Hainanese Chicken Rice
Note: Longgg post ahead with detailed tips and photos, or you can skip right to the printable recipe via the ‘Get Recipe’ button on the photos.
This is the recipe for the “white chicken” version (白雞) of Hainanese chicken rice (海南鸡饭), one of Singapore’s most famous hawker dish. Actually this “national dish” is not exclusive to Singapore – you can find good Hainanese chicken rice in other parts of South East Asia (such as in Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam). I think our standard here is pretty good though!
And maybe that’s because there are just so many chicken rice stalls here – you can literally find a chicken rice stall everywhere here at almost every hawker center aisle, food court, coffee shop and eating corner.
- Chicken Rice Chilli Sauce Recipe
- Chicken Rice Ginger Sauce Recipe
- How to Carve and De-bone a Whole Chicken
I’m really picky about my chicken rice! My ultimate favourite chicken rice stall in Singapore is the one at the Beach Road “Army market” – so perfect in taste, affordable and great service even after all these years. So honestly my home version will never be as good as the one at Army market, but it is yummy in its own way, with a very nice home-cooked flavour to it.
And the home-cooked version is also quite cheap to make as you can buy a whole kampong chicken (about S$10) and cook for a family of four or more. Read this page for photos and tips on making authentic Hainanese chicken rice, and the next page for the printable recipe.
- The authentic Hainanese way of cooking the chicken is by poaching (seeping the chicken in hot water), NOT steamed or boiled or any other way. However, there is nothing wrong if you choose to steam or boil the chicken in your home-cooked version. My mum cooks chicken rice by steaming the chicken and it tastes awesome, just not authentic XD
- How to cook the chicken: Seep the chicken inside a pot of hot water (rapidly boiled then heat turned off). After that, dip the chicken in a large bowl of ice water for a few minutes to cool the chicken. Then the stock is reheated back to boiling, turn off the heat, and return the chicken back to the pot to seep. Repeat the process a few times until chicken is cooked. Don’t worry, the chicken will be nicely cooked as long as you reheat the broth before seeping the chicken during each interval.
- The hawkers use a S hook to effortlessly take the chicken in and out of the pot. For me, I use a very sturdy and traditional Chinese spider strainer (see picture) to do the job.
- Instead of measuring the water, it should just be enough to cover the chicken completely. There is no direct heat so you don’t have to compensate for water lost through simmering (evaporation). Use a pot with just the right size for fitting the chicken, so that you use as minimal water as possible (and the broth will be richer).
- Do not over-stuff the cavity; it should only be about half-filled to allow space and ventilation within the cavity.
- The good thing about cooking the chicken this way is that it is not over-cooked and juicy. Also, the broth is quite clear and mild compared to other methods of cooking, which is the very signature Hainanese chicken rice soup taste/look you will not get from other methods of cooking the chicken.
- If you are cooking another chicken in the next 2-3 days, you can re-use the chicken broth (kept in a glass jar refrigerated). If not, just use the leftover broth as a base (in place of plain water) for cooking other Chinese soups.
- And above is my simple kitchen set-up for cooking the chicken.
Tips for making flavourful chicken rice
- Delicious chicken rice must be oily and fragrant. To achieve this, you need chicken skin to make rendered chicken fat (oil)! The more, the better! Some time back, I saw Sheng Siong at Bedok Interchange selling chicken skin. Other than that, it’s rarer than the blue moon to see supermarkets selling chicken skin. My instagram friend received a weird look from the NTUC auntie just for asking >_< You can try asking the wet market stalls to save the skin for you if you’re a regular. For me, I gathered and freeze the skin from chicken drumstick/thighs until I have enough to make chicken rice. The skinless chicken is ideal for brewing Chinese soup. The chicken skin makes a world of difference in the flavour of the rice.
- Since the chicken broth from poaching the chicken is quite mild in the home-cooked version (commercial stalls re-use the stock several times to cook multiple chickens), you may want to season the rice with some chicken seasoning powder (optional) if you really want that signature rich chicken flavour that you are used to.
Hainanese Chicken Rice Sauces (Condiments)
- Chicken Rice Chilli Sauce Recipe: click here for more tips and photos
- Chicken Rice Ginger Sauce Recipe: click here for more tips and photos
Cutting and serving boneless chicken
How to carve the chicken and serve it boneless, after it is cooked – click the tutorial here
I have really bad knife skills! But the tutorial should be sufficient even for a noob cook like me to do a decent job carving out boneless chicken after it is cooked.