I confess that I’m a serious Hainanese chicken rice fan. The last time I was in Singapore, much of the additional poundage I put on during the trip was due to the scrumptious, generously portioned chicken rice purchased at an Orchard Road hawker center and devoured with impunity in the privacy of my hotel room. There is just something about the tasty, tender, broth-poached chicken served over savory rice cooked with spring onions in chicken broth that made it utterly irresistible. Dabbed with thick soy sauce or a fresh chili sambal, then dipped into a moreish mix of spring onions, ginger, and sesame oil, and this simple, subtle dish becomes sublime. The rice also goes well with crisp-skinned roast duck or fat-layered crispy fried pork belly, but, again, I digress…
I’ve made this dish at home several times already, but didn’t get a recipe I was totally happy with until this weekend when a teary-eyed afternoon spent watching the visually scrumptious Japanese film Rinco’s Restaurant on the Screen RED channel pretty much inspired me to cook something simple yet filling and heartening for my family even if I myself was in the depths of yet another bout of low spirits.
It was, I am pleased to say, a decision that I don’t regret making.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
For the chicken:
- 1 whole chicken, patted down with paper towels till dry
- 2 tablespoons rock salt
- 4 1/4-inch slices root ginger, peeled
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 small onion, peeled and quartered
- 2 chicken bouillon cubes
- 4 spring onions, quartered
- 1-1/2 tablespoons sesame oil.
For the rice:
- 2 cups uncooked rice
- 1 onion, peeled and minced
- 1 tablespoon cooking oil
- 1 clove garlic, peeled, crushed, and minced
- 2 spring onions, chopped finely
Rub 1 tablespoon of the salt over the chicken to remove any impurities. Rinse well and pat dry. Rub the surface and the body cavity with the remaining salt and stuff the onion, garlic, spring onions, and ginger into the cavity. Truss the drumsticks together with some thread.
Place the chicken in a large saucepan or stock pot with the bouillon cubes. Pour in enough water to cover. Place pot over medium heat and stir to dissolve the bouillon cubes. Bring to a rolling boil, then bring the heat down low and leave to simmer for 25 – 30 minutes. Remove from heat. Take the chicken out and immediately dip into a large bowl filled with iced water. Reserve the broth.
Wash the rice and drain well in a sieve. In a wok, saute the onion, garlic, and the white part of the remaining spring onions in oil. Add the rice and stir until the grains are well-coated by the onion mixture. Transfer the rice to the cooking chamber of a rice cooker and pour in the reserved broth to about an inch over the surface of the rice. Switch on the rice cooker and leave it be till it’s done.
Remove the chicken from the iced water and pat dry. Rub all over with the sesame oil. Carve and arrange on a serving platter. If desired, sprinkle over some minced spring onions over the chopped chicken. Serve with the rice and some sliced cucumbers and tomatoes. Serve the remaining broth in bowls to go with the meal and offer the following dips: soy sauce mixed with a bit of lemon or calamansi juice, a fresh chili sambal, or some minced ginger and spring onions mixed into a tablespoon of sesame oil.