Hainanese chicken rice, a classic $2 hawker stall dish in Malaysia and Singapore, elevates two humble ingredients—chicken and rice—into a cultural phenomenon worthy of a Michelin Bib Gourmand. —Yi Jun Loh
Trim any excess fat off the chicken, especially those around the nether-end. Reserve the fatty trimmings. Season the chicken with salt, making sure to season the cavity well. Stuff the chicken with the ginger, garlic, scallions, and star anise. Place the chicken in a large pot, and fill it with water until the chicken is completely submerged (around 4 quarts). When the water starts boiling, turn it down to a simmer, place the lid on the pot, and allow the chicken to cook for 20-25 minutes. (20 minutes is a good time for a 3-pound chicken in my experience.)
When the chicken is done, remove it from the pot and transfer it to an ice bath. Leave it in the ice bath for 1 minute to halt the cooking process. Remove the chicken from the ice bath, and rub it all over with sesame oil. Let it rest while you prepare the rice and sauce.
Meanwhile, add the ground white pepper into the chicken cooking broth, and boil until it has reduced by half.
In a separate pot or saucepan, render the fat off any chicken trimmings you had from earlier by heating it over low heat for about 5 minutes. Then, discard the trimmings. Add in the vegetable oil, and sauté the minced shallots on medium heat for 2-3 minutes until aromatic, then add the minced garlic and ginger and continue sautéing for another minute or so, careful not to let the garlic burn. Then, add in the washed rice and give it a final sauté for a further 1-2 minutes.
Add the soy sauce, sesame oil, salt, and whole pandan leaves to the rice. Then, pour in the reduced chicken broth until the rice is submerged by ½ an inch of broth. Cook this over high heat until it boils, then turn it down to a simmer and cook, covered, for 15 minutes, or a little more if needed. When cooked, the rice should be glistening and fluffy, with the individual grains of rice still distinguishable. When done, let the rice sit uncovered for 5 minutes to let it steam, then season to taste.
While waiting for your rice to cook, you can make the sauce by mixing together the sriracha, chicken broth, lime juice, minced garlic, and ginger. Prep the cucumber and cilantro garnishes and carve up the chicken at this point too.
To serve the rice, you can go traditional and shape it into little mounds using a small Chinese bowl. Serve it with a few slices of chicken, the chilli dipping sauce, and garnish with cucumber slices and a few sprigs of cilantro. Oh, and don’t forget to serve up some of that aromatic chicken broth as a soup too!