Epicure Recipe Card #41: Fragrant Chicken & Rice Noodle Soup

I’m really not one for long lists of ingredients. I’m also not one for lots of spices. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll happily eat foods containing spices – it’s just that spices themselves don’t feature in my cooking repertoire. I’d be storing them forever whilst they’d slowly be losing their fragrance and working their way past their optimum. I assume this has something to do with my Cantonese upbringing where my mother’s only three spices in the cupboard were, and still are, ground white pepper, Szechuan peppercorns and star anise.

So apart from the many other recipe cards which I have (not so) artfully translated into something else, here is another to join its fold. This recipe card asks for a chicken broth to be made with the addition of fragrant South East Asian spices. Now if there’s one thing that I’m going to make a chicken stock for, it’s going to be pretty much the only thing I’ve ever made chicken stock for – Hainanese chicken.

I’d had this Hainanese chicken recipe for years before I ever attempted it. Main reason being that I was still living at home and was never required (read: allowed) to make dinner, which relegated a lot of my recipe collection to the “save for when I move out of home” category. The recipe also involves butchering up a whole chicken once cooked, and my mother’s heavy meat cleaver scares me and continues to do so to this day.

The first time I made this was while I was in between jobs at my, now, husband’s place and had much more time at my disposal. Which was just as well as, although the cooking process is not at all laborious – just a matter of slow poaching a chicken – it took me what seemed like forever to dismember the chicken after it had been cooked. The poor chicken, long ago devoid of life and entirely cooked through, was clumsily chopped into non-uniform pieces with bits of skin slipping off this way and that, whilst the chicken itself kept threatening to jump off the chopping board with each inaccurate chopping motion. It was obvious my cleaver skills needed a lot of improvement!

I now usually make this with cuts of chicken on the bone such as drumsticks and thighs instead which does away with the need to chop up a chicken. This reduces my trauma levels significantly. I am also now in proud possession of a mini-cleaver.

Hainanese Chicken Rice (海南雞飯) (serves 3-4)
(adapted from, I think, a Singaporean travel brochure – I’m afraid I can’t remember its exact origins)

·         1 tbs chicken stock powder
·         1.5kg (no.15) chicken, or the equivalent weight of chicken pieces on-the-bone with skin
·         1 length of spring onion, cut into 2cm pieces
·         4 slices of peeled ginger
·         iced water in a bowl large enough for the chicken
·         125mL vegetable oil
·         6-8 garlic cloves, finely chopped
·         4 cups long-grain rice, washed and drained
·         1 tsp salt

  1. Bring 2L water and stock powder to the boil in a large pot. Stuff chicken with spring onion and ginger. Once water is boiling, place chicken breast-side down into the pot. (If using chicken pieces, just throw the spring onion and ginger into the stock.) Reduce heat to a rapid simmer and cook, covered, for roughly 40 minutes.
  2. Reserving stock in the pot, remove chicken and immediately plunge into the bowl of iced water until cooled. This helps to stop the chicken from cooking and helps to create springy flesh as well as smooth skin.
  3. Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat. Add garlic and stir-fry until fragrant before adding rice and salt. Stir-fry together for 2 minutes until rice is evenly coated in the garlic oil. Pour in enough reserved stock to sit 1cm above the rice. Bring to the boil and continue boiling uncovered until steam holes form in the rice. Reduce heat to low, cover and steam for roughly 30 minutes until cooked through.
  4. While rice is cooking, remove chicken from iced water and chop into even pieces if using a whole chicken. Otherwise, just drain chicken pieces and set aside.
  5. Serve chicken with rice, along with sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, oyster sauce, chilli sauce and spring onions in oil if desired.
happy cooking!


  1. Your description of your first attempt at chopping up the slippery chicken is just perfect - I am positive I would be far less effective than you at attempting this, and the whole thing would fly off the board onto some dirty shoes, or a dog, or something equally as non-five second rule.

  2. yum i love hainan chicken - always a winner especially when you're craving something homecooked and nourishing.

  3. Interesting method and recipe, and healthy too!

  4. bahaha i was never allowed to cook at home and im too scared to use a normal sized cleaver too! the recipe sounds awesome i think i'll try it with cuts of chicken as well lol

  5. hehehe my clever scares the daylights out of Josh as well. Looks great and I like your idea of using pre cut pieces of chicken, smart.

  6. I love these cooking cards and I love your header. It has changed right? Or is it just me..... This chicken is so easy to cook.........just stuff and 'poach'. I like it!

  7. I still chop chicken into unevenly and very ugly pieces.

  8. I agree with long lists of ingredients, its so overwhelming!

  9. You really are getting into the spirit of the recipe cards again Rita!

  10. I haven't made hainanese chicken rice at home because I don't have a clever to butcher the chicken :( Thanks for the tip.. I may just use the chicken maryland. What an easy and delicious recipe.

  11. I LOVE making hainanese chicken rice at home. It's so easy and delicious! But now I refuse to eat it out anymore because inevitably I get disappointed because it's not as good as mine (and mine isn't particularly stellar, though it is yum). BUT I'm hopeless at chopping up the chicken! I massacre the poor thing. I need my parents to come over and show me how to chop properly. :p

  12. You are not alone. I'm really bad at chopping up the chicken as well. Your chicken rice looks so yummy!

  13. i love hainanese chicken rice! and loving this recipe for it also :)

  14. Hey Conor, it was quite traumatic as cuts which required a second chop were definitely less than accurate! Gotta watch the fingers as well =p

    Hey Helen, this and chicken congee are both right up there for comfort with me.

    Hey Maria, healthy, nourishing and just a bit of easy slow poaching.

    Hey Chocolatesuze, you scared of cleavers?! And I thought you were the knife queen...

    Hey Sara, haha, I know in Asia you can get cleavers of different sizes and weights depending on use and the user. And I'm such a lazy modern girl by using chicken cuts instead of a whole bird!

    Hey Kitchen Butterfly, thanks, the header itself hasn't changed much - just the background and the blog layout (for the third time!).

    Hey Penny, my mother may not cook all that well but she sure can chop a chicken!

    Hey Jess, not only are long lists of ingredients overwhelming, you often only need a small amount of each and then you end up with all this excess sitting in the pantry!

    Hey Gastronomy Gal, trying to get back into the swing of these recipe cards - it's spring after all!

    Hey Ellie, haha, I can just hear my mother shaking her head and saying, "Aiya, not a proper Chinese household without a wok and a cleaver lah!" =p

    Hey Agnes, I have that problem with having tiramisu when dining out. For some reason, the husband and I almost always prefer the one I make! =p

    Hey Anh, I've watched my mother chopping up a chicken for many, many years and I still can't master the art. Perhaps we just need more practice??

    Hey Panda, this really is an easy recipe. I've used it many times already so give it a try when you need a break from your baking!

  15. yum hainese chicken.. its so simple yet so divine and comforting =)

  16. Hey Dolly, I agree, there's nothing fancy about the flavours but it is just so yummy and comforting!


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