Hainanese chicken rice

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Meat mains

Hainanese chicken rice

Main Serves 6 2h
As a dish, it originated (allegedly) in Hainan in the far south of China but somehow it skipped across Vietnam to become Singapore and Malaysia's equivalent of Sunday lunch. Unlike so many dishes that travel around the world, the core recipe seems to have remained the same; poached chicken with rice, two sauces and vegetable crudités.



  • 1 whole or half chicken
  • 3 tbsp sea salt
  • generous thumb fresh ginger, in ¼ inch slices
  • 4 spring onions, cut into 1 inch sections (both the green and white parts)

for the chilli sauce

  • 2 tbsp lime juice
  • 2 tbsp reserved chicken poaching broth
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp sriracha (or similar) chilli sauce
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • good thumb sized piece ginger
  • generous pinch salt, to taste

for the rice

  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed with a little salt
  • small finger ginger, sliced and crushed with a little salt
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 500g jasmine or basmati rice
  • 750ml reserved chicken poaching broth
  • whole/half chicken

to serves

  • 4 tbsp thinly sliced, crispy fried, shallots
  • bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced lengthways
  • 3 tbsp coriander leaf, chopped
  • 70ml each light and dark soya mixed with 50ml toasted sesame oil
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthways and cut into ½cm diagonal slices
  • bunch salad carrots, cut into batons


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


  • Step 1

    Rub the chicken all over with the salt and set aside for an hour. Rinse the chicken well, inside and out, and season again with salt.
  • Step 2

    Stuff the chicken with the ginger slices and the spring onions and cover with water in a large pan. Bring the pan to boil over a high heat, then immediately turn the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 10 minutes more and remove from the heat. Allow to cool for 30 minutes then using a sharp knife and fork, carefully cut the breasts away from the bone. It doesn't matter if they look a little underdone, they'll finish cooking later. Bring the pan back to the simmer for another 20 minutes. This can all be done in advance, as can making the chilli sauce.

To make the chilli sauce

  • Step 1

    , simply whizz the ingredients in a blender until smooth and bright red.

To cook the rice

  • Step 1

    , gently sauté the garlic and ginger for 5-10 minutes, add the rice and stir until coated, add the chicken broth, bring to the boil, stir, cover and cook as gently as possible for 15 minutes or until the rice is done. Meanwhile, return the chicken breasts to the chicken pot and bring back up to temperature.
  • Step 2

    Remove and cut or pull the meat off the legs and carcass. In Malaysia they serve it skin-on but I've always pulled it off and returned it to the pot with the bones for further stock making.
  • Step 3

    Slice the breast meat as neatly as possible and arrange on a platter with the leg meat. Garnish with half the fried shallots, a finely chopped spring onion and a little chopped coriander. Cover with foil to keep warm.
  • Step 4

    To serve the rice the traditional way, spoon into a pudding bowl, press down and invert onto a plate. Garnish with the rest of the fried shallots. Serve the chicken rice with chilli sauce, soy sauce/sesame combo, cucumber slices and crudités. Traditionally it would all be served with a bowl of the broth but I've always cooked the chicken bones for another hour and used it for another meal the next day. You can have too much of a good thing.

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