Bit of a strange one this one. Imagine the national dish of England was “Monaco Chicken” or “Texan Chicken”. The national dish of Singapore, named to represent the dish which shows the pure identity of the country, is named after a province in China – 3000km away.
This dish was phenomenal, but an utter beast to make. It was confusing (the recipe is pasted below) and caused 70 minutes washing up (I timed it). By the end it looked like I had been transported into a student kitchen. The dish looked so innocent…just a chicken and rice platter….but beneath it the flavours were huge. I’m knackered though. I started at 6pm and I finished washing up at 11pm. I was banking on my wife doing the washing up, but she bloody fell asleep on the sofa after we ate! I think she was pretending.
I’m at a bit of a cross-roads with this blog. I’m into my fifth year of doing it now and have limped to only 74 dishes. I don’t want to stop, but I feel a little like I’m cycling up a massive hill and pretty soon I’m going to run out of energy and get off. I don’t want to, so perhaps I just need to accept that this is not a short term project and I just need to finish it some time in my life. Get it done before I die. I do think I need to take off the “Week” title to each blog post. I’m probably in about week 230 rather than the 74 I’m stating.
I’ve got a cold this week, a really nasty one, so my creative juices are not really flowing. I’m going to get on with pasting the recipe below, but before then a summary.
The reason this is so good is that the chicken is poached in a stock of spring onion and ginger, which plumps it up and gives it a subtlety. The chilli sauce is laden in garlic and hot. The Jasmine rice is perfume and the cucumber and chopped spring onion give it texture. It’s a bowl of spicy comfort food with the condiments from Aromatic Crispy Duck thrown in! It’s a beauty. I’ll have a think of how to simplify the recipe, but for now give this a go!
The recipe was in The Guardian and posted by famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi:
Hainanese chicken rice
For the chilli sauce, try to find relatively mild chillies, or just use fewer of them. Failing that, you can also use a ready-made sauce – I like the Sriracha brand; just make sure it’s a savoury variety, not a sweet one. The acar recipe that follows is another condiment that you can quite happily serve alongside the chicken. Serves four.
100g ginger, peeled and thinly sliced (net weight), plus an extra 15g, finely chopped, for the rice
100g spring onion, sliced into 2cm pieces, plus 1 more whole spring onion for garnish
1 free-range chicken weighing about 1.5kg
1 large cucumber, peeled
75ml dark soy sauce
25ml light soy sauce
1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
35g unsalted butter
3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
420g jasmine rice
3 tbsp shop-bought fried shallots (optional)
10g picked coriander leaves
For the chilli sauce
About 10 mild to medium-heat red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped (80g net weight)
20g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 tbsp lime juice
½ tsp fish sauce
For the chicken and the broth
Fill a large pot with cold water and add the sliced ginger and spring onion. Bring to a boil and put in the chicken (for extra flavour, stuff the chicken with more crushed fresh ginger and whole spring onions, if you like). Make sure the chicken is completely submerged in the water. Put a lid on the pot and bring back to a rapid boil. Simmer for 10 minutes, then remove the pot from the heat and leave to one side, covered, for 50-60 minutes.
Once the time’s up, check the bird is cooked by inserting a small, sharp knife into the thickest part of the thigh by the bone – the juices should run clear. Lift the chicken from the stock and slice off each breast, skin included, in one piece. Put the breasts in a bowl with a little stock to keep them moist. Return the remaining chicken to the stock pot, bring back to a boil and simmer, uncovered, for five minutes more. Remove the pot from the heat and set aside to cool down a little.
For the condiments
Make the condiments while the chicken is cooking. For the chilli sauce, put all the ingredients in a small food processor bowl, adding half a teaspoon of salt, and work for a couple of minutes until you have a uniform sauce. Top and tail the cucumber, cut it in two lengthways, then slice each half on an angle into 0.5cm-thick slices. Slice the whole spring onion on a sharp angle into long, thin slices and put these in a bowl in the fridge with some ice water. Whisk together the two soy sauces and the sesame oil.
For the rice
Start preparing the rice about 30 minutes before serving. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the 15g of chopped ginger and the garlic, and sauté on medium heat for three minutes, until light golden. Add the rice and a teaspoon of salt, and sauté, stirring, for four minutes; add a bit of stock if it starts sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Take 750ml of the chicken stock, including any fat that has collected on the surface, and add to the rice pot. Bring to a rapid boil, cover with a tight lid, reduce the heat to the absolute minimum, leave to cook for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat but keep covered.
When you are ready to serve, return the chicken breast to the hot stock to heat it up a little; it needs to be just warm. Meanwhile, chop the rest of the chicken – thighs, drumsticks and wings – into pieces of whatever size you prefer. Place these pieces on a large platter and top with the breasts, each cut neatly into three pieces widthways with the skin left on; you want to see the breast meat, not the messy, bony pieces of chicken underneath.
Arrange a few cucumber slices alongside the chicken and place the rest on a small plate to serve separately. Spoon some of the soy and sesame sauce over the chicken and put the rest in a small bowl. Put the chilli sauce in a similar bowl. Put some rice in a medium-size, deep bowl and press down to mould it. Turn over briskly on to the platter and sprinkle with fried shallots, if using. Heat up the stock (reduce it a bit for extra flavour, if you like), season with salt to taste, sprinkle with coriander and ladle into individual bowls – the stock is eaten as a soup served at the same time as the chicken. Finally, drain and dry the spring onion slices from the fridge, sprinkle over the chicken and serve.