Citizens, for our next two posts, I will share two unique chicken soup recipes from Asia!
Today, I give you a specialty of the Island of Hainan off China, a dish now enjoyed throughout Southeast Asia, including Hong Kong and Malaysia but especially in Singapore. This dish appears simple, consisting of boiled chicken, rice and soup with some dipping sauces.
Looks can be VERY deceiving though – the preparation and techniques to make this seemingly simple recipe are profound – and well worth the effort of making right!
The prevalence of stalls selling Hainanese chicken rice as their primary specialty in Singapore underscores the dish’s popularity amongst Singaporeans and overseas visitors.
Hainanese chicken rice is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore, and is often served at international expositions and global events abroad, and in Singaporean-run restaurants overseas. Hainanese chicken rice is also one of the few local dishes served on Singapore Airlines flights.
In Singapore, Hainanese chicken rice is served everywhere from school canteens, hawker stalls to major restaurants. There are Hainanese chicken rice stalls that have established franchise or branch outlets, and these include Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, Boon Tong Kee, Loy Kee, Wee Nam Kee and others which have many outlets island wide.
Hainanese-owned coffee shops tend to serve a variety of Hainanese cuisine, with chicken rice being the main highlight. Other Hainanese dishes include pork chop, vegetables, fish, eggs and char siew.
Most of these shops are air-conditioned, and are mainly concentrated at Purvis Street and Seah Street. The dish was popularized in Singapore in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997.
My version of this hallowed recipe is both authentic and delicious, Citizens – it’s based on a Singaporean chef’s own recipe. I’ve also added a recipe for a supreme herbal chicken stock that adds an incredible depth of flavor. Using it is totally optional.
Battle on – The Generalissimo
For the rice:
3 cups (600g) Jasmine long grain rice
2 tbsp chicken skin with fat
2 tbsp water
2 cm piece ginger, lightly smashed
2 cloves garlic, lightly smashed
1–2 tsp salt or to taste
3 ½ cups of chicken stock (preferred) or water with 1 tbsp chicken stock powder added to it
2 pandan (aka screwpine) leaves, shredded and knotted (optional but highly recommended as it gives the rice a unique fragrance)
Pak Cham Kai (Chicken steeped in stock):
1 whole chicken
Enough water (for boiling)
1 thumb-sized piece of ginger, crushed
4–5 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
6 scallions, cut into 2″ lengths
1 tsp salt
Chili garlic sauce for dipping:
10 fresh hot red chillies
2 cm piece ginger
4 cloves garlic
¼ tsp salt
Juice of 2 calamansi limes
2 tbsp reserved chicken stock
Ginger sauce for dipping:
6 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
Juice of 2 calamansi limes
2 tbsp reserved chicken stock
Soy sauce for chicken:
1 ½ tbsp garlic oil
1 ½ tsp sesame oil
5 tbsp soy sauce
1 ½ tbsp pulverized Chinese golden rock sugar (preferred) or to taste or just use regular sugar
3 tbsp water
Fresh coriander leaves
Sliced spring onion
TFD Supreme Chicken Broth Soup (Optional):
Chinese cabbage (Napa Cabbage or Wong Bok) – 1 cup
4 slices Daikon radish, quartered
2 Preboiled chicken feet
3 tbs of chinese wolfberries
4 Chicken livers, broiled lightly and chopped
2 slices of Chinese hairy melon
3 Chinese dried oysters, chopped
4 slices lotus root, sliced thin
The rest of the stock from cooking the chicken
1 to 2 tbs of Japanese MSG-free dashi powder (Dashi no moto)
Salt and pepper to taste
To prepare the rice, wash it in several changes of water until the water runs clean and clear.
Heat wok and add chicken fat and 2 tablespoons water. Bring to a low simmering boil until oil is released from the fat.
Add ginger, garlic and fry well. Remove and discard any solid chicken fat, then add in rice and salt to mix. Stirfry briskly for 1–2 minutes.
Transfer all the ingredients into an electric rice pot.
Add water or chicken stock and pandan leaves. Cook until rice turns dry and fluffy. Stir through just before serving and remove seasoning solids from the rice.
To prepare the chicken, bring enough water to boil in a large pot to cover the chicken completely. Add scallion, ginger, garlic and salt.
While the pot of water is being heated:
Inspect the chicken and pluck off any bits of feather.
Clean the chicken all over by rubbing with coarse salt (about 3-4 tbsp) – the chicken skin should become smooth, with a polished, shiny quality. When sufficiently cleaned, rinse the salt off the chicken.
Put the chicken into the pot. Lower the heat and cook for 10–15 minutes uncovered. Turn off the flame and cover the pot. Allow the chicken to cook for 20–25 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the pot, discard all the other solids and immerse the chicken in a basin of ice water for 5–6 minutes.
Next, take the chicken out of the basin of cold water and drain on a colander to dry before cutting up into serving pieces.
Arrange in a serving plate and garnish with spring onion and coriander leaves and cucumber slices.
To prepare the chili garlic sauce, blend all sauce ingredients in an electric blender.
Adjust seasoning by adding salt and sugar to taste. Use immediately or store in a sealed jar until required.
For the ginger sauce, combine all the ingredients in an electric blender and whiz. Serve immediately or store in a sealed jar until required.
Next, combine all ingredients for the soy sauce in a small saucepan. Heat the mixture until the sugar dissolves then set aside to cool before use.
For the soup – if making the TFD supreme chicken stock, simmer everything together for 30 minutes – strain solids out of soup prior to serving. If not, just reduce chicken poaching liquid until rich and concentrated.
Serve soup, garnish it with finely-chopped spring onion. Serve soup with the Chicken Rice. Use the various dipping sauces as you see fit.