Hainanese chicken rice has been considered a national dish of Singapore by many. If you love chicken, rice, or simply awesome flavours, chances are it is hard not to fall in love with it. This fragrant, oily, deliciously satisfying one-plate meal has earned accolades worldwide, capturing the hearts and stomachs of many, including Anthony Bourdain and Gordon Ramsay. It is probably the favourite dish of many, if not every, Singaporean. While other people’s blood runs bright red, Singaporean’s probably flows with extra chicken grease. Why not? This is an amazing local dish to be proud of and it would be a dream to eat it every day.
The origin of chicken rice begins with immigrants. In the early days of Singapore’s history, many migrants came from southern China in search of better lives. The people from the Hainan province brought with them a recipe from home called “Wenchang chicken” and adapted it to the version we know of today.
Every ingredient counts
Frugality is the mother of invention. The making of Hainanese chicken rice exemplifies this by making use of the entire chicken to create the dish. Nothing goes to waste, not even the poaching broth which the chicken is cooked in. This golden elixir is instrumental in cooking the rice, simmering into a soup and making condiments.
Generally, the chicken is poached in a stock infused with aromatics before being dunked in ice water. The icy treatment creates a silky and supple effect on the meat, which is then dressed with a sauce that is made with light soy sauce, poaching liquid and sesame oil. The rice is cooked with chicken fat and poaching liquid. What you get is a rich, tasty rice that is good to be eaten on its own.
The condiments that go with chicken rice include ginger sauce, a garlicky chilli sauce, and caramel soy sauce. Connoisseurs of chicken rice are particular about every detail, right down to the condiments, especially the chilli sauce. To some, the chilli sauce, which ideally has a fine balance between tanginess and spiciness, is so important that it either makes or breaks the entire dish!
Chicken rice has made its way into every household with almost every family having its own chicken rice recipe, even if they are not Hainanese. The chicken might be poached but could also be steamed. For convenience, the chicken might not be dunked in ice water bath and could be finished off with a generous drizzle of sesame oil, instead of the soy sauce dressing. Even the choice of chicken plays a part in creating the dish. Some people only use organic chicken or kampong chicken. Kampong chicken are similar to free range chicken, where they are allowed to roam free. The meat of these chicken is thus leaner and healthier for consumption.
Chicken rice and side dishes
Naturally, the chefs who specialise in making chicken rice has his or her own way of creating this local delicacy too. You can find chicken rice in hawker centres, food courts, and restaurants, where other items are sold along with the star dish. At Ah Khoon Authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice, you can get roasted chicken on top of poached white chicken. To complete the chicken rice meal, you can opt to add side dishes like vegetables or braised beancurd for a more balanced diet. Sinn Ji Hainanese Chicken Rice also sells chicken noodles and crispy Hainanese chicken cutlets. No matter what you order, there is a selection of interesting sides for you to add on, such as chicken gizzard, chicken liver, and braised egg.
Hainanese chicken rice is so delicious that it has become the taste of home for many, whether you live in Singapore or have moved away. This is a flavour embedded in one’s memory and no matter how far you go or how much time you have spent away from the country, Hainanese chicken rice will always be one of the dishes you miss and one of the first things you want to eat when you come home. Find these and other Singaporean chicken dishes here on foodpanda!