laksa, Nasi Lemak and even Hainanese Chicken Rice. I find it pretty queer that such issue could become a focus in regional politics. Anyway, I have shared my authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice in Sammyboy forum and I would like to share it here as well. This is especially dedicated to Singaporeans living overseas. When you are homesick and miss the Hainanese Chicken Rice back home, try cooking it yourself.

Disclaimer: There are a great variety of variations of Chicken Rice recipe. What I have stated here is just the basic ingredients. Readers could adjust the ingredients as they deem fit. For example, if you live in the Western World, it would be hard to get pandan leaves but you could replace it with lemon grass....etc etc. That's the fun of it, be creative and innovative in what you learn, especially when it comes to food. Have a nice day!

Contrary to what many people think, Hainanese Chicken is not "BOILED" but rather cooked using the latent heat of boiled water. If you boil the chicken along with the water all the while, you will get overcooked chicken with ugly skin. All the essence of the Chicken would be lost to the soup, which is not the primary intend.

The proper way of preparing Hainanese Chicken is to prepare lots of garlic, ginger, pandan leaves, onions/shallots, scallions and aniseed (please see the list of ingredients below). Some have suggested to use salt to marinate the chicken or soaked the chicken in salt water for 2 hours before cooking it. Normally I would only rub the interior ribs of the chicken with a bit of salt.

Choose a large pot so that you could contain enough water to hold the latent heat for the slow cooking. Boil the water with the prepared ingredients. Make sure your chicken has a hole poked through its throat (the interception at the neck just above the breast). Hold the Chicken by the neck, dip it into the boiling water and take it up again. This allow the water to go through its internal ribs. Do this for 4 to 5 times. Then put it down into the pot and make sure the boiling water covers the whole chicken. Close the cover. Turn the fire smaller to bring the water to simmer, boil it for another 10 to 15 minutes. After this is done, turn off the fire but don't open up the cover. Let the chicken stay in the pot for another 35 minutes to 40 minutes.

It is important to note that this method applies to relatively hot summer like weather in Singapore. If you live in temperate weather country where the room temperature is below 25 degree Celsius then you may have to use clay pot instead of metallic pot. Or that you may have to continue cooking the chicken using simmer fire for a total of 25 to 30 minutes or so before leaving the chicken to stay in the pot for another 15 minutes. You will have to experiment with the method taking room temperature conditions into account. The idea is to avoid hard boiling with full blast of fire so that the chicken will not lose its tenderness.

Prepare ice or ice water. Once the time is up, take out the chicken and put it immediately into the ice water. This will prevent the chicken from continuing to be cooked by the latent heat and will also allow its skin to contract. This is why Haianese Chicken has smoothen skin.

Prepare another round of garlic, onions/shallots and pandan leaves along with some coconut milk. You could replace the coconut milk with evaporated milk if you wish. Wash the rice and leave it to dry while the chicken is being cooked. The old technique is to use long grain rice but for me, I prefer pearl rice. Fried the garlic, onions/shallots with some oil. Some people prefer to fry the rice together with the garlic and onions/shallots for a couple of minutes. But I prefer not to do it this way as it may make the rice very heaty.

Take the hot soup from the pot that cooked the chicken to put it into the rice cooker. You can get rid of the fat oil in the process. Put in the garlic, onions/shallots, ginger, pandan leaves and coconut milk/ evaporated milk. Let the rice cooker to do the cooking.

It is important to use warm or hot soup to cook the rice because the heat will prevent the rice to become soggy. If the soup stock got cold (especially in temperate countries), you could add it to the fried garlic and onions to heat it up before you use it to cook the rice.

As for the Chili sauce, just mix the chili with garlic, shallots, ginger and the soup, grind it. You could add some sugar if you like. While the rice is being cooked, you could prepare the sauce. Mix the Soybean Sauce with Sesame Oil together so that it doesn't taste too salty. You will need Oyster Sauce as well.

Cutting up a chicken needs some skills else those who eat it will find it very awkward and difficult to enjoy it. Some people have such a lousy cutting skill that when you eat, your mouth are easily poked by the bones.

You have to cut the chicken skilfully so that the juice will remain within the meat. The basic is to cut along the joints at an angle and never directly into bare bones. The worst kind is to miss the joints but cut on the bones of chicken wings directly. Never cut straight into the breast meat but slanted to about 30 degree to the grains of the meat. But all these are easily said than done. Need alot of practice.

Prepare the tomato, cucumber and sprigs. The cucumber should not be sliced too thin as it will not be big enough able to absorb the chicken juice. Place the the tomato and cucumber on the plate with the cut chicken on top of it. Add the Soybean cum Sesame sauce and the oyster sauce. Then cover the chicken with sprigs. Cut up the scallions for the soup.

There you are, a self cooked Hainanese Chicken rice. Please remember serve the chicken with soy cum sesame sauce and oyster sauce.

I hope that by sharing these "secrets" of Hainanese Chicken Rice here, it will become public property; i.e. it belongs to everyone of us, be it Singaporeans, Malaysians of Americans. ;)

Goh Meng Seng


1 whole chicken
cloves garlic, peeled
slices fresh ginger, peeled
scallions, trimmed
sesame oil mixed with soybean sauce
Oyster sauce
sliced tomatoes (garnish)
sliced cucumbers (garnish)
cilantro sprigs (garnish)

Chicken Rice:
Coconut milk/ evaporated milk
long-grain rice or Pearl Rice
peanut oil
shallots, peeled and minced
garlic, minced
soup stock from cooking Hainanese chicken


Vincent Sear said...

Sigh... SAF Captain and GE candidate, now going to sell chicken rice. But the recipe not bad. Readers can try at home. Should be better than most hawkers.

Chris said...

Gives me some tips for cooking for my Singaporean partner here in London. I have done it once before, but this will be more authentic. Thanks for the recipe.

Anonymous said...

Vincent - you read too deep. Meng Seng not trying to nor is he going to sell chicken rice. He is merely sharing his tips on making/cooking chicken rice.

Being Asian, I think it is nice that we all learn some true blue Asian cuisine ourselves.

Thanks, MS!

Vincent Sear said...

He has already told me he has a biz plan for a chicken rice restaurant, but he hasn't made up his mind, still 50/50.

I even suggested a name for him:

Captain Chicken Rice


Unknown said...

Thanks for recipe. I will want to try it.may I ask how heavy

is the chicken?