The first time I had this dish was in Singapore in December 2013. From a young age, I was only travelling to Taiwan to visit my relatives and never knew much about other Asian countries. Thus in 2013, I decided I would embark on an Asian exploration trip that did not involve Taiwan and it turned out to be my most memorable food adventure yet. The trip was out of my comfort zone of 35 days and not one day did I regret it! (Posts to follow-up on the places I travelled to)
Ask my close friends and you will find out that I am not a big fan of rice, unusual for an Asian but remember I have lived in South Africa all my life, but this dish changed my relationship with rice. Unfortunately I did not order two portions! That is how delicious it was, thus making this dish took me back to my happy food place of Singapore - the city that changed my perspective of traditional Chinese cooking... forever!
Most dishes have protein as the star of the meal and the starch as a side to complement the overall meal. However, Hainanese chicken rice is totally the opposite, you will crave the starch more than the chicken itself. The dish is considered one of Singapore's national dishes adapted from early immigrants from Hainan province in China (hence the name). I think what entices me most about this dish is the fragrant use of spices and one simple dish with many flavours to be enjoyed. To top it off, if you're feeling under the weather, it is a great meal to boost the immune system!
I enjoy cooking this dish even more than consuming it, because it is always a rewarding experience to see your efforts being devoured with happiness by friends and family. I hope you gain the same experience.
This recipe serves 6
1 whole Chicken
1 portion Chicken carcass/bones
4 stalks Curry leaves (This replaces pandan leaves as it is not readily available in South Africa)
4 stalks Whole Spring Onions
5 Tbsp Sliced ginger
1/3 Cup Mirin
1/3 Cup Soy sauce
2 Tbsp Sesame Oil
1/3 Cup Rice Vinegar
1 Tbsp Rice Wine
Salt to season
Starch: White Jasmine Rice
Vegetable: Bak Choy
This dish comes with 3 different sauces, each with a unique taste. It is guaranteed that the one of the flavours will never be enough. Observe the company you host and you would be able to get an idea which to make more of, just double or even triple up on the ingredients!
Soy sauce: 1Tbsp Soy sauce, 1Tbsp Oyster sauce, 1Tbsp Honey
Chilli sauce: 2Tbsp Sweet chilli sauce, 1Tbsp Fish sauce, 1Tbsp Lemon juice
Ginger sauce: 2Tbsp grated Ginger, 1Tbsp Fish sauce, 1Tbsp Sesame oil, 1Tbsp Sugar/Mirin
Mix all the respective ingredients well together.
1. Place the whole chicken and chicken carcass into a large cooking pot.
2. Pour 2 liters (estimate depending on size of pot) of water into the pot that covers the whole chicken, onto the stove on high heat.
3. Add in all the remaining ingredients into the pot and bring to boil. Bring the soup to boil for 10 minutes.
4. Remove the excess oils and grey froth out of the soup using a shallow ladle.
5. Reduce to medium heat and let the chicken cook for another 45 minutes.
6. While the chicken is cooking, you can prepare your sauces and let them chill in the fridge.
7. Prepare ice water and dip the chicken into the water. This will give the chicken skin a gelatinous texture when served and also stop the chicken to continue to cook.
8. Pour the required amount of chicken soup broth into the rice and place the chicken carcass above the rice. I personally have a rice cooker and the rule of thumb of rice to water ratio is 1:1 and an additional 1/4 cup of water. If you do not have a rice cooker, continue to cook your rice the way you normally would as this is no different for the soup broth which replaces water. The left over broth may be served as a soup.
9. Chop up the chicken to portions required.
10. Once the rice is cooked, boil the bak choy until cooked.
11. All elements are cooked and ready to be served. Have additional chopped spring onions to garnish the dish.