Monday, 27 February 2012

A Blast From The Past - Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice II (海南雞飯)

Food is a magical thing that will instantly transport you to a place that had been laying domant in your memories, tucked away quietly waiting for something to trigger the awakening of these familiar thoughts. Everyone associated a moment or time in their life with food of some kind, whether good or bad. This explains why some will reach for chocolate when feeling low, or a slice of blueberries cheese cake when feeling rather celebratory, maybe that's just me, but like most, comforting food soothes me.

Singapore Hainanese chicken rice (海南雞飯) is, to me, a dish that I will always associate with being back in Singapore. Not least because it is one of the most famous dish from there, but also because it's something that I used to prepare with my nan when I was young, which could possibly be the starting of my love of food, especially cooking. I have made this dish a few months back, but that was a while ago and suddenly, I felt the urge of preparing this once again. I have made a few tweaks and changes to my nan's original recipe, such as reducing the poaching time, adding more ginger and garlic etc, and it worked beautifully.

This is primarily a very simple dish. It involves very few ingredients, but the the poaching of the chicken is where it get slightly technical. And being the star of the dish, you will first have to get you hand on the best quality chicken that you can get hold of. Any low grade battery farmed specimen will just produce a dull and insepid bird. That will make a Singaporean very mad, very mad indeed for ruining our national dish. This domestic fowl will be gently submerge and poach in hot water, not boiling as that will send the poultry into a stage of shock and therefore producing some tough, dry meat. The texture of a pair of rubber boot is not what we are trying to achieve here, thank you very much.You want it to sit gracefully in the hot water bath until it's cooked, not dissimilar to sous-vide style cooking, which led me to believe the French has stole this cooking technique from us. Believe me, this will gives you the most velvety, tender and juicy bird. Well, 5.1 millions people (current Singapore population) vouching for it so that can't be wrong.

In memories of my beloving nan, I have entered this as my signature dish in the FFFY competition.

Latest Update (10/05/12) : I'm pleased to announce that my entry has won the Signature Dish competition.

(Serves 4)


For the chicken:
1 medium chicken, weighing 1.3kg (optional: remove the excess fat from the chest and reserve for the rice)
1 tbsp sea salt
5cm fresh ginger, skin left on, bruised
4 garlic cloves, skin left on, bruised 
3 spring onions
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp sesame oil

For the rice:
reserved fat from the chicken or 1 tbsp sunflower oil / vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, skin left on, bruised
5cm fresh ginger, skin left on, bruised
1 spring onion
175g rice, preferably Basmati or Thai fragrant
450ml chicken stock (from poaching the chicken)

For the chilli sauce:
6 large or 12 small fresh red chillies
2 small clove garlic
5cm fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lime
1 tbsp chicken stock (from poaching the chicken)
1 tsp sugar
sea salt


Bring a large pan of water to the boil, enough to submerge the whole chicken. Meanwhile rub the chicken with salt. Gently bruised the ginger and garlic pressing it with the flat side of the knife . This helps release the flavour. Place the ginger and garlic inside the cavity of the chicken, together with the spring onions.

Place the chicken into the boiling water together with the peppercorns, cover with a lid and bring back to the boil and immediately turn off the heat. Leave the chicken covered in the pan for 20 minutes. Turn the heat back on and bring to the boil again; turn off the heat and rest the chicken for another 20 minutes in the pan covered. Repeat this process once more and then remove the chicken after 20 minutes and leave to rest until cool enough to handle. 

Meanwhile, get on with cooking the rice. If using the reserved chicken fat, throw them into a dry pan over medium heat and cook  for 3-4 minutes. Gradually, liquid fat will render out and the fat will turn golden and crispy. Use these to for the next step. Alternatively, heat up the sunflower oil in a pan. Gently fry the garlic and ginger, making sure not to brown them. Stir in the rice and fry for a minute, until glossy and translucent. Add the chicken stock and cook over a medium heat without covering for about 10 minutes. When tiny 'craters' can be seen forming, reduce the heat to its lowest and cover with a lid. Cook for a further 10 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Turn off the heat and leave to rest, covered, for another 10 minutes. After this time, remove the ginger, garlic and spring onion and discard. Fluff up the rice with a fork until it's fluffy and tender. Set aside. 

To make the chilli sauce, put all ingredients into a blender and pulse into a paste. Season with salt to taste.

To serve, carved the chicken as normal and arrange on a plate. Drizzle with a mixture of soy sauce and sesame oil. Serve alongside with a bowl of fragrant rice, chilli sauce and the mandatory poaching broth. The dark soy sauce is optional but for a true authentic version, it's a must.


  1. A collection of some of the greatest ingredients- lime, chilli and ginger. Delicious!

  2. Thanks for you comment Melissa. I couldn't agree with you more, they are my favourite ingredients, especially chilli :-)

  3. OMG! I luv chu! XD

    I have not had this in almost 3 years, because I've only ever bought it from >.> chicken-rice sellers, and the idea of paying Melbourne's exorbitant prices for this wonderful Singaporean 'peasant' food made me feel slightly ill... I can make my own whenever I want!


    And your technique is so much less fussy and more adaptable than other recipes I've read, too.

    Thank yoooooooooooooooooooooooooou!



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