Thai chicken rice, or khao man gai, is similar to Hainan chicken rice in that it's a complete meal: when you order it, you get chicken, rice and a clear broth made from the bones of the bird. The difference between the two is in the accompanying dipping sauce. Hainan chicken rice is served with a trio of sauces: ginger, chilli and sweetened soy sauce. Khao man gai comes with only one, which is tangy and on the edge of being too spicy.
In Thailand, khao man gai shops display a row of cooked chickens on hooks, all ready to be taken down and cut into pieces. Like Hainan chicken rice, the chicken is served at room temperature, not hot.
The quality of the chicken is of the utmost importance. Ideally, use a fresh chicken, because frozen birds have flabby, tasteless meat. And don’t buy a chicken that's too large, or it will take too long to cook. If it's much larger than 1.2kg (42oz), separate the drumsticks and thighs at the joint and cut the bone-in breast into two pieces, instead of cooking the legs and breasts whole.
This recipe uses a different technique to the one used at restaurants, where the birds are cooked whole. Here, the chicken is cut up and the carcass and bony parts are simmered to make the broth that is used to cook the rice, and also served as part of the meal. The legs, breasts and wings are placed on top of the rice in the rice cooker to add flavour to the grains.
Thai yellow bean sauce, also called soybean paste, comes in bottles – some with a lot of solids and others with most of the fermented soybeans strained out; either is fine. Kecap manis, or Indonesian sweetened soy sauce, can be substituted for the Thai sweet soy sauce.
If you can't find bird's-eye chillies, substitute another small, hot chilli, such as serrano. Pandan leaves give a wonderful fragrance to the rice, but if you can't find them, leave them out.
Put the long-grain and glutinous rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water, until the water is almost clear. Drain through a fine-mesh colander shaking off as much water as possible. Leave to air-dry, occasionally stirring the rice, while preparing the other ingredients.
Separate the chicken into parts. Pull out the lumps of fat from the cavity and put them in a small pan. Chop off the neck as close as possible to the body, then remove the legs (thigh and drumstick) and wings. Use kitchen shears to cut off the bone-in breasts in one piece. Cut off the tail and place in the pan with the fat. Cut off the wing tips.
Make the broth. Put the bony pieces – neck (head discarded, if you like), carcass and wing tips – in a pan. Lightly crush the ginger with the side of a cleaver or a sturdy chef’s knife. Put the ginger, spring onions and garlic cloves in the pan and add 2.25 litres (2 quarts and 1 cup) of water and 10g (2tsp) of salt. Bring to a boil over a high flame, partially cover the pan with the lid, then lower the flame and simmer for 45 minutes.
Render the chicken fat. Add about 30ml (2tbsp) of water to the pan holding the fat and tail. Place the pan over a medium-low flame. When the water starts to simmer, lower the flame and cook until the fat liquefies. Remove the solids from the pan.
Make the sauce. Roughly chop the palm sugar, ginger, garlic, coriander roots and chillies then put them in a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender). Chop the ingredients to a rough paste, then add the yellow bean sauce, sweet soy sauce, vinegar and lime juice. Blend to a rough purée then taste for seasonings and correct, if necessary. Add about 25ml (5tsp) of hot water (or some of the simmering chicken broth) to thin out the ingredients to a dipping sauce consistency.
Pour 25g (5tsp) of the rendered chicken fat into a skillet and heat over a medium flame. Add the rice and 1½ tsp of salt. Stir constantly until the rice grains are coated with the fat, then transfer to a rice cooker. Cut the pandan leaves into 10cm (4in) lengths, tie them into a knot and add them to the rice. Add 520ml (2 cups and 4tsp) of the chicken broth to the rice cooker.
Place the whole chicken legs, the whole bone-in breast and the wings into the rice cooker, on top of the rice. Turn on the rice cooker and let the ingredients steam until done. (If you don't have a rice cooker, place the chicken pieces in one layer on top of the rice and broth in a large pan, cover with the lid and bring to the boil. Lower the flame and simmer until the rice and chicken are cooked, about 20 minutes.)
Cut the daikon and carrot into two-bite chunks and add them to the remaining chicken broth. Simmer until tender.
When the rice and chicken are done, remove the chicken from the cooker, then close the lid so the rice stays hot. Allow the chicken to cool for about 10 minutes. Separate the breast meat from the bone and slice against the grain. Separate the drumstick from the thigh, then remove the bones and slice the meat. Separate the drumette from the middle joint of the wing.
Put some of the rice in a rice bowl, packing it in gently. Invert a dinner plate over the rice bowl then hold the two tightly together and flip them over. Lift off the rice bowl so there’s a mound of rice on the plate. Repeat with another two or three plates.
Divide the chicken and sliced cucumber between the plates. Spoon the sauce into small individual bowls
Taste the chicken soup and add salt, if necessary. Stir several fresh coriander sprigs into the soup before ladling it into the bowls and serving with the chicken, rice and sauce.