Hainanese chicken rice is a Hainanese cuisine originally created in Hainan region of southern China. It is an adaptation by Hainanese Chinese who migrated to Southeast Asian countries, derived from the famous Hainanese recipe named Wenchang chicken. It is extremely popular in Malaysia and Singapore, as well as in Vietnam and Thailand. Hainanese chicken rice is voted at ranking number 45 on CNN go’s list of the World’s 50 most delicious foods in 2011. It is also credited as one of the national dishes of Singapore.
For my gluten free version of this Hainanese chicken rice, I start with marinating the chicken with garlic, ginger and spring onion paste, then immersing the chicken into boiling water and simmer on low heat for half an hour, then the ensuing stock used to cook the fragrant ginger and pandan leaves flavoured rice and also used as the complementary soup. Then genuinely served up with a spicy chilli dipping sauce made from ground long red chillies, small red chillies, garlic and onion. Another sauce that accompanied this dish is loads of ground fresh ginger, garlic and spring onion. Then the chicken soup, fresh cucumber and sesame oil and gluten free light soy sauce dressing are served together with the chicken. The chicken is normally served boneless in both Singapore and Malaysia.
The unique fragrance flavour of Hainanese chicken rice always brings back fond memories of my childhood every time I savour this dearly-loved dish. It is no doubt my favourite childhood hawker food which is broadly obtainable in many kopi tiam cafés (coffee shops), hawker stalls and even restaurants, in both Malaysia and Singapore.
Chicken is an excellent source of high quality lean white meat protein with very low fat content, mainly made up of good unsaturated fats. It is beneficial for the growth and development of lean muscles in the body, for maintaining healthy body weight and facilitates weight loss. It is often eaten as alternatives to red meat like beef and pork, which have more saturated fats.
Chicken has zinc which helps maintain a healthy immune system and likewise it has iron required for the making of red blood cells and transportation of oxygen. Chicken also contains phosphorus which helps maintain healthy bones. Furthermore, chicken is an excellent source of niacin (vitamin B3), which supports healthy skin and metabolism; pyridoxine (vitamin B6), vital for healthy nervous system and protein metabolism; and cobalamin (vitamin B12), a water-soluble vitamin, important for the central nervous system and in maintaining healthy red blood cells.
Ginger is a tropical root inhabitant to Southeast Asia, it has been used in cooking as a spice and applied for medicinal purposes for many eras. Ginger is the one of the main ingredients in making Hainanese chicken rice, it is fragrant, pungent and spicy and it enhances a special tang and flavour to the dish. There are many health benefits of ginger, it is often referred to as a marvel spice due to its medicinal properties, often used to soothe the digestive system. Ginger contains extremely powerful anti-inflammatory compounds called “gingerols”, it is effective in relieving the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, may assist in defeating motion sickness, help amend symptoms of morning sickness, applied to treat digestive system flatulence and may prevent colon cancer and aid in treatment of ovarian cancer.
- 1.6 kg whole free range chicken fat trimmed
- 15 dried Chinese red dates
- 2 tablespoons salt
For the Chilli Sauce:
- 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 5 long fresh red chillies deseeded and cut into 3cm lengthwise
- 3 small fresh red chillies deseeded (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 small brown onion peeled and cut into wedges
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1 lemon juiced
For the Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce:
- 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
- 200 g fresh ginger peeled and thinly sliced
- 6 spring onions sliced into 4cm to 5cm lengthwise
- 3 garlic cloves peeled
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 sticks/teaspoons Natvia or raw brown sugar
- 1 lime juiced
For the Fragrant Rice:
- 2 cups basmati rice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 2 pandan leaves each tied in a knot (fresh preferred or frozen)
- 5 cm ginger peeled, thickly sliced and bruised
- Chicken broth from cooking the chicken
For the Garnish:
- 3 sprigs of coriander including stems roughly tear into 1 to 2 cm lengthwise
- 3 Lebanese cucumber peeled and thinly sliced lengthwise
For the Dressing:
- 2 tablespoons gluten free pure sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon gluten free light soy sauce
For the chilli sauce:
- Put the extra virgin olive oil, red chillies, garlic and onion into the food processor and blend until you get a smooth paste. Remove from blender and put the paste into a small bowl. Then add the salt, sugar and lemon juice and mix well. Set aside. Rinse the food processor.
For the ginger and spring onion sauce
- Combine ginger, garlic and spring onion into the food processor until you get a rough paste. Set aside 2 tablespoons for marinating the chicken. Then put the rest of the paste into heat resistant bowl. Heat up 5 tablespoons of extra virgin oil in a frying pan and pour over the paste, add the salt, sugar and lime juice and mix well. Set aside.
For cooking the chicken:
- Clean and wash the chicken, fat trimmed from under skin near the top and bottom of cavity.Then rub the chicken skin and cavity with 2 tablespoons of salt and 2 tablespoons of the ginger and spring onion sauce (without seasonings) set aside in step 2 above.
- Fill a pot with half full of water and bring to a boil. Submerge the chicken into the boiling water and resume the boil and skim the surface. Add all the dried Chinese red dates. Once its boiling, turn the heat down to low, cover with lid and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn off the heat. Cautiously remove the chicken and place on a plate and set aside. Reserve the chicken broth for cooking the rice and to serve as complementary soup. Discard the Chinese red dates.
For the fragrant rice:
- Wash the rice and place into the rice cooker together with the extra virgin olive oil, pandan leaves and ginger and cook in an electric rice cooker by adding number of cups of water specified by the electric cooker.
For serving the chicken:
- Cut the chicken into quarters and remove the chicken meat from the bones carefully. Next, cut the boneless chicken quarters into bite size pieces. Drizzle the dressing onto the chicken pieces and garnish with coriander.
- Serve the chicken with fragrant rice, chilli sauce, ginger sauce, cucumber and remaining chicken broth garnished with coriander.