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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Serve chicken with rice, along with sliced tomato, sliced cucumber, oyster sauce, chilli sauce and spring onions in oil if desired.