Hainanese Chicken Rice (Cơm Gà Hải Nam)

Hainanese Chicken Rice is a dish that originated in the island of Hainin, China. Since then, it has spread in popularity throughout many Southeast Asian countries, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam (the dish is called Cơm Gà Hải Nam in Vietnam).

The first time I tried this dish was at a restaurant called Nong’s Khao Man Gai (the Thai version of this dish) in Portland, Oregon. I originally thought it just looked like plain boiled/poached chicken that would simply be served with some regular white rice and veggies. Boy was I wrong. From the very first bite, I was amazingly surprised by the smell of the dish, the juiciness of the chicken, and the amazing aroma and flavor of the rice. Since then, I decided that I either must come back or try and make it myself; whichever came first.

This isn’t just any ordinary chicken and rice dish, and the process of making such a special dish is truly amazing and well worth the time. The process starts by essentially poaching the chicken in water and ginger. During the poaching process. As the chicken poaches, juices from the chicken are drawn out into the water bath to make an extremely flavorful broth with a slight scent of fresh ginger. This chicken broth is then used to cook the rice. With this, the rice gets infused with an amazing aroma and flavor that normal steamed rice cannot compare to. Commonly served with the rice and chicken are three sauces to further enhance the meal – a salty, savory sesame oil/soy sauce broth, a fresh green onion oil, and a sweet and spicy chili sauce. What you get with this combination of chicken, rice, and sauce is a very special and delicious dish that spans across multiple generations and cultures.

This recipe is adapted from Adam Liaw’s Hainanese Chicken Rice recipe. Link down below!

For Chicken (Good for 4-8 people)
-1 or 2 whole chickens
-Enough water to cover entire chicken(s) in pot (approx 4-5 liters of water); try using a taller, not wider pot
-Approx 2-3 Tbsp of crushed, peeled ginger
-Green, top half of 6 green onion
-Table salt, to taste
-Monosodium glutamate OR Chicken or mushroom seasoning powder

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Mushroom Seasoning

For Rice (Good for 8 people)
-Chicken broth (generally 7 cups for 4 cups of rice)
-4 cups of Jasmine rice
-2 shallots, thinly sliced
-4 garlic cloves
-1/4th cup vegetable or corn oil
-Rendered chicken fat-oil
-1/4th cup vegetable or corn oil

For Ginger and Green Onion Oil Sauce (good for 1-2 people)
-Bottom half of 6 green onions
-2 Tbsp of fine diced and peeled ginger
-1/4th tsp salt
-1/4th cup of olive oil

For Soy and Sesame Oil Sauce (good for 1-2 people)
-2 Tbsp of soy sauce
-1 Tbsp of sesame oil
-1 cup poached chicken broth

Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce (good for 1-2 people)
-4 thai chilis
-2 Tbsp of fine diced and peeled ginger
-6 garlic cloves
-2 tsp sugar
-1/2 tsp salt
-1/4 cup of poached chicken stock
-1 tbsp of lime juice

For Chicken
1) Begin by cutting a green onion in half and placing the top green half in a pot.
2) Slice and crush ginger with a mortar and pestle and add to the pot
3) Add 3-4L of water (enough to submerge the chicken) to the pot and heat with medium heat until water is at a gentle simmer with visible evaporative smoke from the pot
4) Cleaning a fresh/thawed chicken
5) Locate the two flaps of fat that are near the butt of the chicken. Cut those from the chicken and place into a small pot/pan. Add approx 1/2 tbsp of canola oil to this pan and begin rendering the fat from the flaps for about an hour with low heat.
6) Rub the chicken with table salt and add to the simmering pot. Ensure chicken is submerged and allow to poach for 50 minutes. Occasionally lift the chicken up and down to allow passage of water into the cavity of the chicken. At around 45 minutes of poaching, taste the the broth and add salt, MSG, or chicken/mushroom seasoning to the pot until desired taste is achieved
7) At 50 minutes, remove the chicken from the pot and submerge in an ice bath for approx 1 minute.
8) Pat to dry and brush a layer of sesame oil to prevent from drying

For Rice
1) Slice shallots and mince garlic. Add to the rendering chicken fat pan.
2) Add an additional 1/4th cup of cooking oil to the pan and saute until onions and garlic are browned
3) Add desired amount of rice to a pot/rice cooker. Add the same ratio of chicken broth to the amount of rice you’re using as if you are cooking rice with regular water.
4) Pour the rendered fat-onion-garlic oil through a sieve into the pot of rice/rice cooker. Give it a stir.
5) Cook rice as you would normally or with a rice cooker.

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For Ginger and Green Onion Oil Sauce
1) Thinly slice the bottom half of green onions and put in a heat-resistant bowl
2) Peel and finely dice ginger, and place into the bowl
3) Put olive oil in a pot and heat to smoking point. When smoking point is achieved, add the oil to the ginger and green onion bowl
4) Mix well

For Soy and Sesame Oil Sauce
1) Add poached chicken broth, soy sauce, and sesame oil to a bowl
2) Mix well

For Sweet and Spicy Chili Sauce
1) Finely slice thai chilis into a mortar and pestle
2) Peel and finely dice ginger, and place into the bowl
3) Add garlic cloves, salt, and sugar to the bowl
4) Smash ingredients really well with a mortar and pestle until all peppers are smashed, salt/sugar dissolved, and all ingredients are mixed well
5) Add poached chicken broth and lime juice and mix well

-Using poultry hooks can make life really easy to submerge in the pot. The hooks can easily bring the chicken up and down the pot to exchange the water in the chicken cavity.
-Liberal amounts of salt/MSG/seasoning might be needed to bring the broth up to flavor
-All three sauces each have very unique flavors. I recommend combining all three onto your chicken for a great infusion of flavors!

-Adam Liaw’s Recipe: http://adamliaw.com/recipe/hainanese-chicken-rice/
-Nong’s Khao Man Gai: https://khaomangai.com/
-MSG and a good way to start research on this controversial seasoning: https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/msg-good-or-bad#sensitivity

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