Hainanese Chicken Rice

Perhaps not unexpectedly, the tropical island of Hainan in southern China is the birthplace of Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s become one of China’s most popular tourist spots in recent years, thanks in no small part to the countless restaurants serving up mouthwatering dishes of Hainanese chicken rice.

Thanks to Anthony Bourdain, Hainanese chicken rice is well-known outside South East Asia, yet it remains a regional favorite in Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand. With the influx of Chinese migrant workers, this dish spread to countries with sizable Chinese populations.

The chicken is an essential ingredient, but the rice cooked in chicken fat and stock is what really sets this meal apart for me. It’s a treat to make rice using chicken soup instead of water; the flavor is a league above that of regular white rice.

Even better than the rice, the Hainan chicken is cooked to perfection, emerging from the stock pot (and subsequently an ice bath) with the right balance of moisture and silkiness. In addition, you can add as much sauce as you like. Here, we have three different kinds of sauce: a fiery chili sauce, a mild ginger sauce, and a rich, dark soy sauce. It takes some time and work, but the delicious rewards of this Hainanese chicken rice recipe are well worth it.


For the chicken:
  • 2 whole scallions
  • 4-5 slices of ginger
  • 12-14 cups of water
  • 1 fresh or organic chicken
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • Ice
For the rice:
  • Chicken fat
  • Chicken stock
  • 4 cloves of minced garlic
  • 3 cups of washed and drained uncoooked white rice
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
Sauce 1: Ginger-Garlic Sauce
  • 4-inch piece of roughly chopped ginger
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons of oil
  • pinch of salt
Sauce 2: Sweet Dark Soy Sauce
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 1/3 cup of dark soy sauce
  • 3 tablespoons of rock sugar
Sauce 3: Chili Sauce
  • 6 fresh red chilies
  • 3-inch piece of ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 3-5 tablespoons of chicken broth
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon of sesame oil
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • juice of 1 small lime


To make the chicken:
  1. Prepare the chicken by washing it and removing the fat from the rear cavity. Take the chicken out and dry it with a paper towel before placing it on a dish. Use a light hand while applying salt to the chicken. This will add a lovely shine to the chicken’s skin. Put it down.
  2. Put the water, ginger, and scallions in a large stockpot and bring to a boil. The chicken should be rinsed under running water to remove any salt before being added to the saucepan. Place the chicken, breast-side up, into the pot of boiling water. Adjust the liquid level now so that the top of the chicken breast is slightly above the surface of the liquid (this will prevent the white meat from drying out).
  3. As soon as the water comes to a boil, carefully remove the bird and drain the colder water from the cavity. Return the chicken back into the cooking pot very slowly.
  4. Reheat the water until it boils, then cover it. Let it rest for 45-50 minutes without the lid (set a timer). Put a toothpick into the meatiest section of a drumstick to test if the chicken is cooked through. The meat is done when all of the juices are gone.
  5. A huge ice bath should be ready just before the 45 minutes are up (for the chicken). After cooking the chicken, take it from the pan, empty the cavity, and place it in an ice bath. Avoid tearing the skin if at all possible.
  6. After cooling in an ice bath for 15 minutes, drain the chicken and store it in an airtight container or plastic wrap until it is time to serve. The chicken is finished cooking, its liquids are sealed in, and the skin’s texture is improved by an ice bath.
For the rice:
  1. Cook the rice as you wait for the chicken to cool. Get a wok going over moderate heat. Put in the chicken fat and cook it down for a minute. Don’t let the minced garlic burn, but do give it a quick sauté once you’ve stirred in the rest of the ingredients.
  2. Put in a serving of raw rice. Keep stirring for roughly two full minutes.
  3. Remove the heat source. Put the rice and cover it with the recommended amount of chicken stock. Rice cookers differ, so use your best judgment for the salt and rice. Cover and press STARTS.
  4. Here’s what you can do in place of a rice cooker. Rinse your rice and then soak it for an extra 20 minutes. Once the rice has been drained, continue with the previous instructions, but instead of transferring the mixture to the rice cooker, place it in a medium to a large pot.
  5. Put in the salt and 3 cups of chicken stock and whisk quickly. Bring to a boil while covered. When it boils, quickly reduce the heat. The rice has to cook (covered) at a simmer for about 15 minutes. It won’t be as reliable as a rice cooker, but it should produce satisfactory results anyway. Just keep an eye on it since burnt rice is never good.
  6. Let’s get started on the three unique dipping sauces while the rice is cooking. The time it takes to prepare the sauces is minimal compared to the time it takes for the chicken to cook.
Sauce 1: Ginger-Garlic Sauce
  1. A paste can be made by grinding the ginger and garlic in a food processor. Oil should be heated in a small saucepan. Stir-fry the ginger and garlic until fragrant and faintly caramelized. Just enough cooking time is required to remove the raw, pungent flavor of ginger and garlic. Sprinkle with salt to taste and place in a serving bowl for the sauce.
Sauce 2: Sweet Dark Soy Sauce
  1. Simmer the sugar and water. Constantly whisk until sugar dissolves and the liquid thickens into a simple syrup. Put in the black soy sauce and mix it all together. Move to a serving dish for the sauce.
Sauce 3: Chili Sauce
  1. Prepare a fine mince with a food processor and add the chilis, ginger, and garlic. To guarantee an equal grind, you may need to stop the food processor and scrape down the sides twice.
  2. Put some salt, sugar, lime juice, and vinegar in the food processor along with the sesame oil. Just give it a quick 1-2 pulses, and everything will be mixed together.
  3. Place in a small bowl and, using the same liquid you boiled the chicken in, add chicken broth by the tablespoon until a saucy consistency is reached. You can adjust the consistency of the paste to your liking by adding more or less broth. The chicken broth is essential to the sauce’s consistency and flavor.
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