Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯

As macabre as it may sound, the sight of cooked chickens and ducks dangling from gruesome hooks typifies the South East Asian food experience for many of us; often eliciting sympathy and hunger in equal measure. For me though, it gives me pangs of nostalgia for what is, perhaps, one of my favourite Malaysian dishes – Hainanese Chicken Rice. Unsurprisingly, I’m not alone in my love for this dish either, as it appeared at number 45 on CNN’s World’s 50 Most Delicious Foods. Hainanese Chicken Rice’s enduring popularity is testament to the appeal of its uncomplicated nuances and its surprising depth of flavour.

IMG_6853 (600x800)Typically there are two types of chicken on offer at any given Chicken Rice stall in South East Asia; poached (white) or roasted (brown). Growing up, I always preferred the latter, as I was a bit put off by the opaque appearance of the poached variety – if only I’d been a more adventurous child! Whilst the roasted version is undoubtedly very tasty, the poached version is in fact superior in both flavour and texture. Not only does the poaching process have a transformative effect on the meat and skin of the chicken (making it impossibly silky), it also imparts a subtle depth of flavour that enhances the chicken, rather than overpowering it. In addition to being tastier than its roasted counterpart, the white version is also much easier to make!

With a name like Chicken Rice, it should come as no surprise that the rice plays an equally important role in the dish! The good news is that the chicken’s poaching broth doubles-up as the stock used in making the rice. So getting the rice just right isn’t much of a chore – simply use the stock instead of water when making your rice. The stock can also be frozen and reused indefinitely, creating a depth of flavour that only gets better with each chicken poached.

A third, and equally important, element to Chicken Rice is its unique chilli sauce. This light, zesty sauce is both fragrant and hot – the prefect accompaniment to the “clean-tasting” chicken; it is an absolute must!

For more delicious Malaysian recipes, please click here

Hainanese Chicken Rice 海南雞飯 : Serves 4

Hainanese Chicken:

  • 1 x 1.5kg whole chicken, pref. free range
  • 5 litres water
  • 1.5 cups shaoxing rice wine
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 10 slices ginger, peeled
  • 5 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
  • 2 tbsp. sea salt

Ginger Soya Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup light soya sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. castor sugar
  • 1/2 tbsp. sweet thick soya sauce (kicap manis)
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1 tsp. sesame oil
  • 2 tsp. peanut oil (or vegetable oil)

Chilli Sauce:

  • 4 large red chillis
  • 4 garlic cloves, reserved from the poaching stock
  • 6 slices ginger, reserved from the poaching stock
  • Juice of 4 limes
  • 1/2 tsp. white sugar
  • 1/2 cup poaching stock
  • A pinch of salt and a dash of white pepper


  • Sliced spring onion
  • Fresh red chilli,
  • Fresh coriander
  • Ground white pepper

Method for Hainanese Chicken:

  1. Find a stockpot (with a lid) that is just large enough for your chicken to fit into
  2. Add all the ingredients (except the chicken) into the pot and bring to a rapid boil
  3. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes
  4. In the meantime, rinse the chicken
  5. Place the chicken, breast-side down, into the stock. Make sure that the entire chicken is covered with the stock (you may have to lightly press down on the chicken to keep it submerged)
  6. Poach the chicken for 15 minutes, not a minute more or less.
  7. Make sure that the stock remains at a very gentle simmer throughout the entire poaching process
  8. Once the 15 minutes are up, take the pot off the heat
  9. Place some tinfoil over the pot and cover with the lid
  10. Allow the chicken to sit in the stock at room temperature for at least 3 hours – don’t be tempted to peek!
  11. Gently remove the chicken from the stock and allow to cool
  12. Drain your stock through a sieve and keep the broth in the fride
  13. Reserve 1/2 cup of the stock, 6 slices ginger and 4 garlic cloves, keep aside for the chilli sauce
  14. Cook your rice as you would do normally, but use the poaching liquid instead of water

Method for Ginger Soya Dressing:

  1. In a bowl, combine everything except the sesame and peanut oils
  2. Heat the two oils in a small frying pan until smoking
  3. Pour smoking oil into the bowl with the sauce, mixture to combine
  4. Pour over chicken before garnishing with herbs

Method for Chilli Sauce:

  1. Deseed the chillis and finely chop
  2. In a mini-food processor, add the chopped chillis and the rest of the ingredients except for the stock
  3. Pulse until you have a smooth sauce
  4. Slowly add the stock, until the sauce reaches the desired consistency


  1. Cut the chicken “Chinese Style”
  2. Pour over the Ginger Soya Dressing
  3. Garnish with sliced spring onions, fresh red chilli and coriander. Top with a dash of ground white pepper and serve with rice (see above) and the special chilli sauce

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