Hoi Nam Gai Fan
(Singaporean Hainanese chicken rice)
Hainanese chicken rice (海南鸡饭) is based on a dish that originated with the people of Hainan province in China. As the Hainanese emigrated to Singapore, Malaysia and other parts of Southeast Asia, they brought along chicken rice and adapted it to local tastes. Singaporeans consider it one of their national dishes.
To make chicken rice, you first gently poach a whole chicken and chop it into bite-sized pieces. You then use the poaching broth to make both rich, flavorful rice and and a nourishing soup.
Chicken rice is usually served with one or more accompanying sauces. Stir up a chili-garlic sauce to give a bracing foil to the mellow savor of the chicken. Other common condiments include fresh ginger-garlic sauce and sweet soy sauce, or kecap manis.
4 to 6 servings
For the Chicken
- Whole chicken -- 2 1/2 to 3 pounds
- Scallions, chopped into large pieces -- 4 or 5
- Gingerroot, sliced into thin rounds -- 4 or 5 slices
- Garlic, crushed -- 3 or 4 cloves
- Water -- to cover
- Salt -- 2 teaspoons
For the Rice
- Oil -- 2 tablespoons
- Fat from the chicken, chopped -- as available
- Scallions, finely chopped -- 2
- Garlic, minced -- 3 cloves
- Long-grain rice, rinsed and soaked in fresh water 15 minutes -- 3 cups
- Salt -- big pinch
For the Chili Sauce
- Sriracha or sambal oelek chili-garlic sauce -- 1/4 cup
- Lime juice -- from 1 lime, about 1 1/2 tablespoons
- Gingerroot, peeled and minced -- 2 teaspoons
- Sugar -- 2 teaspoons
- Salt -- to taste
For the Soup
- Scallions, sliced into thin rounds -- 2
- Cilantro, stemmed and chopped -- 1/2 cup
- Salt -- to taste
- Pat the chicken dry chicken and trim it of excess fat, reserving the fat. Large fat deposits are often found around the bottom opening of the cavity of the bird. Salt the chicken inside and out and set it aside.
- Put about two quarts of water in a pot large enough to hold the chicken. Add the 4 or 5 scallions, ginger rounds, crushed garlic and salt to the pot and place it over medium-high heat. Once the water has come to a very low simmer, rinse the excess salt from the chicken and put the chicken in the pot, and add enough water to cover the chicken by about 1 inch. Turn the chicken gently to make sure no air remains in the inner cavity.
- Bring the water to a gentle boil over medium-high flame, and then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer the chicken, turning carefully from time to time, for 40 to 50 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted between a thigh and the body registers at least 165 degrees F.
- While the chicken is poaching, fill a large bowl or clean sink half full of ice water. Once the chicken is fully cooked, remove it carefully from the broth and plunge it into the ice water. This ice bath stops the cooking and gives the skin a nice tight texture.
- Once the chicken has cooled, remove it to a cutting board, pat it dry, and let it set for a little while to allow the skin to dry out a bit. Then cut the chicken into bite-size serving pieces with a Chinese cleaver or large kitchen knife. Arrange the pieces nicely on a serving platter and and cover loosely with plastic or foil. Set the platter aside while you prepare the rice.
- Drain the soaked rice well. Heat the oil in a wok or large pot over medium-high flame. Chop up the reserved chicken fat and stir it into the oil until it begins to brown and render its fat. Add the scallions and garlic and stir fry for about 30 seconds. Then stir in the drained rice and saute for 1 or 2 more minutes.
- Ladle 3 or 4 cups of the poaching broth from the chicken, along with any fat floating on the surface, into the rice. You should have enough liquick to to cover the rice by a little less than one knuckle of your finger. Add a big pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and simmer for about 20 minutes.
Chili Dipping Sauce
- While the rice is cooking, mix the chili sauce ingredients with about 1/4 cup of broth and adjust seasoning to taste with lime juice, sugar and salt. Serve the chili sauce separately in a small bowl. If you like, you can also use this this time to make the two other common dipping sauces as described below.
Soup and Serving
- Reheat the remaining chicken broth and season it as needed with salt. Place a big pinch of scallions and cilantro into individual soup bowls, and then ladle hot broth into the bowls.
- Serve the chicken at room temperature, along with the rice, chili sauce and soup as an entire meal. Chicken rice is usually served with a simple plate garnish of thinly sliced cucumber rounds and tomato wedges.
Hainanese Chicken Rice Variations
- Chicken: Many cooks will insist that you must go through an initial process of dipping the chicken in and out of the poaching liquid before settling it in for the long poach. This process ensures that the inside of the chicken gets fully heated by the broth and does not cook at a different rate as the outside.
- Ginger-Garlic Dipping Sauce: To make a simple fresh ginger-garlic sauce, mix 3 tablespoons of peeled, minced ginger and 1 tablespoon of minced garlic in a heat-proof bowl. Heat about 1/4 cup of peanut or vegetable oil until shimmering and stir it into the ginger and garlic to quick fry it. Then stir about 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and a pinch of salt.
- Sweet Soy Dipping Sauce: Mix 1/4 cup dark soy sauce, 1/4 cup broth or water and 3 tablespoons of rock or granulated sugar. Bring to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar completely. Remove from heat, and stir in a drop or two of sesame oil.
- Soup: In Malaysia, the broth sometimes gets additional flavor from a crushed stalk of lemongrass, pandan leaves or slices of galangal instead of ginger. A couple slices of fresh turmeric or a teaspoon of ground turmeric can impart a pleasant yellow hue to the chicken and broth. To lightly thicken the soup, stir 1 tablespoon of cornstarch into 1/4 cup cold water, then whisk this slurry into the simmering broth.