26 March 2011

Hainanese Chicken Rice

We all have comfort foods, those foods that we turn too when we want to enjoy the flavours, but also bring back the sounds, smells and tastes of some fantastic memories. I spent a long time in South East Asia, and I love the crisp clean flavours, I close my eyes and I can see the vivid colours - red chillies, green limes, vibrant coriander and delicate crystals of palm sugar. I can smell the galangal, the sharpness of lemongrass, the hint of aniseed in thai basil, and the nose wrinkling pungency of fish sauce. And one of my most favourite dishes is Hainanese Chicken Rice, it's a delicate blend of ginger and green onion stuffed chicken, poached in water with a hint of sesame oil, and served with garlic & ginger rice, and hot chilli sauce, both made with the liquid the chicken is poached in. It's a simple, peaceful dish, it doesn't need powerful flavours and it doesn't pretend to be anything that it isn't. It just is!

for the chicken,
  • 1 whole chicken, about 1.8 kgs
  • coarse salt
  • 2 large thumbs (8cm long) ginger, sliced
  • 4 spring onions, chopped into 2cm pieces
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
the rice
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cm piece of ginger, grated
  • 2 cups basmati rice, washed and rinsed
  • 2 cups of the chicken stock that the chicken was cooked in
  • 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
and finally the chilli sauce
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons of the chicken stock the chicken was cooked in
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 4 tablespoons hot chile sauce
  • 4 cloves garlic, grated
  • 2cm piece of ginger, grated
  • a generous pinch of salt, to taste
  • Scrub the outside of the chicken with the coarse salt to remove any residue on the skin, rinse thoroughly.

  • Stuff the chicken with the ginger slices and spring onions.

  • Pop it into a large stockpot and cover with water, and add the sesame oil. Bring it to the boil and then turn down and simmer. Skim the froth of the top of the water. Cook for about 45 minutes until chicken is done. Remove chicken and reserve the stock. Keep the chicken warm wrapped in tinfoil

  • For the rice, place the oil and garlic and ginger in a pan and heat on medium heat until garlic and ginger are sizzling, Add the rice and sesame oil and cook for 2 minutes. About now, I'm in heaven with the smells from the rice, yummmm!

  • I now pop this mixture into the rice cooker with the chicken stock and cook. To make it in a pot, add the stock and bring to the boil, lower the heat and pop the lid on. Cook for 10 minutes, take the pot of the heat leaving the lid on and set aside for 10 minutes to absorb the rest of the liquid.
  • For the chile sauce, put all of the ingredients into a blender and blitz.
  • Heat the remaining stock for soup
  • Slice the chicken ready to serve. Serve the chicken with the rice, the chile sauce and the rest of the stock.

And enjoy!


  1. This looks fantastic, Gill!

    Question: is there an easy way to tell when a chicken is done poaching? I tend to boil the poor thing until it turns to wood!

  2. Whip the chicken out, pierce the fattest part of the chicken thigh and if the juices run clear, it's done, or if you have a meat thermometer, pop that into the fattest bit of the thigh and look for a temp of 90 degrees celsius (175 degrees fahrenheit).

  3. Loving the pictorial journey through the recipe. I haven't cooked a whole chicken in years, so this will be fun!

    Alternatively I will just come to your house and eat it next time you make it!

  4. Love your cooking tips Gill and especially love your cooking classes - I learn so much and get so much inspiration!

    Will you consider running an evening class or weekend class for my clients?