Poultry, Rice
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Hainanese Chicken Rice

Chicken rice

“Chicken rice, if not for you, I would not have loved rice so much.”

Growing up in Malaysia, rice was a staple lunch for me and it keeps me full for the next 7-8 hours until dinner (well, that is including 1-2 hours of stressful traffic jam!).  Wherever I work, there is always a place that serve choice-ful Chinese economy mix rice (Chap fan) which is something like the food court type of chinese rice you find in Melbourne but it was much much more delicious and cheap.  Then we also have the Malay nasi kandar which is typically served with curries and sinfully yum.  If you like Indian, there’s also banana leaf rice and other rice dish like the fragrantful chicken rice or clay pot rice.  Clearly spoilt for choice.

Chicken rice

Today, I’m going to share with you a dish that is very close to my heart and tummy and that’s the Hainanese Chicken Rice.  I can eat chicken rice 5 days a week and not get bored.  There has been many variations of chicken rice since the Hainan immigrants adapted this dish in Singapore, Malaysia and even Thailand.  Whatever version it has become, it is still universally recognised as one of the most delicious food in the world.  After about 4 recipe trials from To Food with Love and Annielicious Food, I decided to blend the 2 recipes together.

Warning! This is gonna be a long post … While chicken rice looks like a simple dish, there are many elements that requires perfect blend of flavour and texture.  When I make this dish, I spent about 1 1/2 hours prepping and cooking in the kitchen – super multitasking skills 🙂 but the resulting dish is very very tasty and my family loves it!

Chicken rice

The success of a good Hainanese chicken rice depends on doing these 4 things really really well:

1. Getting that beautiful silky skin, slippery smooth and almost-cooked (pinkish) meat at the bone.  This is done through poaching the chicken gently in the water.  The secret to getting the good balance is managing the 3 time-segment rule 10-20-20.  10 mins to heat the chicken, 20 mins for warming and 20 mins for cooling.

2. Fragrant chicken rice.  Flavoured with lots of goodies like shallots, ginger, garlic, lemongrass and pandanus leaves.  Some recipes add “extra” goodness like rendered chicken fat (that gives you the slightly oily texture) and butter (for that nice yellow colour that you see at most chicken rice shops).

3. Super addictive chilli sauce.  For some reason, hainanese chicken only goes well with this type of chilli sauce!  It’s spicy yet zingy and it’s because of the lime juice squirt which is a must.

4. The chicken dressing is a harmonious blend of sweet and salty taste.  I love to dip everything in the chicken dressing and also drizzle them all over my rice.  So, getting that good blend is super crucial so I don’t end up eating a bowl of sugar or salt!

You want to taste taste and taste.  The sweetness and saltiness depends on how much balance you want to achieve. Typically hainanese chicken rice is also served with side dishes like bean sprouts (taugeh) and pork ball soup.

I use chicken maryland in this recipe because we find that a whole chicken may be too much for the 3 of us.  You may substitute that with a whole chicken if you’re cooking for more people and adjust the ingredient portions.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (adapted from To Food with Love and Annielicious Food)

Serves 3

Ingredients & Method:

3 chicken maryland
8 long ginger slices
3 stalks spring onion (white and green parts)
3 cloves garlic, gently bruised
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml chicken stock mix with water enough to cover the chicken
2 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp soy sauce (mix together for chicken rub)
Ice bath in large bowl with water

1. Rinse the chicken and remove all excess fat – keep that for use later.  Pat the chicken dry.  Take 6 ginger slices and 3 stalks spring onion and divide into 3 portions equally.  Tie each portion together with a kitchen string. Then turn the maryland to the back (skin side facing down), pull up the skin flap and make a slit to the skin to allow the ginger and spring onion to be slotted in.  Insert the tied ginger and spring onion into the slit and cover that with the skin.  Secure with a kitchen string around the chicken.  Repeat the same for the other 2.

2. Heat up a large stock pot with vegetable oil.  Add sesame oil and fry the garlic and the remaining 2 ginger slices till fragrant.  Add stock and water into the pot.  Cover and bring it to a boil on high heat.

3. Once the water is boiling, with a kitchen tong, take the 1st chicken, slowly dunk it into the boiling water and lift it up again.  Repeat for 4 times before letting the chicken fully submerge into the boiling water.  Do the same for the other 2 chickens.  Wondering why we’re doing this?  This helps the chicken to achieve silky smooth skin. Cover and bring to boil.

4. Once you see the water boiling again, turn to very low heat for 10 mins and let the chicken cook in the simmering water.  Then, turn the heat off – leave the chicken to sit in the hot water for 20 mins – do not open the lid.  During this time, take a large bowl and prepare the ice bath with ice cubes and cold water.  Once the time is up, remove the chickens from the water and place them under cool running water for 10 secs before submerging them into the ice bath.  Leave them for 20 mins.

5. After the chickens have chilled, remove and pat them dry.  Then rub the chickens with the sesame-soy sauce rub.  Set aside.

2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
2 shallots, roughly chop
5 ginger slices
4 cloves garlic, roughly chop
4 pandanus leaves, combine 2 leaves and tie into 1 knot
1 lemongrass stalk, lightly bruised
1 tsp salt
Poaching liquid, remove scums

Chicken fat, reserved from earlier
1 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp vegetable oil

1. With a mortar and pestle, ground the shallots and garlic until fine paste.

2. Heat up a wok or pan on low heat with sesame oil and vegetable oil.  Remember the chicken fats reserved from earlier?  We want to render the fats and extract the fragrant chicken oil.  Slowly render the fats for about 20 mins or until the fats have turned brown.  Remove the chicken fat pieces and leave the oil in the pan.

3. Turn up the heat to medium and add ginger slices.  Fry till fragrant.  Remove 2 1/2 tbsp oil and reserve that for the condiments.

4. With the remaining oil, add shallot-garlic paste, lemongrass and 1 knot of pandanus leaves.  Fry until fragrant. Discard lemongrass and pandanus leaves.  Add rice and salt – mix them well into the fragrant oil and fry for another minute.  Place the rice into the rice cooker and cover with poaching liquid until the 2-cup mark.  Place the remaining 1 knot of pandanus leaves on top of the rice and start cooking.

5. Once cooked, remove the pandanus knot and give the rice a good stir-up with chopsticks to fluff them up.  Keep warm in the rice cooker up until serving time.

(Chicken Dressing)
1 tsp chicken oil
4 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp sesame oil
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine
small thumb-sized yellow rock sugar, adjust to taste

1. In a small sauce pan, boil rock sugar, soy sauce and Shoaxing wine under low heat until it reaches boiling point but not boiling.  Taste to see if you have achieved the right sweet-salty balance and adjust.  Turn heat off.  Stir in the sesame oil.  Set aside.

2. Right before serving, drop 1 tsp chicken oil into the dressing.

(Chilli Sauce)
1 tbsp chicken oil
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp poaching liquid, remove scums
Salt, to taste

6 long chillies
1 chilli padi (omit if you want less spicy)
3 cloves garlic
2 inch ginger, roughly chop

1. Blend the chillies, garlic and ginger together in blender until fine.  Add the rest of the ingredients and blend to mix them well together.  Taste test to see if you have achieved the right balance and adjust.  If you want it sweeter, add more sugar.  If more tangy, add more lime juice or vinegar.

2. Stir and mix well.  Set aside.

(Spring Onion & Ginger Oil)
50g ginger
20g spring onion
1 tbsp chicken oil
1 tbsp sesame oil
1/4 tsp salt, to taste
1/4 tsp sugar, to taste

1. Blitz the ginger until paste-like texture.  Set aside.

2. Heat the chicken oil and sesame oil in a small sauce pan.  Once the oil is very hot, add the ginger paste into the oil and fry until fragrant.  Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well.  Turn off and set them aside.

(Black Drizzle Sauce )
20g yellow rock sugar
30ml water
50ml dark soy sauce

1. Boil the rock sugar and water in a small sauce pan under low heat until the rock sugar melts.

2. Add in dark soy sauce and continue to heat under low heat until the mixture turns slightly sticky and gooey. Turn off heat and set aside to cool.

1 cucumber, sliced with skin on

Finally …. after all the effort … betcha your whole family’s hungry by now – it’s time to serve 🙂
1. Chop the chicken marylands into 3-4 pieces  and arrange them on a plate.

2. Warm the chicken dressing, add 1 tsp chicken oil and mix well.  Pour the dressing over the chicken.

3. Dress with coriander and serve with sliced cucumber by the side and most importantly, that fragrant chicken rice, chilli sauce and spring onion & ginger oil.  If you like, you may also drizzle black sauce on the rice, but that is up to your family’s preference.

4. Don’t waste the poaching stock.  Dish out all the scum and left over ingredients from the liquid.  If you have carrots, wombok or cabbage, add them into the remaining stock and heat it up.  Season with salt, pepper and drizzle some cut spring onions before serving the soup.


Note: If you don’t have rock sugar at home, you may replace with sugar.  I have tried making the sauces with rock sugar and sugar.  Honestly, I prefer the rock sugar because it gives a subtle sweetness and thickness to the sauce. 

Chicken rice


  1. Lan | morestomach says

    this is one of my fave rice dishes, i can eat this everyday as well. on our trip to thailand last year, i went on a tour for the thai version (called khao man gai). we vietnamese have a variation that we call com ga and i love it.

    this version is slightly different from the versions i’m used to (chinese, thai and vietnamese) and one i’d like to try. thanks so sharing!

    • Hi Lan, you are so right.

      I love every single type of chicken rice. I’ve tried the Thai version and i liked that too. I haven’t try the vietnamese version but i’m very keen to try make that :).

      The version here is the Chinese Hainanese version where we poach our chicken (leaving some bits of red inside) and serve with fragrant rice and super delicious chilli sauce. It’s a lot of work but the end dish is super delicious.

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