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The Intrepid Eater’s Chicken Rice

The Intrepid Eater's Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice is a famous dish found all over Asia and beyond these days. 

This chicken is poached and is eaten at room temperature with the skin on. Usually un-crispy chicken skin is the last thing you’d ever want to eat, but a series of important steps during the cooking and preparation process leads to a uniquely wonderful texture that’s loved by millions of people. 

There are several slightly different methods to attain the amazing texture of the skin and perfectly juicy meat, but the following recipe is the way I do it; a mix of different techniques from restaurants and around the internet that I’ve combined to make it just how I like it. 

It seems like a pretty plain dish, but the chicken is perfectly cooked, the rice extra rich from the chicken fat and broth, and the sauces are there to cut through the richness and add some brightness to the dish. 

Make sure you get a relatively large, high quality chicken for this dish, not an $8 fryer. You want a well-raised meaty bird for a special dish like this. 

Making this is a fair amount of work, and you have to follow the directions diligently, but it is definitely worth it! 

  • Prep Time1 hr
  • Cook Time1 hr 15 min
  • Total Time2 hr 15 min
  • Ready in3 hrs
  • Yield6 servings

Ingredients

For the Chicken

  • 1 whole 5lb (2kg) chicken
  • 1.5 tablespoons (14g) kosher salt
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) fish sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) MSG (optional)
  • 1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced roughly
  • 2 scallions
  • Cilantro to garnish
  • Cucumbers to serve

For the Rice

  • 2 cups (370g) uncooked jasmine rice
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon (3g) kosher salt
  • 2 pandan leaves (optional)

For the Ginger Scallion Sauce

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) reserved chicken fat
  • 3 scallions, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (12g) fresh ginger, thinly sliced into coins, then sliced into tiny ribbons
  • 1 pinch kosher salt

For the Kecap Manis Sauce

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) Kecap manis (or dark soy sauce + 2 tablespoons (20g) brown sugar)
  • 1/4 cup (60ml) poaching liquid from chicken

For the Spicy Chili Sauce

  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) prepared chili garlic paste or sambal oelek
  • 1 teaspoon (4g) white sugar
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced and smashed into a paste
  • 1 teaspoon (2g) fresh ginger, minced and smashed into a paste
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon (5ml) sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons (30ml) poaching liquid from chicken

Preparation

1

Remove the clumps of fat located inside the main cavity of the chicken under the tail and inside the neck cavity. Chop them up into small pieces and set them aside. 

Rub the chicken roughly with the 1.5 tbsp kosher salt, sprinkling it over the chicken in stages and rubbing it briskly with your hands like you were trying to warm it up. This will translate into the special texture this dish is known for. Discard any salt that falls off in the process. 

2

Put the chicken breast side up into a large pot. 

Add the wine, soy sauce, fish sauce, salt, MSG, ginger, and scallions. Pour in enough cold water to cover the majority of the chicken, except for the very top of the breasts. This helps the breasts not to overcook. 

3

Bring to a boil. Very carefully, using tongs or sturdy large spoons, remove the chicken from the pot and pour the water inside the cavity back into the pot. Bring back to a boil and repeat. 

This ensures that the water inside the chicken doesn’t remain cool. 

Skim off any scum that has gathered on the surface.

Cover the pot and reduce the heat to its lowest setting. Cook for 1 hour. 

4

Meanwhile, add 2 tablespoons (30ml) of water to a non-stick frying pan as well as the chunks of fat that you removed from the chicken. 

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Render the fat for 45 minutes or so while the chicken cooks, stirring every so often. 

Once the chunks have become brown and crispy, remove them (you can enjoy them as a tasty snack with a touch of salt) and set aside 1 tablespoon (5ml) of the rendered fat. Leave the rest in the pan for the time being. 

5

Prepare a large bowl (that will comfortably fit the chicken with extra space) with a few trays worth of ice. 

Once the chicken reads 165°F (74°C) with a temperature gauge poked into the thigh and breast, carefully remove it from the water, dumping out the water in its cavity, and transfer to the bowl of ice (you’ll be keeping the poaching liquid). Fill up the bowl with cold water to cover the chicken. 

Let the chicken rest in the ice bath for 15 minutes, turning it over once. 

Remove and let the chicken come back to room temperature while you prepare the rice and sauces. 

To make the rice

6

Pour the rendered fat (minus the tablespoon you’ve set aside) into a medium pot. 

Add the uncooked rice and the chopped garlic and turn the heat to medium high. 

Toast the rice in the fat for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. 

Add the salt, pandan leaves (if using) and 3.5 cups (880ml) of the chicken poaching liquid.  

Bring to a boil, stirring, then cover and reduce the heat to low. 

Cook for 10 minutes, then take off of the heat and let the pot sit undisturbed for another 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and remove the pandan leaves before serving. 

To make the sauces

7

Ginger Scallion Sauce:

Heat up the reserved chicken fat and vegetable oil in the pan you rendered the fat in (to save dishes) over medium heat. Add the ginger, scallions, and salt and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer into a bowl. 

Kecap Manis Sauce:

Mix the kecap manis with the poaching liquid in a small bowl. 

Spicy Chili Sauce:

Mix all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. 

To serve

8

Scrape the tines of a fork down the outside of a cucumber, digging in a small amount. Now slice the cucumber. 

Cut the chicken meat off of the bone and serve it sliced and skin-on next to the rice with the cucumber and sauces. Scatter with cilantro leaves. Serve with stir fried greens and bowls of the remaining poaching liquid as a light broth. Enjoy!

The Intrepid Eater's Chicken Rice

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