Hainanese chicken and rice with penang acar (Malaysian pickled veg)

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Meat mains

Hainanese chicken and rice with penang acar (Malaysian pickled veg)

Main Serves 4 2h 30 min
It looks intimidating and there are plenty of shortcuts (Sriracha chilli sauce for example makes a perfectly good substitute for both the serving sauce and the base of the pickled veg dressing) but here is slightly altered version of the Ottolenghi recipe from the Guardian a few years ago.


pickled veg

  • 1 large cucumber (about 450g)
  • salt
  • 240ml white wine vinegar
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into thin fingers
  • 200g purple sprouting broccoli, leaves, head and stems separated and stem sliced into batons
  • 400g white and /or red cabbage, leaves separated and cut into 2cm x 4cm strips
  • 180ml sunflower oil
  • 60g caster sugar
  • 2 medium-heat red chillies, halved lengthways, seeds removed and cut into thin strips
  • 70g toasted peanuts, roughly crushed
  • 25g toasted sesame seeds

for the spice paste

  • 5 dried chillies, around 8cm long, rehydrated in warm water, drained and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh red chillies, finely chopped
  • 200g shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves
  • ½ tsp shrimp paste
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 15g fresh galangal or ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

chilli sauce

  • 80g red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 20g ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • ½ tsp each salt and fish sauce


  • 1 large cucumber
  • 3 whole spring onions

crispy fried shallots

  • 300ml vegetable oil
  • 200gm large shallots, peeled and sliced thinly lengthwise

chicken, broth and rice

  • 100g ginger, peeled and thinly sliced, plus an extra 15g, finely chopped, for the rice
  • 100g spring onion, sliced into 2cm pieces
  • 1 whole or half chicken
  • 100ml soy sauce
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 35g unsalted butter
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 400g basmati or jasmine rice
  • salt
  • 150g shallots, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp coriander leaves


Prep time: 1h 30 min
Cooking time: 1h

Pickled veg

  • Step 1

    Cut the cucumber in half lengthways, remove and discard the seeds, then cut into sticks of roughly 1cm wide x 4cm long. Put the cucumber sticks in a colander, sprinkle with half a tsp of salt, stir and leave for 30 minutes to drain. Rinse under cold water, drain and dry. Fill a medium pot with plenty of water and 140ml of the vinegar, bring to a boil and then blanch each vegetable separately – the cucumber for 30 seconds, the carrots and beans for two minutes each, and the cabbage for one minute. Drain well, pat dry and leave out to dry for 40 minutes or in an oven preheated to 130°C/Gas Mark ½ for 20 minutes. A hairdryer also works well.
  • Step 2

    Put all the ingredients for the spice paste in a small food processor bowl and blitz to a uniform paste, adding a little of the sunflower oil to make everything come together.
  • Step 3

    Heat the remaining sunflower oil in a large, heavy sauté pan or wok. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, on medium heat for about 10 minutes, until it begins to darken. Slowly add the remaining vinegar and the sugar, and cook, still stirring, for a minute. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the cooked vegetables. Transfer to a bowl and leave to cool. Just before serving, stir in the fresh chilli, peanuts and sesame seeds.

Chilli sauce

  • Step 1

    Blitz all ingredients in a small food processor.


  • Step 1

    Top and tail the cucumber, cut it in two lengthways, then slice each half on an angle into 0.5cm thick slices. Slice the whole spring onions on a sharp angle into long, thin slices and put these in a bowl in the fridge with some ice water. Whisk together the soy sauce and the sesame oil.

Crispy fried shallots

  • Step 1

    Put oil in a small saucepan. Add shallots and place pot over medium heat. Cook gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes (turn down heat if they seem to be colouring too quickly), until they gradually become brown. Strain and dry on kitchen paper. They will become crisp as they cool. Sprinkle lightly with salt and store in a jar.

Chicken, broth and rice

  • Step 1

    Fill a large pot with the chicken stock and cold water and add the sliced ginger and spring onion. Bring to a boil and put in the chicken. Make sure the chicken is completely submerged in the water. Put a lid on the pot, bring back to a boiling point, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and leave, lid on, for an hour. Check the bird is cooked by inserting a small, sharp knife into the thickest part of the thigh by the bone – the juices should run clear. As soon as it is cool enough, remove the breasts and set aside. Bring the remaining chicken back to the simmer, cook for another 10 minutes and remove from the heat.
  • Step 2

    Start preparing the rice about half an hour before serving. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the 15g of chopped ginger and the garlic, and sauté on medium heat for three minutes, until light golden. Add the rice and a teaspoon of salt, and sauté, stirring, for four minutes; add a bit of stock if it starts sticking to the bottom of the pot.
  • Step 3

    Take 750ml of the chicken stock, including any fat that has collected on the surface, and add to the rice pot. Bring to the boil, cover with a tight lid, reduce the heat to the absolute minimum, leave to cook for 20 minutes or transfer to an oven on minimum setting. Remove from the heat but keep covered.
  • Step 4

    When you are ready to serve, return the chicken breast to the hot stock to heat it up a little; it needs to be just warm.
  • Step 5

    Meanwhile, debone (keep the bones) and chop the rest of the chicken – thighs, drumsticks and wings – into pieces of whatever size you prefer. Place these pieces on a large platter and top with the breasts, each cut on the angle as neatly as possible. Garnish with the cucumber slices and spring onion (from the fridge). Spoon some of the soy and sesame sauce over the chicken and put the rest in a small bowl. Put the chilli sauce in another bowl. Put some rice in a medium-size, deep bowl and press down to mould it. Quickly turn over on to the platter, remove the bowl and sprinkle with fried shallots.
  • Step 6

    Heat up the stock (reduce it a bit for extra flavour, if you like), season with salt to taste, sprinkle with coriander and ladle about half into individual bowls to have as a starter soup (as with pot-au-feu).
  • Step 7

    Return the chicken bones and carcass to the stockpot, top up with water and normal stock vegetables and make chicken stock in the normal way to use another day.

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