Last night, there was a replay of the No Reservations episode shot in Singapore and, suddenly, I missed Singapore. I love the vibrancy of that city-state the food stalls where the food is so good it seems silly to go to pricey restaurants, the shops in the air-conditioned underground tunnel, the food, the train, the food so, okay, yes, it’s mostly the food. I had a serious craving for Hainanese chicken and, armed with new techniques gleaned from Anthony Bourdain’s show, I decided that Hainanese chicken was what we’d have for dinner tonight. Time to update my 2008 Hainanese chicken recipe based on Kylie Kwong’s which, it now turns out, is not so good at all (the original entry is on page two).
Hainanese chicken rice is almost a national dish in Singapore in much the same way that kaya toast is considered its national breakfast. Every cook has his tricks for making Hainanese chicken rice but I think that this recipe can compete with good quality restaurant fare. Delicious. The meat was soft and juicy, the rice was rich but not overpowering and the dipping sauce… well, Speedy said I didn’t make enough. He was practically spreading it over his rice. Yes, that’s good.
I only wish that the photo above was better. I wish even more that I were better at chopping the cooked chicken but I’ll get there. Practice, after all, makes perfect. This entry consists of three parts: the recipe for the Hainanese chicken, the recipe for the Hainanese chicken rice, and the recipe for the ginger dipping sauce. Let’s start with the Hainanese chicken. It isn’t steamed; it’s simmered. Not in water but in stock. You needed eight to 12 cups of stock depending on the size of your chicken (see tips for making homemade broth).
Boil the stock with onion leaves, whole onions, whole garlic, and several slices of ginger, and fish sauce. When the stock is boiling, slide in the chicken, breast side down. Adding the chicken to the stock after it boils prevents scum from forming. You will use the liquid for cooking your rice later so you want it clear and free from impurities. Lower the heat, cover the pan, and simmer the chicken. Then, carefully turn the chicken over and continue simmering. I had a 1.5 kg. chicken, I simmered it for 20 minutes before turning it over. Then, I simmered it for another 15 minutes. Make adjustments if your chicken is larger or smaller. The thing to remember is to NOT overcook the chicken.
When the chicken is done, place it in a bowl of iced water to tighten up the skin. Give it an iced bath. Then. lift out, drain, and cool. Measure your rice, and cook it as you ordinarily would but, instead of water, use the strained liquid in which the chicken has cooked. Never mind sauteing more garlic and ginger and cooking the rice in oil before adding the broth. If your broth is flavorful enough, i.e., you started with stock rather than water, you can skip the entire sauteing routine.