Hainan Chicken


  • 2 kg (4 lb) free-range or organic chicken
  • 1 teaspoon five-spice powder
  • 6 star-anise pods, plus extra for garnish
  • 12 peppercorns, roughly crushed
  • 1 medium onion, stuck with 6 cloves
  • 6 fresh coriander stalks, and then use the leaves for garnish
  • 6 thin slices fresh ginger root
  • 7.5 cm (3 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine, or Amontillado sherry
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce


Rinse the chicken thoroughly, inside and out, remove any fat, and cut off the wing pinions. If it has been trussed, remove the string to allow it to cook through more evenly.

Place the chicken in a large saucepan, cover it with water, and add the rest of the ingredients. Bring to the boil over medium heat, skim off, and then poach very gently – that is, with the occasional bubble just breaking on the surface, for 35 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the chicken to cool in the stock. The initial residual heat will easily complete the cooking of the chicken. After 1½ hours, remove the chicken from the stock, reserving the stock, and plunge it into a large bowl full of water and ice cubes for 10 minutes. This will set the juices in the chicken to a clear jelly.

Remove the chicken from the ice, and then chop, cut or cleave it into neat pieces, of a size to be picked up by chopsticks. Arrange on a dish, and garnish with coriander and extra star anise.

The accompanying dishes can be prepared while the chicken is cooking. Cook some long-grain rice in twice its volume of stock or water.

Garnish the rice with thinly sliced and fried onion. Grate a 7.5 cm (3 inch) piece of fresh ginger, mix with a teaspoon of sea salt, and serve in a small bowl. Another condiment can be made by mixing some chilli sauce, or chopped chillies with garlic, oil and rice vinegar. In a third bowl mix equal quantities of soy sauce and rice vinegar with a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil.

The stock, once you have removed the chicken, can be boiled, strained, and served in bowls with some shredded spring onion as a first course.