How to make Hainan chicken rice
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How to make Hainan chicken rice


Susan says

If you were go to to Hainan island in southern China and ask for Hainan chicken rice, cooks there would probably roll their eyes. Hainan chicken rice isn't called that there, and it's not served the way we've come to expect it: poached chicken served with rice that's been cooked with the chicken broth and served with a trio of sauces. Hainan chicken rice as we know it actually has its claim to fame in Malaysia and Singapore.

Use only a fresh chicken for this dish, because a frozen and/or battery-raised chickens will result in a dish that has meat that's too soft and without flavour.

1, about 1.5kg (3lb 5oz)
garlic cloves, peeled
peeled ginger slices
spring onion
15ml (1tbsp)
sesame oil
For the rice
30g (2tbsp)
fat rendered from the chicken
600g (21oz)
long-grain rice
garlic cloves, peeled
2cm (⅞in)
knob of ginger, peeled
shallots, peeled
pandan leaves
fine sea salt, as necessary
750ml (3 cups)
broth used to cook the chicken
For the ginger sauce
4cm (1½in)
knob of peeled ginger
30ml (2tbsp)
cooking oil
30ml (2 tbsp)
broth used to cook the chicken
For the sambal
large red banana chillies, or another type of long, mild chilli
red bird's-eye chillies, or another type of small, hot chilli, such as serrano
garlic clove, peeled
1 thin slice
peeled ginger
½tsp,or to taste
granulated sugar
25ml (5tsp)
broth used to cook the chicken
fresh lime juice, to taste
To serve
kecap manis (thick sweet soy sauce)
sliced cucumber
sprigs of fresh coriander

Rinse the rice in several changes of water until the water is almost clear. Drain in a colander, then spread it out on a baking tray to dry.


Separate the chicken into parts. Chop off the tail and pull out the excess fat from the cavity of the bird and put the pieces into a small pot. Cut off the wing tips and put them in a large pot. Chop off the head and neck, cutting as close as possible to the body, and put them into the large pot (if you like, you can remove and discard the head). Detach the wings (drumette and middle joint) and legs (thigh and drumstick) from the body and put them in a bowl. Use poultry shears to cut the bone-in breast from the rest of the body; put the breast (in one piece) in the bowl and put the remaining body in the large pot.


Pour 2.5 litres (2 1/2 quarts) of water into the large pot holding the bony pieces of chicken and add the garlic, ginger, spring onion and one teaspoon of salt. Bring to the boil over a medium-high flame then cover the pot with the lid, lower the heat and cook at a low simmer for 30 minutes.


Sprinkle salt over the chicken in the bowl and rub it into the pieces. Rinse thoroughly then drain. Put the wings, legs and breast into the pot of simmering broth and bring to the boil over a medium-high flame. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered for five minutes, then turn off the flame, cover the pot with the lid and leave to poach for 15 minutes.


While the chicken is poaching, render the chicken fat. Pour about 30ml (2 tbsp) of water into the small pan holding the chicken tail and fat. Place over a medium flame and cook until the water boils. Lower the flame and cook until the water evaporates and the fat liquifies. Turn off the heat.


Pour cold water into a large bowl and add lots of ice cubes. After the chicken has poached for 15 minutes, carefully remove the wings, legs and breasts, put them into the bowl of ice water and leave for five minutes. Take the pieces from the bowl and pat them dry with paper towels. Drizzle sesame oil over the chicken and rub it over the entire surface of the pieces. Set aside while preparing the other elements of the dish.


Cook the rice. Mince the garlic, ginger and shallots. Pour 30 grams (2 tbsp) of the rendered chicken fat into a skillet (if there's not enough fat, add some lard or oil). Heat the skillet over a medium-low flame and add the garlic, ginger and shallot. Stir frequently and cook until the ingredients soften, then add the rice. Stir until the grains are coated with the fat, then continue to cook for about a minute, stirring constantly. Mix in two teaspoons of salt, then transfer the ingredients to a rice cooker. Rinse the pandan leaves then cut them into shorter lengths. Tie the pandan pieces into a knot and add them to the cooker, then pour in 750ml (3 cups) of broth. Turn on the rice cooker and steam until the rice is done.


Make the ginger sauce. Thinly slice the ginger then put it into a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender) and add the oil and chicken broth. Process until the ginger is a puree, then season to taste with salt. Transfer to a bowl.


To make the sambal, roughly chop the banana and bird's eye chillies, the garlic and ginger, and put them into a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender). Process to a rough paste, then add the sugar, chicken stock, lime juice and salt to taste. Process until combined. If necessary, add more chicken broth to thin the sambal to a sauce consistency, then transfer to a bowl.


Remove the breasts from the breastbone and slice the meat against the grain. Separate the drumstick from the thigh then cut into thick pieces through the bone. Separate the drumette from the middle joint of the wing. Place the pieces on a serving platter or on individual plates and garnish with sliced cucumber and coriander sprigs.


Heat the remaining chicken broth until boiling, then season to taste with salt. Ladle into individual serving bowls then drizzle each portion with a little sesame oil. 


Pour some kecap manis into a serving bowl. Serve the chicken with the rice, and the ginger sauce, sambal and kecap manis in small single-serving saucers.


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