I think every Malaysian (and probably Singaporean) person has a version of this dish. We grew up eating this and I know that my mum has her own recipe, as does my dad, as do my siblings. As well as this, different regions have different ways of preparing and serving chicken rice.
This is my version for when I feel like making what I call the “full flavour” dish (yes, that means full fat). I’ve adapted it from lots of different recipes (including my parents, ones I’ve found online and Rick Stein’s version, funnily enough). It takes a little while but is really worth the effort – fragrant, tender chicken with flavourful, slippery grains of rice. I’ve included the condiments that I tend to eat with it as well; the ginger and chilli sauce is more traditional, whereas the spring onion oil isn’t (with this dish anyway).
Of course, it’s easily adaptable. You can cook the chicken much faster by cranking up the heat – just don’t expect it to be as tender and moist. You can also make a healthier version by not using the chicken fat to cook the rice – you will just end up with rice which has a very different mouth feel. You can find frozen pandan leaves at Asian supermarkets here in Auckland (you can also get fried shallots there if you can’t be bothered making your own) but this can be omitted if you don’t want to include it. It will still taste good with all of the ginger and garlic! Also, my version has the rice finishing up in a rice cooker, but you can easily cook it up in a pot on the stove. Just cook as you normally would, using the stock instead of water. You may also notice that my recipe has ranges in quantities of the ingredients – this is because it’s really down to personal taste in the end.
If you’re not familiar with this dish, just note that it’s pretty standard for the chicken to be served warm, or pretty close to room temperature (not piping hot). The rice has to be cooked after the chicken to make use of the stock, so your chicken will be hanging out for a bit while you get everything else ready. So if you’re pregnant, perhaps you’ll want to skip this recipe if lukewarm chicken makes you a bit nervous…
Hainanese chicken rice
1 whole chicken, corn fed preferably (size 12 or 14 – about 1.5kg)
2 large knobs of ginger, peeled
4-6 garlic cloves
4 pandan leaves
2 spring onions sesame oil
2 cups jasmine rice
1-2 Tbsp fried shallots
coriander to garnish
cucumber, peeled and cut into slices
Ginger and chilli sauce
1 small knob of ginger, grated
½-1 tsp crushed garlic
2 red chillies, sliced
1-2 tsps vinegar or rice wine vinegar
Spring onion oil
2 spring onions
1 small knob of ginger, grated
2-3 Tbsps vegetable oil
¼ – ½ tsp salt
Clean the chicken and remove any excess fat from around the cavity and neck. Reserve the fat for the rice later. If the chicken skin is rough, rub it with coarse salt and then rinse (like exfoliating!) so that the final product looks nice and smooth. Place one knob of ginger, the garlic cloves, 2 of the pandan leaves and the spring onions into the cavity of the chicken.
Bring a pot of water to the boil (make sure the pot is big enough to fit the chicken into and that you boil enough water to just cover the chicken). Place the chicken inside the pot, bring it almost back to the boil and then leave to simmer very gently for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover and leave for 30 minutes. After this, check that the chicken is cooked and then remove from the pot, brush the skin with sesame oil, cover and set aside. (If your chicken is not fully cooked yet, then simmer it gently for a bit longer – this depends on how big your chicken is!)
Skim the fat from the stock and boil until the flavour has intensified and it has reduced (maybe about 1 litre worth left). Season with salt and white pepper to taste. (For a different tasting soup, you could season with light soy sauce, sesame oil and Chinese rice wine if you wish.) This soup/stock will be used to cook the rice and will also be served with the dish.
For the rice, grate or finely mince the remaining knob of ginger. In a non-stick frying pan, fry the chicken fat on a medium heat until it melts. Add the grated/minced ginger and fry until aromatic. Then add the rice and stir fry for a couple of minutes until the rice is coated with the fat and ginger. Scoop it all into a rice cooker and then ladle in the stock to the level required. Add the remaining pandan leaves and fried shallots, stir everything together and then switch the rice cooker on.
To serve, cut the chicken up and place on a dish. Mix a few tablespoons of the stock with a bit of soy sauce and spoon over the chicken. Garnish with coriander and serve with the rice, soup, cucumber and condiments.
To make the ginger and chilli sauce, pound the ginger, garlic and chillies together in a mortar and pestle with a bit of salt until it is like a paste and then stir in the vinegar. (Alternatively, you could finely chop everything up and mix together with the vinegar, but the consistency will be quite different.)
To make the spring onion oil, finely slice the spring onions, place in a bowl with the ginger, add ¼ tsp salt and then cover with the oil. Microwave on high for 30-60 seconds and then stir. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.