Not long after I returned to London from Singapore, I started craving Hainanese chicken rice again; despite having it twice in a week, I wanted more! And as my brother was down in London that weekend, I took the opportunity to cook chicken rice for all three of us. If you’re not familiar with this dish, it’s a poached chicken served with rice cooked in the chicken stock and there’s usually a bowlful of chicken stock on the side to drink and always a couple of sauces too. If you’ve not had it and are just reading the description here, it must sound absolutely dull as dishwater but it’s really a most delicious and comforting dish as lots of aromatics are used when cooking the chicken and rice.
I’ve cooked this quintessential Singaporean dish a few times before but was never fully happy with the recipe until I used Chubby Hubby’s method for cooking it – and I highly recommend it. The method doesn’t sound the most safe but I can assure you that the chicken (1kg – increase the cooking time for a larger one) does end up fully cooked and wonderfully smooth and tender. If you can’t find pandan leaves, you can leave them out but they really do give that bit extra to the dish. And don’t make the mistake I did and cook the rice with basmati – I’ve used plain long grain in the past with more success. Basmati rice is too flavoured in its own way and it interferes with the chicken stock and aromatics. We’re such pigs – we finished the entire lot of chicken and rice between the three of us.
Sauces served with the chicken rice typically include a chili-ginger sauce, a plain ginger sauce and a dark, thick and sweet soy sauce. I think most places in Singapore now skip the plain ginger sauce though and just serve up the other two and so I did the same. I think Chubby Hubby’s recipe for the chilli and ginger sauce is a bit too heavy on the garlic though and not gingery enough for us however; I found this combination to be more similar to the chilli sauces served with chicken rice in Singapore and more to our taste.
Chilli and Ginger Sambal
adapted from Chubby Hubby’s recipe.
3-5 large fresh red chillies, seeds removed, chopped roughly
3 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
a 3 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp chicken stock (from cooking the chicken)
a large pinch of salt
a large pinch of sugar
fresh lime juice, to taste
Dump all the ingredients together, except for the lime juice, into a blender or food processor or, like me, in a mini chopper. Blend blend blend, adding lime juice to help it along. Adjust the lime to taste (I like it tangy) as well as the salt and sugar. Stir well one last time and serve alongside your chicken rice.