I have been beating a path all over this fabulous city trying to find the best Hainanese Chicken. There are some pretty good versions out there but I often find myself craving it in a very specific way – good quality chicken that’s not too cold, rice flavoursome but not too garlicky.
It’s the perfect dish when you’re feeling like you need a little nurturing. If your partner’s left you, your dog’s died or your footy team have lost the premiership this delicate dish is perfect for providing comfort from the inside out.
The process of steeping a whole chicken in freshly boiled water with the lid clamped on is a revelation. If you haven’t cooked a chicken this way before let me tell you it produces the most beautiful, tender, juicy chicken you have ever tasted. I’ve read many recipes for Hainanese Chicken and have felt that it was a little too involved, but this meal when kept simple with just a small number of ingredients, worked perfectly for me.
HAINANESE CHICKEN (Serves 4)
1 Whole Free Range Chicken (about 1.5kg)
3 Spring Onions
4 tbsp Peanut Oil
1 tsp Sesame Oil
2 cups jasmine rice
1 fat garlic clove, crushed
Chilli Sauce (essential)
Coriander Leaves to serve (optional)
Cucumber slices to serve (optional)
1. Put a large pot of water onto boil.
2. Cut half of your ginger in three slices and drop into the pot. Leave to come to the boil.
3. While the water is heating, trim the excess fat from your chicken and reserve.
4. When the water comes to a rapid rolling boil, remove from heat and add chicken to the pot with breast side down, and put the lid on. The chicken should be fully covered. Leave the chicken to sit in the boiled water for 2 hours. Do not return to the heat and do not take the lid off.
5. Once your chicken has cooked start the rice. Take the reserved chicken fat in a medium sized pot cooking on low to render the fat. This could take 30 minutes or more – there’s no rush.
6. Remove any remaining skin from the pot leaving the fat, add the crushed garlic and the rice. After cooking for about a minute add four cups of stock from the chicken pot. Season with salt and cook on a low heat for 14 minutes to cook absorption style (keep an eye on it).
7. To make the accompanying ginger sauce finely chop the other half of the ginger and finely chop the spring onions. Combine.
8. Heat the Peanut Oil until smoking, then pour over the ginger and onion mixture. Add sesame oil and leave to settle.
9. Serve the dish but slicing the chicken breast, leg and thigh in chinese style. Set over the chicken-y rice and sprinkle with coriander leaves.
10. If you are super keen you can make a chilli sauce to have with your ginger sauce. I prefer to use Ding’s Sambal Oelek which is perfect for this dish, or a hit of Sriracha “Rooster Sauce”.
Lots of recipes suggest that you need to rub the chicken in soy sauce when it’s done. I don’t think it’s necessary and hate to ruin the perfect white of the chicken. If your keen for a little soy, take a quarter cup of the chicken stock, add a couple of tablespoons of soy sauce and drizzle over chicken when serving.
First time I cooked the chicken I was paranoid that it would be sufficiently cook. As long as you leave for the minimum of 2 hours it has always worked fine. Leaving for 2 hours 30 minutes does the chicken no harm either.