Simmer

Hainanese Chicken Rice

by:
January 11, 2022
5 Stars
Photo by Rocky Luten
  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 45 minutes
  • Serves 4 to 6
Author Notes

As a child, I ate Hainanese chicken rice nearly once a week at the bustling little Hock Hin hawker center two blocks away from my primary school in suburban Kuala Lumpur. In fact, it’s a dish many Malaysians and Singaporeans eat as children.

You might be wondering: That's just chicken and rice; how good can it be?

The gleaming, succulent chicken, that steamy mound of oiled rice, plus the extra large bowl of soup the hawker auntie would generously offer to me for free, was the sort of spirit-lifting dish I found comfort in as a kid, especially after a draining day of classes.

Despite Hainanese chicken rice's history as an affordable dish most commonly served in crowded, humid hawker centers, on pastel plastic plates with non-matching stainless steel cutlery, it’s managed to make even the hoitiest of food critics swoon with delight and induct it into their culinary halls of fame. Little did we know, growing up, that our after-school snack would end up becoming a Michelin-worthy dish!

To cook it at home, all you have to do is simmer the chicken in water—claws, livers, gizzards, and all—along with a few simple aromatics (most commonly ginger and spring onions).

Then, after the flavor and fat of the chicken seeps into the clear broth, remove the bird and use the broth to cook the rice, flavor it all the way through like in a risotto. Any leftover broth is served as soup. What results is a modest meal of succulent, subtly spiced chicken, and glistening pearls of rice made savory and rich by the fatty umami extracted from the chicken. —Jun

Test Kitchen Notes

Featured in: The Humble Chicken Rice Dish That's Changing What It Means to Get a Michelin Star. —The Editors

Watch This Recipe
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Ingredients
  • Chicken & Rice
  • 1 (3- to 4-pound) whole chicken
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 (3-inch) piece ginger, thinly sliced into 5 to 6 pieces
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 bunch scallions
  • 2 star anise pods
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 cups jasmine rice, rinsed 2 to 3 times to rid it of excess starch
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 2 teaspoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 pandan leaves (optional)
  • 1 cucumber, sliced
  • 1 bunch cilantro
  • Chili Sauce
  • 5 tablespoons sriracha
  • 3 tablespoons chicken broth, from above
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice or rice vinegar
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 (1-inch) piece ginger, finely chopped
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Cook the Chicken: Trim any excess fat off the chicken, especially 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 with water until the chicken is completely submerged (around 4 quarts). When the water starts boiling, reduce to a simmer, cover the pot, and cook for 20 to 25 minutes. (Twenty minutes is a good time for a 3-pound chicken in my experience.)
  2. Transfer the chicken to an ice bath. Let sit in the ice bath for 1 minute to halt the cooking process. Remove the chicken from the ice bath; rub all over with the sesame oil. Let rest while you prepare the rice and sauce.
  3. Add the white pepper to the chicken broth. Bring to a boil and cook until reduced by half.
  4. Cook the Rice: In another large pot or saucepan over low heat, render the fat off the chicken trimmings and cook for about 5 minutes. Discard the trimmings. Add the vegetable oil. Cook the chopped scallions over medium heat, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until aromatic. Add the chopped garlic and ginger and cook, stirring, for another minute or so, careful not to let the garlic burn. Add the rice and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until warmed through and combined.
  5. Add the sesame oil, soy sauce, salt, and pandan leaves, if using, to the rice. Pour in the chicken broth (reserve 3 tablespoons for the chili sauce) until the rice is submerged by ½ inch. Cook over high heat until it boils, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 15 minutes, until the rice is glistening and fluffy, with the individual grains of rice still distinguishable. Let the rice sit uncovered for 5 minutes to let it steam, then season to taste.
  6. Make the Sauce: In a medium bowl, mix the sriracha, lime juice, chopped garlic, chopped ginger, and 3 tablespoons of the reserved chicken broth. Prep the cucumber and cilantro and carve the chicken too.
  7. To serve the rice, you can go traditional and shape it into little mounds using a small Chinese bowl. Serve with a few slices of chicken and the chili dipping sauce. Garnish with the 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!

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Mary-Ann
    Mary-Ann
  • HungryJayne
    HungryJayne
  • Texas Ex
    Texas Ex
  • Susanna
    Susanna
  • Pkkell
    Pkkell

9 Reviews

Mary-Ann October 18, 2019
I have made Hainanese Chicken using my sous vide equipment and have always been rewarded with tender juicy and flavorful chicken. I use the broth from a previous cooking to cook the rice. I did not realize star anise would go with this. I will try this next time I make hainanese chicken. I also like the idea is sautéing the rice first before transferring it to a rice cooker. Thank you for featuring this dish and for the helpful comments.
 
HungryJayne January 28, 2019
Delicious, and I doubled the recipe for a crowd and loved having leftover stock for future Hainanese rice. While I did follow step 4 for the rice, I did transfer and cook in the rice cooker for step 5, and it turned out just fine. I also paired this dish with Francis' Lam's ginger scallion sauce. Perhaps the only downside - although much of the time was passive - is that this was an all-day kitchen affair for me.
 
Texas E. January 4, 2019
We really enjoyed this dish. The chicken does cook quickly, so I'd say your directions are quite accurate. The chili sauce was perfect for this dish, and the broth was delicious as well. I might suggest using chicken broth instead of water for a deeper flavor. I used broth I had saved (and frozen) from another Hainanese chicken recipe, and the broth in this recipe was that much better.
 
Frederick S. December 11, 2018
This is a wonderful dish and I'm delighted that I took the time to make it...however there are two problems that can be problematic to finishing this dish. The first is to reorganize the recipe into three parts: sauce / chicken / rice. Keep them separate because I had a tendency to overlap the ingredients...I had trouble understanding whether the ingredients matched up phases of the cooking process. Secondly, I found redundancy in the directions (carving the chicken was mentioned twice in successive sentences) and there were no directions (other than an ice bath and coating the chicken with sesame oil) when the chicken finished cooking. My solution to serving cold (and delicious) chicken was to return items to the microwave. In the spirit of the recipe directions, I'd give this dish a "three thumbs up!"
 
Jun December 13, 2018
Thank you for your comments!! I really appreciate it; it really helps me write better recipes, heh! I've edited the directions to make it clearer.
 
Susanna November 2, 2018
I want to try this, but I’m pretty shocked that you say a whole chicken can cook through in 20 to 25 minutes? Really? I’d think a minimum of 45 minutes or an hour.
 
Jun November 2, 2018
Oh it does cook up pretty quickly though! Though my 3-pound chicken might be on the small side. But if you're using larger chickens, 25-30 minutes should do it!
 
Leah W. December 3, 2018
Since it's cooked in water, it cooks much faster than roasting a chicken. A chicken simmered for an hour would be very overcooked and sad. I've accidentally done that! This timing lines up with when I've brought a chicken to a boil then simmered until cooked through.
 
Pkkell October 29, 2018
Finally!!! This has been a lunchtime staple of my weekday diet for years.