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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Has anyone been watching Food Safari on SBS? I'm really enjoying the series, and have found most episodes fascinating, with the exception of at least one cuisine that didn't seem very exciting – schnitzel. I love the run down of the common ingredients used in each cuisine, and the segments with the home cooks.

Hainanese chicken rice

The episode on Singaporean cuisine inspired me to make Hainanese chicken rice. If you've never had the pleasure, Hainanese chicken rice is a dish that originated in Hainan, China. An entire chicken is poached, and served with rice that has been fried with garlic and ginger (and chicken fat if you want to be really unhealthy), and then cooked in chicken stock. Alongside the rice and chicken are a couple of dipping sauces – normally a ginger and garlic sauce and a chilli one. Often there'll also be a bowl of soup. It's nothing fancy, but oh so good.

I have seen recipes where the chicken is simmered in the water, and I liked this one from Food Safari because you just leave the chicken in the hot water for an hour without simmering. For the rice, it's important to have a well flavoured chicken stock, otherwise it's just normal rice! The cooking liquid from the chicken doesn't have enough flavour, unless you want to add more bones after cooking the chicken and simmer for a couple of hours. I had made a big pot of stock in the weekend, so I used that, but of course you could just buy some liquid stock. I wouldn't bother with powdered stock though.

I made the ginger and garlic sauce, but didn't like the result, so I've taken that off the recipe (check out the link to the Food Safari recipe below if you're interested). I wanted to make the chilli sauce too, but I ran out of steam. I'm kind of glad though, because looking at the recipe I'm not sure about it. I ended up simply eating the chicken with some extra soy sauce and sesame oil.

So the result – was it good? It was great! The chicken was moist and full of flavour, and the rice was super tasty without being too oily. And another bonus, because I had made it myself, there was no MSG thirst afterwards, which seems to plague bought versions.

Writing this post is making me want chicken rice. Perhaps it'll be an outside kitchen night!

Hainanese chicken rice

Hainanese chicken rice

From Food Safari

1 fresh, free range chicken (mine was 1.3kg, which should serve 3-4 people)
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine
1 tbsp light soy sauce
6 slices fresh ginger
1 clove garlic, slightly bruised
2 shallots, chopped in a few pieces
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ tsp salt

Chicken Rice
3 cups long grain rice
2 tbsp chicken or pork fat (this tastes great, but peanut oil can be used instead)
2-3cm ginger, grated
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped very finely or grated
1-2 tsp salt (to taste)
3 ½ cups chicken stock
2 pandan leaves (optional)

For the chicken:
1. Bring a pot (large enough to fit the whole chicken) of water to the boil. While the water is heating, rub chicken inside with rice wine and soy sauce. Roughly chop three pieces of ginger, garlic and one shallot and then blend in a food processor. Place mixture inside chicken.
2. When the water boils, turn heat off and place the chicken, and the remaining three pieces of ginger and shallot in the water. Stand for five minutes, then lift up the chicken, draining the water from the stomach cavity. After the water has drained, put the chicken back in the water and cover with the lid. Repeat this process two or three times during the cooking period to make sure the chicken cooks inside as well as outside. The chicken will stand in the water for a total of one hour.
3. After 30 minutes, turn on the heat to bring the water back to almost boiling point, then turn the heat off (don't let the water boil so the chicken stays tender and juicy). At the end of the hour, remove the chicken and brush the surface with the remaining soy sauce combined with sesame oil and salt. Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces with a sharp cleaver.

For the rice:
5. Wash the rice and drain well. In a wok, fry chicken fat (or peanut oil) until oil is released and then add the ginger and garlic and fry well.
6. Remove from heat and discard the chicken fat and skin. Add the rice and salt and stir fry briskly for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer rice into an electric rice cooker or pot and add the chicken stock and pandan leaves. Follow normal instructions for cooking rice. If you're using a pot, put the rice on a high heat until it comes to the boil. Then lower the heat until it becomes a gentle simmer. Let it cook until all the water has been absorbed, and you can see steam holes in the rice. Take it off the heat and let the rice sit for 10 minutes to finish absorbing the rest of the liquid before eating.

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