The Chicken of My People (Khao Man Gai)

November 22, 2021
3 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 15 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

When I was growing up, my mom called her version of this very simple chicken dish "cold boiled-chicken" because it was essentially a boiled chicken served cold or sometimes sort of tepid but never blazing hot. The Chinese version, known as Hainanese chicken, is usually served with salted, skin-on peanuts and a garlicky, gingery condiment. The Thai version, called Khao Man Gai, is usually served warm on a bed of rice that's been cooked in chicken broth with a thick, spiced soybean paste and cucumber slices on the side.

My mom is Chinese and my dad is Thai, so is it any wonder that simple chicken and rice is one of my favorite dishes? For this recipe, I've streamlined the process considerably and made a simple mish-mash of the two styles: Instead of cooking the rice in the chicken broth made by the cooking the chicken, I just spoon a little of the savory liquid over the top, and the condiment I use is heavy on the green onions and only contains chiles if I'm craving them (because despite my genetic predisposition to like really spicy food, I don't). This recipe also employs the use of residual heat to cook the chicken, which warms the cockles of my energy-efficiency-loving heart.

Use white rice to go old-school or use brown for some flavor and fiber. If you have the patience and don't plan on eating the chicken sooner than later, go ahead and use the chicken cooking liquid to cook your rice. It will only make it that much more delicious.

To finely chop the green onions for the condiment, I slice them into quarters lengthwise before I work my way down each stalk; it's a good knife-skills exercise and helps to get evenly sized pieces of onion.

I usually eat my chicken warm-ish, but it's also great cold. The variations on this recipe are endless. Sometimes I'll go for a pho-like flavor in the broth, adding in a stick of cinnamon, a piece of star anise, and a clove or two. You can also add a chunks of bitter melon (or another vegetable) to the broth to make it extra fortifying. —vvvanessa

What You'll Need
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The Chicken of My People (Khao Man Gai)
  • 1 (3½-pound) chicken
  • 4 slices ginger, peeled or unpeeled, plus 2 tablespoons finely chopped (or grated on a Microplane) ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • Coarse-grain sea salt
  • 3 tablespoons finely chopped scallions (both green and white parts)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 Thai chile, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
  • 4 cups cooked rice (white or brown, cooked in water or chicken stock)
  • Optional garnishes: salted and roasted skin-on peanuts, cucumber slices, cilantro leaves, tomato slices, fried shallots or garlic, sliced scallions, chile sauce like Sriracha, and/or soy sauce
  1. Place the chicken, breast and legs down, in a stock pot or Dutch oven with a tight-fitting lid. Add the ginger slices, the garlic, black peppercorns, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover the chicken completely with cold water (3 to 5 quarts, depending on the size of your chicken and pot). Full immersion of the chicken is key.
  2. Bring to a boil and cook at a full boil for 10 minutes. Skim off the scum if you like. Remove the pot from the heat and cover with a tight-fitting lid. Let the chicken sit for 1 hour.
  3. While the chicken cooks, in a small bowl, mix the finely chopped ginger, the scallions, oil, chile, if using, and 1 teaspoon of salt; the mixture should be salty and strong-tasting.
  4. Carefully lift the chicken out of the pot and transfer to a platter or cutting board. Do not lift the chicken by any of its limbs or they will come off. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part should register at least 170°F. Unless you have a freakishly large chicken, this should not be a problem. Let the chicken cool slightly.
  5. Bring the broth back to a boil, then let it simmer while the chicken cools. Taste and add 1 teaspoon or so more salt if you like (I like mine on the salty side).
  6. To serve, cut the chicken into pieces (I avoid chopping the legs into pieces because they tend to splinter. and I would rather just serve them whole). Arrange them alongside or on top of the hot rice that has been doused with 1 tablespoon or so of chicken broth. Feel free to remove the skin. On the side, serve a small bowl of strained broth garnished with cilantro and scallions. Use the ginger-green onion condiment sparingly. Serve with a soy sauce creation and any of the garnishes mentioned, as desired.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Rachel
  • clumsychef
  • sage
  • savorthis
  • AntoniaJames

27 Reviews

annecancook November 1, 2019
Finally chilly enough to make this over the weekend!! Do not be fooled by the simple ingredients and technique - this is so tasty, satisfying and comforting. The recipe instantly became a family recipe. My sister sometimes makes the condiment to scoop with celery sticks. Pure yum.
David J. February 18, 2017
Just out of curiosity, why can the comments not be edited by the person sending the comment?

'nuf sed

plamuk aka travellingchef
vvvanessa February 18, 2017
That's a questions best directed to the editors.
vvvanessa February 18, 2017
And I just realized there's a typo in my comment. Alas.
David J. February 17, 2017
First, to everybody, this recipe is a favourite street food here in Bangkok but with thinner slices of chicken. Most of what is written by VVVanessa is correct and is nearly authentic. Will not go into more details about that. There is a slightly different version using pieces of deep-fried chicken which are slices and served with the rice. However, a few things you may like to know. First, the original recipe is from China and called Hunan Chicken. Recipes do have a habit of migrating the same as people. Second, I have added two things; a recipe for the original spicy "hot" sauce, as well as the recipe for the soup which accompanies this dish. The combination takes things to a different level. There is a second sauce served with this type of chicken but it is not included as it tends to be very sweet.

85 ml/1/3 cup crushed and finely diced “old” fresh ginger, 4 cloves garlic, crushed and finely diced, 5-8 red or green Thai bird’s eye chillies stems removed and peppers crushed and finely diced, 125 ml/1/2 cup fermented soybean sauce, 125 ml/1/2 cup sugar, 65 ml/1/4 cup dark sweet soy sauce, 65 ml/1/4 cup "white" soy sauce (optional but good to include), 85 ml/1/3 cup white vinegar

Winter Gourd Soup

900 gr/2 lbs Chinese winter gourd (daikon or chayote may be substituted), prepared liquid from above, salt or fish sauce to taste

Enjoy the combination. Until next time.

plamuk aka travellingchef
vvvanessa February 18, 2017
Hi, travellingchef! I know this recipe lacks "authenticity"-- the idea was to combine the Thai and Chinese versions of this chicken dish. I originally titled the recipe "The Chicken of My People" to reflect this fusion, but I believe the editors subtitled it "Khao Man Gai," which this recipe is not. Your spicy sauce sounds great!
David J. November 1, 2019
Hi VVVanessa,
Thank you for your reply. My comment was made a long time ago and much water has gone under the bridge since then and I forgot I had written it. The recipe I provided came from where I live in Thailand when I'm there but returned from my last trip there a couple of months after posting it. Now I have retired and probably will never go back to Thailand, in part because of the trouble that exists for ex-pats like me. The dish with the pieces of fried chicken is khao man gai tort, tort being fried. I also made a mistake. It was originally from Hainan, not Hunan. I believe my fingers had done enough work that day and went wobbly and did what they wanted to do and I could not control them.

Incidentally, you made two slight errors in the method of preparation. In the ingredients, you call for the ginger to be grated on a microplane which I have never see Thais use. They
use very good knife skills to cut, crush, and finely dice the ginger and get it as fine as a microplane does. Second, your method calls for the removal of the scum if desired. Always carefully remove the scum or the broth will become cloudy and can take on a slightly muddy taste. Incidentally, the sauce recipe I provided can very easily be put into a blender or processor and made that way, but do not overwork the ingredients as they should be a little chunky.

Many good wishes to you and again, thank you.
'nuf sed. plamuk aka travellingchef.
Rachel January 29, 2016
Thanks so much--made this tonight and it was wonderful!
vvvanessa February 18, 2017
Thank you, Rachel!
clumsychef January 25, 2016
Made this tonight and it was simple and amazing. I used sesame oil instead of vegetable oil for the sauce - wow. Thank you for sharing!
vvvanessa January 25, 2016
Glad you enjoyed it! Thanks for the feedback. And yes, sesame oil is delicious!
lynn January 25, 2016
Near the end you suggest we "serve with a soy sauce creation." I'm too new to all this to understand at all what that means. Can anyone help?
vvvanessa January 25, 2016
I think I meant that you can mix soy sauce with crushed garlic or chili oil. I thought I had elaborated on that point, so thanks for pointing that out!
lynn January 25, 2016
Thank you.
One more question. Does "cut the heat" mean turn it off or turn it down or way down or ?
vvvanessa January 25, 2016
"Cut the heat" means turn it off. I need to do some editing!
Christinekim January 24, 2016
Sounds so good and can't wait to try it.
If I wanted to use pieces of chicken already cut and skinned and boneless - how long would I poach? Still the same amount of time? For instance, if we only wanted boneless skinless breasts? Trying to be a bit more healthy for themes year ;) thank you for sharing this recipe!
vvvanessa January 25, 2016
If you want to do the residual-heat method, I would look at 30-40 minutes for a boneless-skinless breast. Or you could just poach it with the heat on for 15-20 minutes. In either case, just double check that the internal temp hits 165ºF. I hope you enjoy it!
lynn January 30, 2016
I've never used this residual heat method of cooking and am confused.
Your recipe says to boil a whole chicken for 10 minutes and then let it sit for an hour.
In answer to Chritinekim's question about using cut-up chicken you say 30 to 40 minutes. Is that instead of the 10 minutes of boiling a whole chicken or instead of the hour you let it sit?
Would the poaching for 15 to 20 minutes mean that's how long you would cook it if you weren't using the residual-heat method?
Sorry to keep asking questions. I'd really like to give this a try!
Christinekim February 2, 2016
Thanks, vvvanessa, I did it poaching with the heat on, but it really took only 8-9 minutes (right after the water started boiling, I set the heat to low and covered and cooked on low for 8-9 minutes). They probably could have stayed in just 8 minutes and been okay. This was so delicious! We loved it and will be adding to our regular recipe repertoire. Thank you for sharing! I can't wait to try the whole chicken method.
sage January 22, 2016
this is so exciting! i've been wanting a reliable khao man gai recipe for years. Thank you thank you can't wait to try it
vvvanessa January 25, 2016
I hope you like it! And if you ever get to try a real khao man gai (hopefully in Thailand), just remember that mine's a hybrid and would probably not pass Thai-grandma muster!
weshook April 10, 2015
Oh, you brought back memories. My dad would make a garlicky oily soy sauce for dipping or actually drizzling over the chicken. He would finely mince the garlic, add the soy sauce and then pour the hot oil into the mixture sending this amazing aroma of fried garlic and cooked soy sauce throughout the house.
vvvanessa January 25, 2016
I am so making garlicky oil soy sauce next time!
savorthis February 11, 2014
I sure do like the way "your people" eat :)
vvvanessa February 18, 2014
We'd love to have you join us sometime :)
AntoniaJames February 11, 2014
Wonderful head note, wonderful recipe. (As usual.) ;o)
vvvanessa February 11, 2014
Aw, thanks!