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Hainan Chicken Rice

Hainan Chicken Rice

4 Servings

00:20 Prep

1:30 Cook

Moderate - You'll be right

Not to be confused with the popular Hoi An chicken rice—a dish characterised by its herbaceous qualities and served with turmeric rice—cơm gà Hải Nam (Hainanese chicken rice) is closer to the traditional Hainanese chicken rice commonly seen in Malaysia and Singapore, simple and lightly flavoured with its poaching broth.

Hainanese chicken rice was widely consumed in pre-war South Vietnam, and can still be found on the odd menu at restaurants in Vietnam. Expect succulently poached chicken on a bed of fragrant steamed chicken rice, served with a dipping sauce or in the case of my recipe—two dipping sauces, thanks to my mum and aunt.

Growing up in Vietnam, this was a special dish for my mum as chicken was very expensive. It was reserved for special occasions and so was cơm gà Hải Nam. When she came to Australia, she found it to be much more affordable so fortunately our family regularly indulged in Hainan chicken rice and other well-known Vietnamese chicken dishes such as goi ga (Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad) and pho ga (chicken pho) in abundance. These occasions gave her plenty of opportunities to refine elements of her recipe, particularly her soy and shallots dipping sauce.

Mum’s fragrant soy, ginger and shallot dipping sauce adds a unique and distinct flavour to this Hainanese delight. To start, she crushes and bruises shallots and ginger in a mortar and pestle until their aroma fills the room, then infuses them in oil that has been brought to a smoking point. Followed by the addition of soy, sugar and broth from boiling the chicken, this creates the most delicious sauce to accompany the poached chicken and douse your rice with.

The other Hainan chicken rice recipe in our family is my aunt’s, whose family actually migrated to South Vietnam from Hainan. Her recipe showcases lots of similarities to traditional Hainan chicken rice but with a Vietnamese influence—fish sauce! The addition of this Vietnamese culinary essence is the point of difference that I believe elevated her cơm gà Hải Nam from its homeland.  Inspired by the sauces often served alongside other Vietnamese poultry dishes such as chao vit (duck congee) and bun mang ga (Chicken and bamboo noodle soup)—which I highly encourage you to try—her fish sauce ginger dipping sauce is a highlight that when paired with the succulent poached chicken will coat your palate with a burst of umami.

So, if perfectly poached chicken served on fluffy fragrant rice and any of these two dipping sauces excite your tastebuds, do yourself a favour and give my Hainan chicken rice recipe a go.

Hainan Chicken Rice
Hainan Chicken Rice

Ingredients:

Poached chicken

  • 4 chicken marylands 

  • 1 brown onion, halved

  • 15g dried shrimp

  • ½ tablespoon sea salt

  • 1 teaspoon anchovy salt or 1 ½ teaspoon sea salt

  • 10g rock sugar or ½ teaspoon sugar

  • 1 small knob (20g) of ginger, crushed

  • 2.5L water

  • 1 bunch coriander roots

  • 1 tablespoon premium fish sauce

  • 4 teaspoons sesame oil


Chicken rice

  • 500g long grain rice

  • 1 small knob (25g) of ginger, crushed

  • 1 clove garlic, crushed

  • ½ teaspoon sea salt

  • 2 tablespoon cooking oil

  • Trimmed chicken fat (see Step 1)

  • 750ml chicken poaching liquid


Soy and ginger dipping sauce

  • 1 small knob (25g) of ginger 

  • 1-2 (50g) shallots crushed

  • 20ml cooking oil

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce

  • 3 tablespoons chicken poaching liquid

  • ½ tablespoon sugar


Ginger and chilli dipping sauce

  • 60g ginger, peeled and grated or crushed in mortar and pestle 

  • 1 tablespoons sugar 

  • 3 tablespoons poaching liquid 

  • 2 tablespoons premium fish sauce

  • Juice from half a Lime 

  • 1 red chilli, deseeded

  • 1 clove garlic


Garnish

  • 1 bunch coriander leaves

  • 2 Lebanese cucumbers, sliced

  • 1 tablespoon fried shallots

Method:

How to poach chicken and cook rice:
1. Wash chicken and trim off any excess fat but do not discard, set aside for the rice.
2. Place chicken in a large pot with remaining ingredients (except fish sauce and sesame oil) and fill with 2.5L water. Bring to the boil then simmer on low for 10 minutes. Skim off any impurities throughout the process, then remove from heat and cover. Allow the residual heat to poach the chicken for 20 minutes then remove the chicken from the broth, and place in a bowl of ice water for 5 minutes to stop the cooking process.
3. Chop chicken into 1-1.5cm pieces with a cleaver or alternatively debone the chicken Marylands before slicing by running a small paring knife along the thigh and leg bones and carefully separate the meat from the bone.
4. Strain the remaining chicken poaching liquid and return it to the boil. Add premium fish sauce then keep on a moderate rolling boil for 5 minutes to concentrate its flavour.
5. Rinse the rice a few times under water and agitate with your hands to remove excess starch. Once the water is clear, strain well with a colander and set aside.
6. Add chicken fat to a large saucepan/pot and render on a low-medium heat until lightly golden (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and ginger and sauté until lightly golden and fragrant, then turn the heat up to medium-high, and add rice and salt. Stir well for 3 minutes.
7. Add chicken poaching liquid and bring to the boil then reduce to low and cook until most of the poaching liquid has evaporated (about 5-7 minutes), then cover and simmer on the lowest heat you can find for 10 minutes. Do not stir the rice in this step.
8. Remove from heat, keep covered and allow to cool and gently steam through for 10 minutes before serving.

How to make Mum’s dipping sauce:
1. In a mortar and pestle crush shallots and ginger well but keep slightly chunky (not into a paste), remove and add to a small mixing bowl.
2. Add sugar and mix to dissolve.
3. Bring oil to smoking point, then add to the bowl and mix well. Be careful as it can pop and sizzle.
4. Add soy sauce and poaching liquid then mix until well combined.
5. Store any leftover chicken poaching liquid in the freezer to add to stir fries such as lobster and snow peas or beef and zucchini stir fry

How to make Aunty’s dipping sauce:
1. In a mortar and pestle, crush and bruise ginger, garlic and chilli.
2. Then mix in sugar, fish sauce and chicken poaching liquid.
3. Stir in fresh lime juice.

To serve, glaze the chicken with sesame oil, and dress with half the soy and ginger dressing sauce and garnish with coriander and fried shallots. Serve with bowls of rice and accompany with sides of cucumber and both dipping sauce.


Duncan’s tip: Add a few teaspoons of both sauces to your bowl of rice and mix well for additional flavour.

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