Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hainanese Chicken Rice (海南鸡饭) - (AFF - Singapore #1)

In conjunction with this month's Asian Food Fest, I cooked Hainanese Chicken Rice (海南鸡饭) for weekend lunch. This dish is very well known here in Singapore and it is considered one of the national dishes. You can find Hainanese Chicken Rice almost everywhere in Singapore!

Hainanese Chicken Rice is a dish adapted from early Chinese immigrants originally from the Hainan province in southern China. It is based on a well-known Hainanese dish called Wenchang Chicken (文昌雞), due to its adoption by the Hainanese overseas Chinese population in the Nanyang area. (Source : Wikipedia)

Bite-sized pieces of blanched white chicken, fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth, delicious ground chilli and spring onion ginger oil. And some likes going with dark soy sauce, some don't. These are common way of eating Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore.

This dish can be simple. But to make it good, you need some patience here. Everything starts from stepping into the market and select the freshest ingredients, picking the right Kampong Chicken (or Free Range Chicken), ensuring the rice is well cooked, and to prepare the condiments well.

My mom always says, Chicken Rice is a simple dish, but this probably can categorized as Kungfu dish (功夫菜). It means the dish is using simple ingredients, but to make it good, it needs alot of attention and every details must be well taken care of.

Chicken should be cooked very lightly, pink inside the bones, not too bloody, and with a gelatinous skin. I'm still learning :)

A lot of effort goes into the preparation of this flavorful dish, with effort of slowly blanching the chicken until it is fully cooked, before immediately soaking it in cold water. This stops the cooking process and ensures that the meat remains tender, and is also why the meat is usually served at room temperature. 

(Source: My mother-Mdm Chai, her source is from a Hainanese Chicken Rice Stall's owner in SG)

The Chicken
  • 1 Kampong Chicken (or Free Range Chicken), estimated 1kg
  • 5 thick slice Old Ginger, about 35g
  • 2 cloves Garlic, bruised
  • 1 sprig Spring Onion, tied into a knot
  • 2300ml Water (or more)
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
Rendering Chicken Fats 
  • 150g Chicken Fats / Skins
  • 1 tbsp Peanut Oil / Cooking Oil
The Rice
  • 475g Jasmine Rice (95%)
  • 25g Glutinous Rice (5%) (Trade secret)
  • 500ml Chicken Stock
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 8 tbsp Rendered Chicken Fats (Or you can use shallot oil as alternative)
  • 4 strands of Pandan Leaf (Screwpine Leaf), tied into 2 knots
  • 1 stalk Lemon Grass, lightly bruised
  • 4 cloves Garlic, bruised
  • 2 thumb sized Old Ginger, sliced
  • 2 tsp Planta / Margarine (Optional. I didn't use and I don't recommend) (Trade secret)
The Chilli
  • 3 cloves Garlic
  • 3 Red Chilli
  • 2 Bird Eye Chilli / Cili Padi
  • 1 thumb sized Young Ginger
  • Juice from 3 to 4 Small Calamansi
  • ½ tsp Salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp Sugar, or more to taste
  • ¼ tsp MSG (Optional - I didn't use)
  • 1 to 2 tbsp Chicken stock to dilute it. But I'd prefer 2 tbsp Rendered Chicken Oil
  • 1 tsp DelMonte Ketchup (Optional) (Trade secret)
Spring Onion and Ginger Oil (Optional)
  • 100g Old Ginger
  • 25g Spring Onions (or more)
  • 2 tbsp Rendered Chicken Oil
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • ½ tsp Salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp Sugar, or more to taste
  • ¼ tsp Chicken Powder (Optional - I didn't use)
Dark Soy Sauce
  • 20g Rock Sugar
  • 30ml Water
  • 50ml Dark Soya Sauce
Dressing for the chicken
  • ½ thumb sized Rock Sugar (Trade secret)
  • 2 tbsp Light Soy Sauce
  • 1 tbsp Shao Xing Wine (绍兴酒), also known as Hua Tiao Wine
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • Coriander
  • Sping Onions
  • Cucumber, sliced
Alot of effort goes into the preparation of this flavorful dish yea.

Method - The Chicken
  1. Wash and trim any visible fat from the chicken. Cut away the chicken feet. Stuff old ginger, garlic, spring onions into the cavity of the chicken. 
  2. Bring water to a boil. Once water is boiled, hold the chicken head (refer to photo), soak the chicken body into the boiling water. With your hand still holding the chicken head, lift the chicken up, and soak it into the boiling water again. Do this for 4 times before you release the chicken head and let the chicken soak into the water completely. By doing this, water will go into the chicken cavity completely. This is to ensure that the whole chicken is well cooked.
  3. Keep an eye on the pot. Once you see the water is boiling again, turn to very low heat for 5 mins, and then heat off. Let the chicken sit inside the hot water untouched and covered for 30mins. If your chicken is big, you might need another 5 mins or so. For this part, you have to gauge it on your own. Prepare a tub of ice-cold water, preferably with ice cubes. 
  4. Once chicken is cooked, using chopsticks, gently remove the chicken from the water and place the chicken into a tub of tap water, let the tap water running for 10mins. And then, transfer the chicken to the tub of ice-cold water.
  5. Once chicken is completely cooled, drain. Apply 1 tbsp Sesame Oil on the chicken skin. Set aside.

Method - Rendering Chicken Fats
  1. Roughly chop the chicken fats and skin. 
  2. In a small sauce pan, heat up peanut oil, and add in the chicken fats and skin. Let it cook over very low heat for 30 mins (or upto 1 hour) until the liquid fat renders away. Pour off and keep the liquid fats for later use. You may discard the crispy chicken fats.

Method - The Rice
  1. Wash the rice well, and soak it for 1.5hrs, drained.
  2. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat up 8 tbsp rendered chicken fats. 
  3. Add the garlic, ginger, lemongrass. Fry till fragrant and golden brown. Remove from the oil. 
  4. Add one knot of pandan leaf. Fry till fragrant. Remove from the oil. 
  5. Turn off the heat. Add in Planta (Optional), drained rice. Give it a good mix, until the rice are all well coated with the flavorful oil. 
  6. Transfer the rice into rice cooker. Add in 500ml reserved chicken stock and salt. Stir well. Throw in the 2nd Pandan leaf knot. Cook the rice in a rice cooker or by your preferred method of cooking rice. 
  7. Once rice is cooked. Remove pandan leaf knot. Loosen the rice with chopsticks and give it a mix. Cover the rice, and let it sit in the rice cooker for another 10mins before serving. The texture of rice is important and it takes quite a bit of experience to get it done properly. 
Method - The Chilli
  1. Combine all chillies, ginger, garlic, sugar, salt in a food processor and blitz away.
  2. Add in calamansi juice and 1 to 2 tbsp chicken stock to dilute it. But I prefer to use 2 tbsp hot Rendered Chicken Oil instead.
  3. Add in MSG and DelMonte Ketchup. Stir well. Set aside.
Method - Spring Onion and Ginger Oil
  1. Blitz ginger into paste in a food processor. 
  2. Heat the rendered chicken oil and sesame oil in a small frying pan. 
  3. When the oil is hot enough (at it's smoking point), add in ginger paste. Fry well for 2 to 3mins. 
  4. Add in spring onion, salt, sugar, chicken powder. Give it a quick stir. Heat off. Set aside and leave to infuse. 
Method - Dark Soy Sauce
  1. In a small saucepan, boil rock sugar and water under low heat till completely melted and viscous. 
  2. Add in dark soy sauce, continue to cook till it thickens. Remove and leave it till completely cooled.
Method - Dressing for the chicken
  1. In a small saucepan, boil rock sugar, soy sauce and Shao Xing wine under low heat till completely melted and viscous. Heat off.
  2. Add in sesame oil. Stir well. Remove and set aside. 
To Serve
  1. Chop the chicken, Chinese-style. Arrange it on a plate. Pour the dressing over it. Scatter with a little coriander. 
  2. Serve with hot chicken rice, condiments, broth and garnishes.

Here's some notes that you need take into consideration. 
  1. Use a tall and slim pot to cook the water for blanching chicken. This is to ensure you use the minimum amount of water, just enough to submerge the chicken. Like that, you will have a better flavor chicken stock to cook the rice later. 
  2. Try to buy Kampong Chicken from Sheng Siong. They sell good and genuine black leg Kampong Chicken.
  3. If you think rendered chicken fats is unhealthy, you'd probably didn't know that you actually ate loads of them when you eat chicken rice at the hawker centre. Without them, you won't like your chicken rice. So, just do it. You can get chicken fats / skins from Sheng Siong super mart. Or simply ask the chicken seller at the wet-market. Sometimes they gave it away for free. 
  4. 95% Jasmine Rice + 5% Glutinous Rice is really a trade secret. Rice suppliers pre-mixed the rice ratio before they send to the chicken rice stall. 
  5. Planta / Margarine too, is another trade secret. It gives the chicken rice a nice color. However, I didn't use it because I'm cooking it for my family. I don't need them. And this also explains why the color of my chicken rice looked abit to the pale side. 
  6. It's not surprising that there's MSG in the chilli sauce. But I was amazed when my mom told me that DelMonte Ketchup is used for the chilli sauce. But well, this is for chicken rice stall to do business tho.
  7. Spring Onion and Ginger Oil is NOT AVAILABLE in every chicken rice stall in Singapore. Only bare minimum of them is still having this condiment. Some only serve ginger paste with oil. Cost is also one of the factor for them for not maintaining it. Hence, till now, there's an argument point that Spring Onion and Ginger Oil shouldn't exist in Hainanese Chicken Rice dish. Oh well. It's up to you :)
  8. Some says dark soya sauce plays an important part for Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice. I confess, and I admit. I forgot to prepare the dark soy sauce. Too busy and too focused on the chicken and the rice. Damn it!
  9. Rock sugar makes a difference to the dressing for the chicken. If you could, please stick to rock sugar.
  10. The rest is just a matter of blending the ingredients and then adding seasonings, oil and stock. Making these sauces from scratch gives full authenticity to the recipe.

Although Hainanese Chicken Rice stalls in Singapore is selling lip-smacking delicious chicken rice. I'd tried my very best to note down every single thing my mom told me. This recipe may not produce exactly the same result as store-bought chicken rice. This might be due to the recipe that I've written above might have tweaked to adjust to my own agaration (estimation). I see a room to evolve further in years to come.There are some ingredients (eg. Planta/Margarine or MSG or DelMonte Ketchup) is an optional. Since we are cooking for our family, just do it whenever you feels comfortable. If you feel that there's no need to add them, just go without them. I'd prefer original taste.

I personally quite happy with it for now. Maybe I should find a day to try some other well known chicken rice in Singapore (eg. Chatterbox?), or until I found another inspiration for further modifications to it.

Do share with me if you have any better recipe :)

I am submitting this post to Asian Food Fest (Singapore) – September Month hosted by Grace Phua of Life can be Simple


  1. Yummy! I like Hainanese Chicken Rice :)

  2. Thanks for your wonderful recipe. I'll try it sometime soon. Love your blog.

  3. Hi Annie, Singapore is famous for its' Pak Cham Kai rice. My colleague took me to an outlet just selling Chicken Rice. It was good. Can't remember where is the shop. You recipe looks very authentic. I shall try it one day. Can I use normal chicken instead of Kampong Chicken?

    1. Hi Kimmy, why not? You can use normal chicken. I think it's fine. But I'm sure you know the difference between normal chicken and kampong chicken. Right?

  4. Hi Annie, thanks for sharing this great recipe. Staying in Melbourne makes me miss these wonderful delicacies. I've always love Hainanese chicken rice - have bookmark this page and I'm going to make your recipe this weekend. Cheers :)

    1. Hi jcpy, I hope you enjoyed it so far. Do cook more. It's pretty straightforward :)

  5. Hi Annie, may I know this 475g of rice is equal to how many pax?

    1. Sorry for my late reply. That should feed 4 to 5 pax. Happy cooking!

  6. Wow. I love the detail post. I've been craving hainan chicken in san Francisco. No good places here.

  7. Scrummy. My hainanese chicken rice never looks so tasty and tempting. :(

  8. Hi Annie,may i know how long the sprinf onions n ginger oil can be kept?

    1. Hi Sonia, it can be kept well for upto 2 months in the freezer. But that's provided it is airtight and well sealed

  9. Dear Annie,

    How long each time you soak in the chicken? Since the full boiling time is only 5 minutes I am afraid the chicken won't cook well


    1. Hi Silva, yes. You didn't read it wrongly. if your chicken is between 1kg to 1.2kg and in room temperature, I guarantee you that my method gives you cooked chicken with tender meat. But if your chicken is bigger than 1.2kg, you probably need to soak the chicken longer. If u decided to cook the chicken longer, u will get tough and rough meat.

  10. Wow that's a wonderfull blog having all details & helpful. Chicken Rice

  11. I have been using the short cut method but will give this a try since my family love chicken rice.