Reinventing a Classic – Hainanese Chicken Rice

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Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: October 1, 2011

So far I’ve done a western dish (Rigatoni ai quattro formaggi) and now I will do decidedly more eastern style dish.  Hainanese Chicken Rice is a very simple yet very tasty chinese recipe.  While I was out in Malaysia I had some at one of the “5-star Hainanese Chicken Rice” restaurants.  It lives up to its rather bold name, which is probably why there are now three of them spread across Kota Kinabalu.

Hainanese chicken rice consists of three parts, the chicken, the rice and the chilli sauce.  The stock is used in every part, the meat and rice are cooked in it, the soup is based on it and the chilli sauce is mixed with it.  There are main variations on how Hainanese chicken rice is cooked.  The two major differences for me are the stock and the chicken.  The chicken is sometimes dipped in ice water after cooking to keep the skin jelly like yet tight, it also stops the cooking process.  The stock can be made in very different ways with varying ingredients.  Because the stock is used throughout the dish, a subtle change can make a big difference.

What ever method you choose to cook Hainanese chicken rice, there is very little waste and that’s what I love about this dish.  I’m going to go in a different direction, I will keep the three main elements but I am aiming for a slightly different end product.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4):

Chicken Rice:

500g Chicken Thigh Fillets

1 Whole Cucumber

1 Litre Chicken Stock

500ml Pork Stock

20g Ginger

2 Cloves Garlic

1 Red Onion

4 Sping Onions

2 Cups (340g) of Basmati rice or Thai Jasmine rice (rinsed and dried)

4 Tbsp Rapeseed oil

1 tsp Sesame oil

Cilantro (for garnish)



3 Large Red Chilies (de-seeded)

1 Clove Garlic

20g Ginger

1 tsp Tomato Puree

1 Spring Onion

1 Lime

1 tsp Light Soya Sauce

Small bunch of Cilantro



1.  Heat a large pan and add in the chicken and pork stock.  Crush one whole clove of garlic and roughly chop the ginger, red onion and two spring onions, add to the stock and bring to the boil.

2.  Get a wok or saute pan and set to a very high heat.  Generously season the chicken skin with salt and then sear them in the pan skin side down.  As the skin is frying, season the other side of the chicken with salt.  Turn only once.

3.  Once the chicken is nice and crispy on both sides, add it in to the stock.  Deglaze the pan with some of the stock and return it to the stock pot.  Keep the stock boiling over a fairly high heat to allow it to reduce.

4.  Heat the rapeseed oil again on a high heat.  At the first sign of smoke, reduce the heat to medium and add in the rice.  Add the sesame oil to the rice and stir fry until the rice becomes slightly translucent.

5.  Remove the chicken from the stock and reserve.  Ladel the stock into the rice (about 750ml should be enough) and allow the rice to soften, stirring occasionally.

6.  As the rice is cooking, finely dice the remaining garlic clove and another spring onion and add to the rice.

7.  Reserve about half a ladel (or more) of stock for the chilli sauce.  If you want to reheat the chicken you can add it back to the stock here but usually the chicken is served cold.

8. Add boiling water to the stock to make a soup (add to taste).  Remove the chicken if you decided to reheat it.  Chop the remaining spring onion and a little cilantro to garnish the soup.

9. Cut the chicken into strips and serve of a bed of sliced cucumber.  You can drizzle it with a mix of sesame oil and some thick sweet soya if you have it.

The Sauce:

1. If you have a food processor, roughly chop the chilli, ginger, garlic and spring onion and blitz until it is almost a paste.  Alternatively finely chop and throughly mix all the ingredients.

2. Add the chopped cilantro, tomato puree, light soya and lime juice.

3. Add the hot stock to the sauce, mix and serve.




If you want to use a whole chicken and make your own chicken stock you can.  Just remove the breast and thigh meat (for frying later) before boiling the chicken.

I tried adding coconut milk to the rice but it made it too heavy, almost like a risotto.  This is why I recommend Basmati or Thai rice as they produce less starch.  Rinsing twice is another option to remove more starch from the rice.

When frying the chicken try to keep the bits of meat apart.  If they all squeeze together in the pan they will steam or boil rather than fry and you won’t get that crispy skin.  Cook it in batches if you have to, you don’t have to worry about the chicken going cold!

You don’t need to cook the chicken through when searing it, you just need that brown crust.  The boiling in the stock will finish it off.  Also don’t worry about the chicken sticking to the pan, once it goes crispy it will release its self – that’s a good way to tell when your chicken is ready to turn or to go into the stock.

2 Comments - Leave a comment
  1. […] Hainanese Chicken Rice (*) […]

  2. chef_cerro says:

    I’ve had to rewrite this receipe due to the server crashing and losing some data – hopefully it is close enough to the original receipe that I did…


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