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Cookbook Club #6: Adam Liaw's Hainanese Chicken Rice

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A special post today.

A few weeks ago I signed up to take part in the cookbook club hosted by Kay-Lynn over at monkylicious. This is my first attempt at a cookbook club and I really enjoyed the challenge. This months recipe was from Adam Liaw’s new cookbook Two Asian Kitchens which was easy to follow and the ingredients easy to source. I’m seriously considering investing in a copy for ‘the collection’ once my self-imposed cookbook ban has been lifted (yes, it’s come to this).

I chose this dish because it is a particular favourite of mine having first tried it on a visit to Singapore in 2010. Having read a little about Sinaporean cuisine before we left I was determined to find The Best Place to get chicken rice in Singapore and heard that it could be found at a stall called ‘Tian Tian‘ in the Maxwell Road Hawker Centre. Paul and I trekked over and waited in a long, long line to be served up a delicious feast of rice, chicken and broth for little over $5 and, yes, it rocked our world. When the opportunity came up to recreate this dish at home I jumped at it and this recipe comes pretty close to the flavours we fell in love with.

The Best Place - Tian Tian! Singapore, 2010. (photo by Paul)

Hainanese chicken rice is a beautifully simple and fragrant dish of chicken lightly poached in a garlicky, ginger stock. You serve it with rice which has been first fried in rendered chicken fat and then cooked with garlic, ginger and soy. The all-important sauces round out the simple flavours of the dish, one fiery chilli based sauce and another salty-sweet. It’s a little fiddly but overall doable and at the end of it all you’ve got plenty of leftover stock which you can freeze and use again later.

Adam Liaw’s Hainanese chicken rice

Serves: 4-6

1 whole free-range chicken – (about 1.5kg, at room temperature)

1 head of garlic

1 large piece of ginger, cut into thick slices

1 tbsp sesame oil

1.5 cups of long grain jasmine rice

1 tspn salt

1 tbsp light soy sauce

Chilli sauce

6 red chillies

2 tbsp minced ginger

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp caster sugar

pinch of salt

1 tsp lemon juice

Spring onion and ginger oil

4 spring onions, finely chopped

2 tbsp minced ginger

pinch of salt

3 tbsp oil


1 tbsp sesame oil

2 tbsp light soy

Rinse chicken under cool water, pat dry with paper towel and trim off any fat.

In a small skillet lightly render or fry the fat on a very low flame for about an hour. (Rendering simply seperates out the oil from the protein)

Break up the head of garlic and pop about 5-6 cloves into the cavity of the chicken along with 5 slices of ginger.

Put the chicken in your largest stock pot and cover with water (just out of the tap) and bring to a low simmer on medium heat.

Allow to simmer for 25 minutes then turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave for 30 minutes to poach.

After 30 minutes, carefully remove the chicken from the pot and lightly coat with sesame oil. The recipe suggests wrapping in cling film to keep moist but I put it in the Le Creuset (with the lid on) instead. You basically want to allow the meat to rest, and keep it warm and tender until it’s ready to serve.

Drain off your oil from the skillet and discard the fried fat (or, as suggested in the recipe: eat later with some noodles). Heat in a small saucepan with 2 cloves of garlic and 2 pieces of ginger. Fry until fragrant and then add the rice. Just like you would with a risotto simply fry the rice until it becomes translucent.

In a rice cooker (or steamer, or whatever method you use to cook rice) add the rice mixture, 2 cups of stock, 1 tbsp of light soy and a pinch of salt. Steam for approx 25 minutes until tender.

Meanwhile, prepare your sauces:

First up, the chilli sauce. Combine chillies, sugar, ginger and garlic in a small handheld blender (or mortar and pestle as directed in the recipe) and blend well. Add in the salt and lemon juice and blend again until preferred consistency is reached.

For the onion & ginger oil, first blend the spring onions and ginger with a pinch of salt and a little stock (or mash in the mortar and pestle). Then heat the oil over medium-high heat until smoking (but not burning) and throw in the onion and ginger. Once the sizzling has stopped remove from the saucepan and, if necessary, give the sauce another blend.

Serve in small dipping bowls for easy application while eating.

Combine sesame oil, soy sauce and a tbsp of stock to create the dressing.

Carve the chicken into pieces (useful video here if you are unsure) and serve over rice. Top with the dressing and, if you like, a decent lug of both the chilli sauce and ginger oil. Ladle a couple of spoonfuls of the stock into a bowl and serve as a broth to go with your chicken. We like to pour a bit of broth over the top of our rice, but whatever works.


I really need to work on my chopstick skills! (photo by Paul)

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