Wednesday, December 18, 2013

From Hainan with love...?

This is probably a strange meal. Simply because I used to hate this dish. When I was little, I prefer mixed rice (Indonesian: nasi campur) compared to this. Mixed rice is a mixture of lap cheong sausage, salty and sweet roasted pork (brown roasted pork and red roasted pork), cooked eggs in brown sauce, and a bunch other delicacy with chili sauce. So you can imagine how pale this dish is next to the aforementioned dish. The chicken in this dish is almost colorless, the flavor is VERY mild, and it's really accentuating sesame oil, ginger, and cilantro: all the things I hated when I was a kid.

Fast forward to a few years after I moved to the states, I missed this dish tremendously. This is a dish that reminds me of Sunday morning brunch or quick dinner when one or both my parents were away. It reminds me of "home". So I learned to make it. Since then it's the go to dish for me.

I am not a Hainanese. I don't even know why this dish is called Hainanese chicken rice, until Wiki told me. I didn't make it the way restaurants do, of course, so apologies to true-blood purebred Hainanese everywhere. The chicken was supposed to be boiled and that boiling water is used over and over and over again, with each restaurant having its own "special" boiling solution. I steamed it. I think that 1 hour steaming allows the herbs/spices to permeate better.

Anyways, enjoy the recipe!

Hainanese Chicken RIce


For the chicken:
1 small chicken (Cornish hen size)
8 cloves of garlic
2-3 inches ginger, peeled and bruised.
8 sprigs of cilantro
1/4 tbs salt
2-3 tbs sesame oil

For the sauce:
1 in. ginger, peeled then sliced
3-4 sprigs of cilantro, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbs sesame oil
1/2 cup drippings from the steamed chicken OR 1/2 bouillon cube dissolved in 1 cup water
Salty soy sauce to taste

For the garlic sambal:
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 inch ginger, grated
Spicy peppers (desired amount), mashed
1/4 cup water
Salt, sugar and white vinegar to taste

For the rice:
2 cups of rice
2-3 tbs sesame oil
1 bouillon cube
Water (amount needed to cook rice)

1. Cook the rice with bouillon cube and sesame oil, per direction on the package. 
2. Clean the chicken, trim excess fat, but leave the skin on.
3. Stuff the cavity of the chicken with cloves of garlic, ginger, and cilantro.
4. Rub the skin with salt and sesame oil and then steam for 1 hour.
5. Make the sauce by combining soy sauce, ginger, cilantro and garlic. Let sit until the chicken is cooked.
6. Make the sambal by blending garlic and pepper in a blender and adding grated ginger. Add vinegar and water, adjust flavor with salt and sugar.
7. After the chicken is done, strain the dripping from the steamer onto the sauce.
8. Serve with sliced fresh cucumber.

1. The limiting factor with bigger size chicken is the steamer space. Any chicken can be used for this dish. I have never tried making this with pork or beef.
2. It is not recommended to use store-bought broth for this dish because they are often saltier and they have different flavor profile than this dish.
3. I like to use jasmine rice, but any rice is suitable (except for the obvious ones like arborio rice or sticky rice).
4. For the vegetarian version, just omit all chicken broth-related stuff and replace chicken with tofu. I actually like the vegetarian version better.

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