I travel for two things – for the beach and the food. When in one crazy moment of spontaneity and boredom, a friend suggested we go to Singapore, I knew I would not be traveling for the beach. Since I will not be hitting two birds with one stone this time, I prepared to hit a bigger bird. I searched the web, read blogs after blogs on places to eat, foods to try and treats to take home. I boarded a plane to Singapore with a page long list, which on the flight back was marked “mission accomplished”.
Singapore probably is best symbolized by one of its popular dishes, the “steam boat”, a hot pot of broth with a mixture of meat and dim sum and noodles and probably everything else you want. Its culture and cuisine is so diverse and complex. I take my hat off on The Chinese, Malaysian, Indian and British influences of the country that created one of the best dishes and I’ve ever had my entire life.
So, what is Hainanese Chicken Rice?
Hainanese Chicken Rice, as the name implies, a dish originally from China, the northeast province of Hainan, is considered Singapore’s national dish. It is served in hawkers, food courts and restaurants. The dish is originally prepared by boiling the entire chicken, repeatedly, in chicken stock. The rice is cooked in another pan of stock to produce the characteristic oiliness. Modernity allowed for different variations of the dish, making its preparation more convenient.
Here’s what you will need:
FOR THE CHICKEN
- 1 whole chicken (around 1.75 – 2 kg), preferably free range
- kosher salt
- fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
- 2 stalks green onions, cut into 1″ sections
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- Ice bath
FOR THE RICE
- chicken fat (taken from the whole chicken before poaching) or 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, finely minced
- 2 cups long-grain uncooked rice, washed and soaked in water for 10 min
- 2 cups chicken stock (broth reserved from poaching chicken)
- 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
FOR THE CHILI SAUCE
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
- 2 tablespoon chicken stock
- 2 teaspoon sugar
- 4 tablespoon red chili, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic
- 1” ginger
- pinch of salt, to taste
- 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
- Few sprigs cilantro
- 1 cucumber, thinly sliced
Prepare the chicken for poaching.
- Rinse whole chicken. Rub kosher salt on the skin and inside. Rinse off the scrubbed fragments and the salt from the chicken.
- Rub salt (yes, again!) on the inside of chicken and Stuff with ginger and spring onions.
- Place in a pot and fill pot with water until chicken is entirely covered.
- Add salt to the water, amount twice of what you usually use for chicken.
- Set pot on low heat and let cook for 30-40 minutes. Check the chicken for tenderness by inserting a toothpick through the meat under the leg.
- When done, turn off the heat and remove the pot from the burner. Lift the chicken by putting two large spoons or prongs underneath entire chicken, and transfer it to an ice bath. Reserve the chicken stock.
- Lift off ice bath and rub outside with sesame oil. Carve for service.
Prepare the rice
- In a saucepan, heat the chicken fat or 2 tbsp. sesame oil over medium high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and stir until garlic is golden brown.
- Add in drained rice and stir to coat,
- Add 2 cups of reserved chicken stock and salt. Bring mixture to a boil and immediately turn to low heat. Cover pot and leave to cook for 10-15 minutes.
Prepare chili sauce
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree into a smooth and bright red paste.
Heat up remaining chicken broth, season with salt if necessary prior to service.
Serve carved chicken on top of rice with dark soy sauce, cucumber slices and bowls of broth.
I ate Hainanese Chicken Rice everyday when I was in Singapore. It kept me going back to the hawker stalls when I was there and it will keep me going back to the country for years. Until then, this recipe will surely keep your family and guests going back for seconds and thirds.