Hainanese Chicken Rice holds the title as Singapore’s “national dish.” If not officially declared it is certainly the most popular food with tourists and my two-year old daughter. Last year, CNN even ranked it as number 45 on its list of the world’s 50 most delicious foods.
I have ordered Chicken Rice several times at the food markets. The chicken either roasted or braised is served with rice, chili sauce, ginger paste, soy sauce and a bowl of broth. I have never been completely certain how to mix the ingredients together. My mom is visiting from Chicago so with the guidance of Ruqxana from Cookery Magic we attempted to unravel the secrets of Chicken Rice.
For a tender chicken Ruqxana stressed the importance of using a fresh bird that simmers but never boils in a homemade broth. The chicken is stuffed with aromatics, rubbed with salt and chinese wine then stirred in the broth by its feet for ten minutes. We brought the liquid to a quick boil and removed from the heat to simmer for a few ten minute cycles until done.
While the chicken cooked, we prepared several sauces. The ginger dipping sauce is a lovely mixture of ginger, garlic, chicken stock, lime juice, sugar and salt. The chili mixture had similar ingredients but with the addition of two types of red chilies. We added extra small spicy ones to take it up a notch.
The rice was stir-fried before steaming in a garlic infused oil. Some chicken fat was also rendered and added to the mix. After the chicken was completely cooked we submerged it in an ice-cold bath.
The bird did not look very happy about its predicament. However, there was a much happier creature nearby, a cat kept batting at my feet for attention as I chopped. She had recently decided to have her kittens near the cooking school. Smart kitty indeed!
After the soup was prepared from the broth and garnished with cilantro, chinese cabbage and spring onions, we enjoyed the product of our labor. It was a wonderful afternoon I am hoping to recreate this dish when I return home in a few months.
If you want to try it yourself there is a recipe on Saveur magazine’s website which approximates what we made today or you can hop on a plane and book a lovely afternoon at Cookery Magic.