Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯 - "Malaysian Monday 69"

Based on a classic Hainanese dish named wenchang chicken (文昌雞, wen chang ji); Hainanese chicken rice  or simply known as chicken rice was brought to Southeast Asia by Hainanese migrants seeking a better life at the turn of the 20th century and it is now a popular everyday dish in Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand (check out my post on the Thai version - khao mun gai).

As a child I preferred the roast chicken version as I didn't quite understand the appeal of the not overly attractive pale poached bird. It may not be the most seductive looking dish on the block (sadly study in beige is not a good look for anyone of  us or the food we serve) but what it lacks in the look department is fully compensated by its taste and aroma - fortunately I did find that out later on in my life.

To me this is a truly sophisticated dish that utilized every part of the humble chicken. No fancy kitchen gadgets or hard to get ingredients are needed to reproduce this classic dish at home. Get the best chicken you can afford and follow a few golden rules and you will be making the best chicken rice time and time again.

P.S Hainan Island (海南島) is a subtropical island in southern China. Today this once sleepy backwater is better know as Hawaii of China with its luxury hotels and million dollar properties.

serves 4 to 6 as a one dish meal
you'll need;
1 free range chicken, excess fat removed and reserved
5cm piece of ginger, bashed
2 spring onions
1 head of garlic
1 tsp of pepper
enough water to cover the chicken
salt to taste
2 spring onion, cut into 5cm lengths and sliced finely lengthwise
blanched lettuce to serve
garlic oil
light soy
cucumber slices to serve

for the chili sauce;
2 long red chillies
6 bird chillies
4 garlic cloves
juice of 1 lime
1 tbs of sugar
2 tbs of light soy

for the ginger and spring onion sauce;
5 cm knob of ginger
2 spring onions, chopped
salt to taste
dash of sesame oil
4 tbs of stock

for the rice;
reserved chicken skin and fat
2 cups of jasmine rice, washed, rinsed and drained well
2 pandan leaves, knotted
pinch of salt
4 cups of chicken stock

Remove excess fat from the chicken and cut into cubes, rub salt all over the chicken and stuff its cavity with ginger, spring onions and garlic.

Place chicken in a pot together with the rest of the aromatic, cooking wine and seasonings. Pour enough water to fully submerge the bird. 
Method 1 - Bring it to a boil then turn it down to simmer for 10 minutes before turning off the heat, cover and let the chicken steep in the hot stock for 2.5 hours. Do not attempt to open the lid before the time is up. 
Method 2 - Bring it to a boil for 2 minutes, reduce the heat to a bare simmer, cover and cook for 25 to 30 minutes. Do not attempt to open the lid throughout the cooking time.
*Reserve the stock and check for seasonings, you will need this for the rice, ginger sauce and the broth.

While the chicken is poaching, prepare the chili sauce by mixing all ingredients in a blender. For the ginger sauce, blend ginger with in a blender then add in the rest of the ingredients. Check for seasoning for both the sauces.

When the time is up remove chicken and rub some oil all over the chicken, place the chicken in the fridge until needed. If chicken is cooked using method 2, immerse chicken in a basin of iced water for 5 to 10 minutes. Remove and rub with oil. 

To prepare the chicken rice - place the reserved chicken skin and fat in a pot and slowly render out the fat.

Remove the solids and add the drained rice to the fat. Fry rice in the fat for a minute or two, making sure all the grains are well coated with the fragrant fat. Some cooks may add a little butter or margarine to make it even richer both in taste and colour.

Transfer rice to a rice cooker, add stock, a pinch of salt and the knotted pandan leaves to the pot. Cook as you would with normal rice.

Remove bones and cut the tender and juicy chicken into manageable slices. 

Place chicken on top of some blanched lettuce, drizzle with some garlic oil and light soy, some spring onion and cucumber slices. Serve with the fragrant chicken rice, sauces and a bowl of chicken broth. 

Or one may serve the dish ala hawker style - simply place the chopped chicken on top of some of the fragrant chicken rice and serve with the sauces and a bowl of chicken broth.

My friend Sharon from Test With Skewer is hosting the first event of the year, please send all your entries to its.sharon@gmail.com
To find out more about the event and on how to enter, please click HERE.


  1. We had your roast chicken version twice last week, it looks like this is next :)

  2. Best place I've had this was in Singapore in a small family restaurant. Awesome.

  3. I was introduced to chicken rice when I was in KL last year. It wasn't love at first sight but I am now a big fan!

  4. God I love this stuff so much. Pure comfort food, especially with the broth on the side.

  5. It took me a while to get use to eating the the poached chicken with the skin on but now I can't have enough of it. Thanks for the very detailed recipe!

  6. I like how you served your chicken rice with some blanched lettuce, making it a more balanced meal. The chicken looks very juicy and tender btw!

  7. ingin mencuba nasi ayam hainan ni tapi anak anak tak berapa suka.Ayam yang direbus begini sangat sihat dimakan...

    wahh.. pulau Hainan dah jadi Hawaii of China?mungkin satu hari nanti kami akan melancung ke sana hehe(berangan)..Gong Xi Fa Cai & Happy New Year to all the Tummies:)

  8. In fact, I cook this chicken rice for dinner today, your definitely look better than me, hehehe ..Gong Xi Fa Cai!

  9. I am so happy to read this. This is the type of manual that needs to be given and not the random misinformation that's at the other blogs. Appreciate your sharing this greatest doc.
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  10. Not everyone can provide information with proper flow. Good post. I am going to save the URL and will definitely visit again.

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  12. How do you make the soya sauce concoction that is drizzle over the chicken?

  13. the soy sauce concoction drizzled over the chicken or rice is the premium dark soy sauce available at supermarket. it is very thick. so thick that my son dropped the saucer with the soy sauce and it did a 360 after hitting the floor and none of the sauce came off the saucer.


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