Wednesday, June 2, 2010
Hainan Chicken Rice
There were a few "stall"-like restaurants across, and down the road from the hotel we always stayed at, Rasa Sayang; but there was just something extra special about going into Georgetown.
Was it the tropic stickiness of the humidity and heat meets asphalt? The crowds? The shopping in the little stores? Or just simply the adventure? I don't know, but what I do know is that the taste of the Hainan Chicken Rice was extra special; and was a taste that lasted with me long after we had returned back to Hong Kong.
One of my favourite channels on TV is the Travel Channel, and I do enjoy watching Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations". One one particular journey, Anthony made his way to Singapore and there he enjoyed a plate of Hainan Chicken Rice. Suddenly the memories of my past came flooding back and my stomach began to sing its tune; and I knew that meant that I had to make a trip to the Asian market to gather my "supplies".
This is not a difficult dish to prepare, neither is it time consuming. But when you sit down to eat this tasty dish, you will see just how worthwhile it the time and effort truly was. The ONLY thing missing from this recipe is the sweaty heat of the Penang Dau Pai Dong (street vendors), the spicy and sweaty scents... Ahhhh... How much I miss Asia!
NOTE: I did not use Pandan leaves, I could not find it in our local supermarket, but I will search another market for the next time I make this and see if I can find it there. But because it is optional, I did not stress out if I could not find it or use it.
1 whole chicken [2½-3 lbs]
5-6 stalks fresh scallions
6 inch fresh ginger, peeled, cut into thick slices
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
2 additional stalks fresh scallions, chopped, for garnish [optional]
1 seedless cucumber, peeled, halved and sliced diagonally
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro, for garnishing
½ tsp white peppercorns
Ingredients for Chicken rice :
3 cups long grained rice, washed and drained
1 tbsp chopped garlic
2 tsp salt
2½ tbsp chicken fat or vegetable oil
6 cups, or more, chicken broth [from the cooking broth]
6 pandan leaves [screwpine leaves] [optional]
Ingredients for Special Chili Dipping Sauce :
1 tbsp kaffir lime juice [Substitute: lime or lemon juice]
1½-2 tbsp chicken broth [from the cooking broth]
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp hot chili sauce
4 cloves garlic, finely ground or mashed
1 inch ginger, finely ground or grated
To Prepare Special Chili Dipping Sauce :
1. Mix hot chili sauce with lime juice, sugar, garlic, ginger, chicken broth [spooning some of the chicken fat oil] and salt to taste****
2. Pour chili sauce into small condiment dishes, for each individual serving
To Prepare Chicken :
1. Cut off any excess fat, reserve for using to cook rice, wash chicken, drain well, stuff ginger slices and scallions stalks into the cavity of the chicken
2. In a large stockpot, add sufficient water [to cover the chicken], white peppercorns and about 2 tbsp salt, bring to a boil*
3. Submerge the whole chicken, breast-side down in the boiling water, and immediately reducing the heat to a slow poach**
4. Cover, poach chicken for about 45-50 mins, [check to make sure the water does not 'boil' the chicken]
5. When chicken is cooked, remove and plunge immediately into a bath of icy cold water, submerging the chicken for about 10 mins
6. Remove chicken from the ice bath, discard ginger slices and scallion stalks from the cavity, drain the chicken well, set aside - meanwhile cook the chicken rice
7. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, cut it neatly into serving size pieces [de-bone chicken, if you prefer]
To Prepare Chicken Rice :
1. Wash rice till water runs clear, drain well
2. Heat wok on high, add the reserved chicken fat, render into an oil to about 2½ tbsp [add vegetable oil if chicken fat oil is insufficient ]
3. Add chopped garlic, stir-fry for a few seconds
4. Add the raw rice, stir-fry till the rice grains start to look translucent, about 8-10 mins
5. Transfer rice to a pot, add 6 cups chicken broth, salt and pandan leaves [*Note: depending on the type of rice, use more or less of the chicken broth]***
6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer uncovered, until the chicken broth is absorbed by the rice [small 'bubble' holes start to appear on the rice]
7. Reduce heat to very low, cover the rice with a tight-fitting lid, cook for a further 10-12 mins
8. Turn off heat, DO NOT open the cover, wait for 10 mins before opening [steam inside will gently finish steaming the rice]
9. Fluff up the rice with a fork [If rice is not fully cook, simply add a little chicken broth, cover and steam on very low heat for another 5 mins or so]
Alternatively, 'fry' the raw rice in a wok until translucent, then transfer into an electric rice cooker and add sufficient chicken broth to cook
Any leftover chicken broth after making the rice, can be served as a small side soup, garnished with some chopped cilantro
10. Line a serving platter with cucumber slices, arrange chicken pieces on top, sprinkle with soy sauce, sesame oil, and garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro sprigs
A good friend of mine gave me this suggestion in addition to the chili sauce, which is also served with the chicken, and that is a ginger sauce. "I made a ginger scallion sauce by mixing some grated ginger, scallions (green parts only) sliced paper thin, a pinch of salt and a dash of sesame oil. This was great with the chicken and also just mixed in with the rice." <-- Thanks Alison.
Serve Hainan chicken [usually served at room temperature] with chicken rice, side soup - and special chili dipping sauce!
* When I boiled the water to which I added the chicken, instead of just putting in salt, I put in 5 tsp of chicken powder and 2 tsp of salt.
** I added an onion (cut in half) under the skin of the chicken between the breast and the legs to give it more flavour.
***Also, when I made the rice, instead of just adding salt to the soup, I added more chicken powder and a tad of salt... just to flavour it more.
****Then, when I made the chili sauce (which was incredible BTW), I ended up using 6 cloves of garlic, and only because two of the cloves were "twins", and then I grated them all. I added a bit more lemon juice and about 3 tsp of sugar instead of only 2. I like the sauce just a bit more "sour/sweet" and of course it cut the heat just a bit more.
I enjoy eating very hot, and generally eat SriRacha sauce with most things I cook, but my husband did find the chili sauce a bit too hot for him, although the flavour was REALLY good.
So, if you are not big on spicy hot, you can add more sugar and lemon, and just use a little bit of the sauce.