Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainan is a large island off the south China coast. It is not noted for its cuisine, hut this chicken rice dish is famous as a most popular and satisfying ‘comfort food’. The best versions of it are to be found in Singapore and Malaysia and it is a standard item in street food stalls, restaurants, hotel room services and home kitchens there. I always enjoy this dish when I visit that part of the world.

Note, though, that this is not the original recipe. In Hainan the whole chicken is traditionally used, including the head and feet. The version here uses an normal Western chicken and is still delectable, but do use the best and freshest chicken available. It may be served at room temperature and, as it re-heats nicely, it can be prepared in advance.

Ingredients

  • 1-1.5 kg (2¼-3 lb) free-range or corn fed chicken
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1.75 litres (3 pints) or more Chicken Stock
  • 6 slices fresh root ginger
  • 6 spring onions
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoongroundnut oil
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Enough long-grain white rice to fill a measuring jug to the 400 ml (14 fl oz) level

For the Garnish

  • 450 g (1 lb) cucumber (about 1)
  • 225 g (8 oz) tomatoes
  • 2 spring onions

For the Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce

  • 4 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions, white part only
  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh root ginger
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons groundnut oil

For the Chilli-Sesame Sauce

  • 2 fresh red chillies, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt

Method

Rub the chicken evenly with salt. Place it in a large pan and cover with the stock. Add more stock if necessary to cover and bring to a boil. Add the ginger, spring onions and pepper. Cover tightly, reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave covered tightly for 1 hour. Remove the chicken from the pan and allow it to cool. Skim off any surface fat from the stock. Measure 900 ml ( pints) of stock and set it aside. (This will be used to cook the rice.)

Heat a wok or large frying-pan over a high heat until it is hot. Add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, add the garlic and salt and stir-fry for 1 minute. Then add the rice and continue to stir-fry for 2 minutes. Now add the reserved stock to the rice, bring the mixture to a boil and continue boiling until most of the liquid has evaporated. Turn the heat to very low and cover tightly. Let the rice cook undisturbed for 15 minutes. Remove the wok from the heat and let the rice rest for 5 minutes before serving it.

Now prepare the garnishes. Peel the cucumber, slice it in half lengthways and, using a teaspoon, remove the seeds. Then slice the cucumber. Thinly slice the tomatoes. Slice the spring onions on the diagonal. Arrange the slices on a platter and set aside.

To make the ginger and spring onion sauce, mix the spring onions, ginger and salt together in a heatproof bowl. Heat the wok until it is very hot, add the oil and, when it is very hot and slightly smoking, pour it on the ginger-spring onion mixture and mix well. To make the chilli-sesame sauce, add the red chillies to the sesame oil, sugar and salt and mix well in a small bowl. Transfer the chicken to a chopping board, cut it into bite-sized pieces and arrange it on a warm platter. Re-heat the remaining stock and serve it in a soup tureen. Serve the rice in bowls with the garnishes and the sauces.

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