This dish brings back a lot of memories. I grew up in Singapore, spent five years of my early childhood there, living in the sticky, humid, tropical climate of the city-state. Almost all of my memories of living there revolve around the amazing cuisine of Singapore. One in particular is this dish: Hainanese Chicken Rice. Without getting into the historical narrative of this dish, let me first say that this recipe is from an old family friend. Aside from eating plates and plates of this in Hawker Stalls across the city, our family would always have this at our friend’s home. Thanks to Auntie Lisze for sharing this recipe to me. This dish lies in three parts: poached chicken with a very supple and taut skin, rice cooked in chicken fat/broth, and the sauces.
Chicken (Depending on your preference and skill, you could poach a whole chicken, I prefer using pre-cut pieces such as bone-in skin on chicken thighs or leg quarters).
Scallions (You’ll need at least 4-5 bunches)
Ginger (One root maybe two is fine)
Shallots (A bunch)
Garlic (One head will be fine)
Chilies (Recommend Asian pepper varieties such as Birds Eye)
Cooking this meal can take as much as two hours, due to the poaching time as well as the rice cooking time. While doable in one go, I recommend making the chicken the night before, that way all you have left to do is make the rice the night of. Hainanese Chicken can be eaten chilled and in fact, most places in Singapore do serve it at room temperature or cooler.
Preparing & Poaching the Chicken
Step 1: In order to have the wonderful supple and taut skin, you must exfoliate the chicken skin. Simply salt the chicken with coarse salt and rub vigorously and massage the skin. Be careful not to tear the skin.
Step 2: Prepare the poaching liquid, cut three to four pieces of ginger into 1-in slices, crush one to two cloves of garlic, and place three to four sprigs of scallions into a deep pot with water. (Alternatively, if you are doing this with whole chicken, stuff all the aromatics into the chicken’s cavity)
Step 3: When the water comes to boil, add the chickens into broth, make sure you have enough water to fully cover the chickens. Have the broth come to boil for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove from heat and cover for 25 minutes.
Step 4: After 25 minutes, remove the chicken and place in ice cold water to stop the cooking process, once it has chilled, remove and set aside. If you’re making the chicken ahead of time, set aside and place in refrigerator.
Step 5: At this point, you’re also going to one to skim and remove the chicken fat from the broth. DO NOT DISCARD, save the fat for the rice and sauce, as well as for future usage. Chicken fat is an amazing ingredient that can be used to add subtle flavors to most dishes!
Cooking the Rice
Step 1: In order to have extremely fragrant and flavorful rice, we will cook aromatics as well as chicken fat into the grains before steaming it. Wash the rice (as much as you need), and set aside.
Step 2: Mince three to four pieces of 1-in ginger as well as three to four cloves of garlic, and three to four bulbs of shallots (feel free to upscale as you add more rice. I would say this is typically enough for two to three cups of rice). Fry the aromatics in some of the chicken fat that you have saved. It should smell really really nice. Season well with salt and pepper. MAKE SURE to not let your aromatics burn. Once they’re nicely browned, add your rice.
Step 3: Stir fry your rice grains until translucent before returning your rice into your pot (or rice cooker), and instead of cooking the rice with water, add in the poaching broth. Once finished, make sure to froth up the rice.
Step 1: Slice one bunch of scallions into small rings (1/4-1/2 an inch), two cloves of garlic, and grate half a ginger root. Add a good amount of coarse grain salt and some pepper.
Step 2: Heat up a some chicken fat and some neutral high smoke point oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed) in a saucepan. You’ll just want enough to cover the dry ingredients in your bowl. Quick way to tell when its done: drop one piece of the scallion into the oil. If it boils/fries rapidly, that means its ready.
Step 3: BE CAREFUL, but pour hot oil into the bowl with your dry ingredients. IT WILL SPLATTER, but the hot oil is essentially flash frying and melting the salt very rapidly. Mix well and taste. If its too salty, add a bit of sugar. You should have a thick oily consistency. This sauce lasts for about a week in the fridge, and goes down well with rice and chicken. I usually make a lot of this and freeze it because it’s sooo freaking good.
Soy Sauce-Chili Sesame Oil Sauce
Step 1: Chop one or two Birds Eye chilies. Remember not to touch your face.
Step 2: Heat up some soy sauce (light soy sauce if you have it), and sesame oil in a sauce pan.
Step 3: Add some sugar and chopped chilies into a bowl, pour one a little bit of hot chicken broth into the bowl (not a lot, maybe like half a ladle), and then add the soy sauce and sesame oil mixture into the bowl as well. This sauce should be savory, sweet and a bit spicy. It’s great to dip your chicken in, or add it onto the rice as well.
Step 1: Remove any scallions, ginger, garlic, etc from the broth. Taste for seasoning, you will probably need some salt.
Step 2: Finely dice one stalk of celery and add into the broth, as well as one stalk of scallions. Serve with some Fried Shallots on top.
There won’t be any specific steps at this point, since this is all up to you, but here are some recommendations.
1) Cut your chicken parts, if you have a cleaver, now is the time to be brave and break that out, use a considerable amount of force (DON’T HURT YOURSELF), and aim well. Don’t worry if you don’t break through, simple use your other hand and smack that top of the cleaver, that should allow you to break through cleanly.
2) Arrange the chicken over some sliced cucumbers
3) Make a similar sauce to the Soy Sauce Chili above, minus the chilies. When you have this sauce, you will pour it onto the chicken as you’re serving.
4) Grab a large plate and a small bowl. Spoon out some rice into the bowl and pack it down gently. Invert bowl onto plate to create a nice beautiful mound of rice. Add fried scallions and some cucumbers!
I hope you like this recipe, please feel free to comment below with any successes or additional questions!