Walk into any Malaysian or Singaporean restaurant, you are sure to find this on the menu – Hainanese chicken rice. A very simple dish really, poached chicken with a mix of oil and soy sauce dressing, served on a special flavoured rice. In my opinion, the star of this dish is not the chicken. I mean it’s just poached chicken with soy sauce, almost impossible to mess up! It’s this amazing yellow-hued, slightly greasy, gingery fragrant rice that’s just perfect with the chicken.
I am sure many have boasted that Hainanese chicken rice is really easy to prepare. “Just use the stock left over from poaching the chicken to cook your rice,” most will claim. Yes, this will add a hint of chicken stock flavour to the rice but not comparable to what the food stalls outside are selling. Not even close! And remember, the leftover stock the stalls are using is the product from poaching dozens of chicken not just one chicken or a few drumsticks.
Being typical Malaysians, when Terry and I craved for some Hainanese chicken rice, we bought a jar of commercial Hainanese chicken rice paste from the asian supermarket, mixed a few tablespoons to our rice and cooked it as usual in the rice cooker. One jar can make about 3-4 rounds of superb flavoured rice, exactly like how the stalls made it. Not very economical but definitely more affordable than eating out. Then when we were about to grab a new jar of paste at the supermarket, Terry had an idea.
He picked up a jar from the shelf and asked me to look at the ingredients. Guess what, I have everything listed on that label in my kitchen. We decided to make our very own Hainanese chicken rice paste at home! I experimented and went with my gut on the portion of each ingredient. The verdict: real authentic Hainanese chicken rice! It’s so good, I can eat it on its own 😉
- 2-in bulb of ginger, peeled
- 3 medium onions, peeled
- 1 whole garlic, peeled
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 1 stalk pandan leaf
The method is really simple. Cut everything into small sizes suitable for blending in your blender or food processor. Blend everything with a little oil until it becomes a paste. Heat about half a cup of oil on the pan. Stir fry the paste on medium heat, stirring frequently until it turns into a fragrant golden brown paste. If the paste seem to be burning, add more oil, it’s meant to be oily. This will take about 20 minutes or longer. Add about 2 tablespoons of salt. This paste is to be mixed into your rice and water for cooking so don’t worry about over-seasoning it. It’s done! You may store this in an air-tight glass jar in the fridge for later use. I think this paste would be a perfect dip for poached chicken too.
To make Hainanese chicken rice, use one big tablespoon of paste with every cup of uncooked rice. Wash and measure water needed as usual in the rice cooker and mix the paste into it prior to cooking. Add in a few bulbs of crushed garlic and few slices of ginger too for extra flavour. Happy trying!