Looks can be deceiving. Hainanese Chicken Rice is a seemingly simple dish of poached whole chicken, with steamed white rice and cucumber slices, accompanied by sauces of chili, ginger and sweet soy. But that first bite is so full of flavor, a surprising medley of savory, spicy, sweet and fragrant tastes that define Singaporean cuisine.
Traditionally, chicken fat is rendered for its oil, in which the rice grains and aromatics are sauteed before steaming. Although the chicken fat does bring a richness to the steamed rice, I thought I would try and make a lower-fat version by using canola oil instead. Here's my adapted recipe from Terry and Christopher Tan's cookbook Shiok.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
1 large chicken
10 cups water
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
3 slices ginger
for the rice:
600g uncooked Jasmine rice
2 tablespoons oil (canola or peanut)
2 tablespoons garlic, minced
2 tablespoons ginger, minced
2 shallots, minced
2 pandan leaves, knotted loosely
1 lemongrass stalk, cut into 2 pieces
for the chili sauce:
6 large red chilies, seeds removed
(keep seeds to make a spicier sauce)
2 birds eye chilies
4 large cloves garlic
2 teaspoons ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons calamansi or lime juice
2 tablespoons hot chicken stock
(from poaching chicken above)
for the ginger sauce:
100g ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon oil
thick sweet soy sauce
In a large stock pot, add water, garlic and ginger and bring to a boil. Submerge the chicken in the stock, let simmer vigorously, partially covered for 25 minutes. Switch off the heat, cover tightly, and let stand for another 30 minutes.
In the meantime, wash and drain rice in a colander. Leave to dry well for about 10 minutes.
In a wok over medium heat, add oil and fry garlic, ginger and shallots until fragrant. Add rice and stir-fry until grains become translucent. Transfer to rice cooker, top with pandan leaves and lemongrass, salt and 4 cups of hot chicken stock (from your standing pot). Turn on your rice cooker and leave to cook. Remember to remove the pandan leaves and lemongrass before serving rice.
Lift out chicken from the hot stock, rub skin all over with sesame oil and set aside.
For the chili sauce, blend all ingredients well, add the hot stock and process until well combined.
For the ginger sauce, blend ginger, add oil and hot stock, then process until well combined.
Chop chicken into pieces, remove bones if desired. Serve with the steamed rice, accompanied by the thick soy sauce, chili and ginger sauces on the side. Garnish with cucumber slices. Season your hot stock with salt, sugar and sesame oil to taste, sprinkle some cilantro leaves, and serve as a side dish.