Malaysian Monday 74: Hainanese Chicken Rice (and a poaching success story.)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Happy Monday everyone.

The falling temperatures have had me craving some comfort food lately. When I think comfort food, I always think of rice. Or soup. Well, this dish has both. Add some juicy poached chicken and a spicy sauce, and the cravings were well satisfied.

Actually, I had been too nervous to try cooking this meal before, although the recipe is quite simple. The reason for this reticence has been my inability to poach chicken. I know, it’s such a fundamental kitchen task, a cooking rite of passage, and one I had not been able to master until now. Sure, I could make macarons and knead bread by hand, but every time I attempted to poach chicken, I ended up with tough, rubbery poultry.

But when I flicked through my little book of Malaysian hawker recipes (Hawkers Delight, compiled by Jabbar Ibrahim, published by S. Abdul Majeed & Co.), I read some instructions that sounded as if they were tailor made for me. “Do not cover the pot while it is boiling (this prevents the chicken from hardening)”. And as simply as that, my non-poaching days were over.

And now my post is over too.

Before I leave you with the recipe, please keep those lovely submissions heading this way for the Muhibbah Malaysian Monday round-up #11. Just email me at: its(dot)sharon(at)gmail(dot)com. Remember, anyone can play, you don’t have to be Malaysian. If you are interested in a Thai style chicken rice, check out the post over at my friend 3 Hungry Tummies’ blog. Suresh is a Muhibbah Malaysian Monday co-creator.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
(adapted from  Hawkers Delights)

Before I started, I looked up other Hainanese Chicken Rice recipes online, just to make sure the recipe I was working to was accurate. Along the way, I found an interesting step for exfoliating chicken at Jaden’s blog, Steamy Kitchen. Honestly, I’ve never thought about rubbing down my chicken before, but I gave it a go anyway. Not entirely sure it made a difference to the cooked bird, but it was a very interesting experience ;).

The recipe might seem long, but it’s simpler than it looks. Basically, we first poach the chicken, then use the poaching water to make stock. The stock is added to the rice and the sauce, and served on the side a soup.

Start with the best chicken you can find. Obviously the more free-rangi-er and organic-er the better.

The chicken and the stock
1 whole preferably free range/ organic chicken - mine weighed about 1.5kg
2 stalks spring onions (sometimes called shallots)
1 piece of ginger about 2.5 cm long
1 garlic clove
shaoxing rice wine (optional)
additional vegetables/ flavouring for the stock - I used a carrot and some coriander roots
2 tablespoons light soy sauce mixed with about a teaspoon of sesame oil to brush on the chicken.

(Feel free to change the amounts as you see fit).

Fill a large pot with water (making sure that the whole chicken can fit in the pot, submerged), add in the spring onions, ginger and garlic, and bring to the boil. Clean the chicken, exfoliate if so inclined. I also remove the bishop’s nose - some folks consider this a delicacy, I find it too oily. (The bishop’s nose is the pointy oil gland on the chicken’s behind/ tail region). I also rubbed rice wine all over the chicken, another tip I picked up from Steamy Kitchen, although this step wasn’t in my recipe.

When the water is boiling, carefully lower the chicken into the pot, and let the water come back to a simmer. Do not cover!! Not unless you want a rubber chicken. Let the water simmer for about 2 to 3 minutes and skim if necessary. Turn the heat off, then cover the pot with a lid and leave to sit for 30 minutes. At this point I ducked out to pick MC Senior up from an activity so the chicken got left in there for probably 40 minutes.

Remove the lid, turn the heat back on and let the water come to a simmer again for another 2 - 3 minutes. Turn the heat off and cover the pot again, and leave for another 30 minutes.

The chicken should be ready by now. To test, pierce the meaty part of the thigh with a sharp knife or metal skewer. The juices should be clear. I also touch the skewer, if it’s really hot, I figure it’s safe :)

Carefully remove the chicken from the pot. I used a slotted spoon and a pair of tongs to maneuver it around. Place the chicken on a plate, brush liberally with the soy sauce/ sesame oil mixture and keep warm, tent with foil if possible. (Technically the chicken is hung on a hook to dry, but even without this step, it will work fine).

Bring the water in the pot back to the boil, add extra stock vegetables, and boil for 10 - 15 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm. Depends on how much water you started with, you could end up with lots of stock. I saved and froze the leftover stock, so I didn’t season it until I needed to.

The rice

3 cups long grain rice (rinsed thoroughly and drained very well)
4 1/2 cups chicken stock (from above)
(Actually, this makes a whole lot of rice, and we had leftovers for the next day. If only serving a few people, I’d suggest reducing this to about 2 cups rice and 3 cups stock)

2-3 garlic cloves minced finely
a piece of ginger, thumb sized- peeled and minced finely
sesame oil (to taste)
vegetable oil

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pan and fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the sesame oil and rice, and stir until the rice is well coated. Add the stock and season with salt, then allow to simmer, uncovered, until all the liquid has been absorbed and there are “tunnels” in the rice. Cover the pan tightly and reduce the heat as low as possible, then cook until the rice is done. Fluff with a fork and keep warm.

The chilli sauce.

4-6 fresh long, red chillies (remove the seeds if you like)
1 garlic clove
piece of ginger
pinch of salt and sugar to taste
dash of vinegar (or lime juice)
chicken stock

While the rice is cooking, blitz the chillies, garlic, ginger and seasonings in a blender/ food processor until fine. Add the vinegar and the stock, and mix well. How much stock to use is up to you depending on the kind of consistency you fancy, I used about 2 tablespoonfuls.

To serve:
coriander leaves to garnish the soup
thick dark soy sauce (caramel soy sauce) to drizzle over the rice
sliced cucumbers
sliced tomatoes

Slice the chicken, serve it with the rice, tomatoes and cucumber. Serve the sauce and small bowlfuls of the stock/soup on the side (season first). Depending on where you come from, you either have the chicken rice as is, or drizzle lots of dark soy sauce over the rice before eating. I go the sauce :)

Have a great start to the week!


Barbara said...

I don't know why, but I don't make rice very often. This looks so good, Shaz! And rice is such a lovely side dish.

Malay-Kadazan girl said...

Thanks for sharing the tip oh how to poach chicken...aiyah I always close the lid...hehehe...Terliurlah looking at your Hainanese Chicken Rice.

cikmanggis said...

satu menu yang sihat dari dapur Shaz:)alamak..makcik pun selalu tutup periuk bila rebus ayam untuk nasi ayam..patut lah isinya seperti rubber bands hehe.

Hungry Dog said...

Thanks so much for posting this! I've actually never poached a whole chicken before either so this was very informative. It sound so good to me...chicken and rice is comfort food in my world!

Karen said...

Hi Shaz! I've always wanted to try this dish in Malaysia, but I was never sure if I would actually like it, but your version looks really tasty! Hope you're having a good start to the week! Best, Karen

Deeba PAB said...

Perfection my dear I know why my darned bird was how it was. Shall follow your steps the next time, maybe dash for a pick up too! I love rice and chicken, and your accompaniments and flavours here rock! xo
{Might just visit in Jun.Lemme know if you need anything fm here}

Miss Adriennely said...

It looks like a simple dish, but has so much sophistication in technique! Well done, it looks really good!

kirbie said...

Oh what a coincidence. I just ate a hainan chicken dish for the first time yesterday!

Juliana said...

Oh! Mom makes this kind of chicken but somehow I never had a chance to make it...I like the simplicity of this chicken...and sure very comforting. The rice must taste so good with the chicken broth. Great meal you have here. Have a great week ahead Shaz :-)

Beth said...

Sometimes it's the simplest tips that bring the most success. So glad this worked for you!

Anh said...

now I crave for chicken rice! yum yum!

Velva said...

Love it! Simple, fresh and healthy. Thanks for sharing.


Karin said...

Hi there - thanks for your blog! I stumbled across it a few weeks ago, and as a HUGE fan of Malaysian food, am enjoying subscribing. I have a question I'm hoping you, or someone, can answer please. I sometimes order Hainanese chicken rice in restaurants, and the dish is usually served with a separate bowl of broth. What is the protocol? - should I pour the broth over the other meal components, or dip them into it, or is there some other technique I've overlooked? Advice welcome. Many thanks ;-)

muppy said...

Love it, I have not had too much success with poaching chicken either!

pierre said...

i love the chilli sauce !!thanks !!

My Little Space said...

Shaz, thanks for the tips how to boil the chicken. I never know the rice wine will make a difference to the meat. Happy Muhibbah Malaysian Monday.
Blessings, Kristy

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Shaz, you're a woman after my own heart! This is my favourite dish whenever I visit Singapore. I go crazy for the chicken and the rice. I'm even drooling at the very thought of it from your pictures!

Christy said...

Ah, the local favorite food for lunch among office workers! Whenever Malaysians go for lunch, it's always Chicken Rice...or if you are supposed to buy/take away lunch for a colleague and you're not sure what to do, it's also always Chicken, and Hainanese Chicken Rice is mushrooming so fast that you can't even say wait:p

shaz said...

Barbara - rice is usually a main event at our place :)

Malay-Kadazan girl - hope next time this way helps

cikmanggis - takpe CM, lain kali boleh cuba lagi kan?

Hungry Dog - great minds, all I can say

Karen - Oh this is one of my favourite dishes, I'd often have it for lunch.

Deeba PAB - are you visiting? How exciting! Would love to catch up.

Miss Adriennely - thank you and thanks for visiting.

kirbie - did you like it?

Juliana - it is comfort food at its best.

Beth - I was honestly very surprised that the simple tip worked.

Anh - hope you get to satisfy the craving soon.

Velva - You're welcome, thanks for visiting!

Karin - thanks for your lovely words. Actually, there's no protocol, whatever way tastes good is best. Some folks drink a few spoonfuls of soup throughout the meal, some drink the soup at the end of the meal, and some (like me) spoon the soup over the rice.

muppy - glad I'm not the only one.

pierre - ah, a fellow spice lover.

My Little Space - I couldn't really taste the wine, but it did smell nice.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella - actually, all this talk of chicken rice is making me hungry now.

Christy -ah yes, the easy tapau option.

grace said...

free rangi-er and organic-er. i can see these terms making it into the ads immediately! :)

shaz said...

Grace - I can see a future career path here...