Hainanese Chicken Rice

When I went to Singapore last year, everyone kept telling me to try “Chicken Rice” or Hainanese Chicken Rice. I didn’t understand what the big deal was: it was just poached chicken in a garlic and ginger broth, and rice cooked in that same broth. And then I tasted it.

This is the epitome of a classic, simple, Asian meal: a basic protein served with flavored rice, fresh vegetables, and an array of dipping sauces. Hainanese Chicken Rice is Singapore’s national dish, and it is also a popular part of Malaysian cuisine. Now I know why my friends keep raving about it, why some of them bring back boxes of Hainanese Chicken mix, why Penang (a Malaysian restaurant near Chinatown here in Boston) is one of the most requested first-stops among visiting friends.

I’ve had Hainanese Chicken Rice in Singapore (we ate at Boon Tong Kee), in the Philippines (at the Mandarin Oriental), in Boston (at Penang) and recently my friend Val concocted a homemade version.

It looks deceptively bland, but I assure you it is not.

This condiment trio pulls everything together perfectly: a thick sweetish soy sauce, ginger-garlic paste, and spicy chili sauce

I most recently read about Hainanese Chicken from the Kitchn which references Mark Bittman’s recipe. The actual process is very simple, but just a little bit time consuming (poaching the chicken, letting it cool, cooking the rice with the chicken broth, assembling the sauces, etc). My friends recently came back from a trip to Singapore and brought Hainanese chicken mixes and also jars of the dipping sauces, so we were spared some time, but not flavor.

I've seen versions with shredded chicken, but in Asia the chicken is served in pieces.

There are also various toppings or fresh veggies served alongside. We chose cilantro, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

The beauty of Hainanese Chicken Rice lies in its simplicity and adaptability. Want different sauces? Try plain soy sauce, hoisin sauce, or even oyster sauce. Different chili? Try sriracha or kochujang (Korean hot sauce).  You can also use different aromatics for poaching the chicken. While the chicken retains a lot of flavor, for me though, the star of the dish is the fragrant rice. Cooked in oil, garlic-and-ginger chicken broth, more garlic, and shallots – it is aromatic and luscious, and provides the toothsome companion to the tender chicken and crisp veggies.

Mark Bittman’s recipe for Hainanese Chicken with Rice may be found in the New York Times.

Have you ever had Hainanese Chicken Rice?


20 Responses to “Hainanese Chicken Rice”

  1. #
    Emily @ A Cambridge Story posted April 7, 2011 at 11:16 am

    Mmm… I love the dipping sauces. That might be my favorite part!

  2. #
    Daisy posted April 7, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    never had it but I’d love to try it! you make it sounds so delicious which no doubt it is!

  3. #
    Michelle Collins posted April 7, 2011 at 12:28 pm

    Your dish looks beautiful!

  4. #
    Megan posted April 7, 2011 at 1:21 pm

    It actually sounds incredibly flavorful and interesting to me. I’m sensing the need for a potluck dinner. :)

  5. #
    Dana posted April 7, 2011 at 2:37 pm

    This doesn’t sound bland at all… it sounds liek a great dish… all the flavors and chicken are right up my alley!

  6. #
    Courtney @ The Granola Chronicles posted April 7, 2011 at 10:04 pm

    This sounds wonderful. I think I’d go for all of the dipping sauces! :)

  7. #
    Baking Serendipity posted April 7, 2011 at 11:14 pm

    I have never had this before, but it looks simple and comforting :)

  8. #
    Michelle posted April 7, 2011 at 11:43 pm

    I really want to try this dish!

  9. #
    Liz posted April 8, 2011 at 1:42 am

    I miss this!!! Now I’m craving for it!

  10. #
    Megan posted April 8, 2011 at 8:32 am

    I’ve never heard of this but your description of it sounds so good!

  11. #
    Heather posted April 8, 2011 at 3:33 pm

    Looks tasty, but I think the best part is how simple it looks. Sometimes it’s nice to have a dish that doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles.

  12. #
    Clarkie @ Beloved Green posted April 8, 2011 at 9:43 pm

    This looks absolutely amazing! I’m going to bookmark this for later to try out.

  13. #
    Meghan@travelwinedine posted April 9, 2011 at 9:21 am

    This looks so flavorful and healthy! And I love any meal with dipping sauces :)

  14. #
    Nicole @ Making GoodChoices posted April 9, 2011 at 9:31 am

    This dish does look bland, but I’ll trust you that it really is flavorful! Those sauces look so good too!

  15. #
    Damaris @Kitchen Corners posted April 9, 2011 at 11:32 am

    I love simple meals that reminds us of home, or a second home, or anything that comforts us just so.

    In Brazil the national food is rice and beans. that’s it. I love going back to that.

  16. #
    Apples and Twinkies posted April 9, 2011 at 6:07 pm

    This looks delicious and I’ll bet it tastes delicious!

  17. #
    Hannah posted April 9, 2011 at 10:53 pm

    I’ve never had Hainanese Chicken Rice, but have seen it on blogs a million times! I love the idea of the flavourful rice served with the condiments the best :)

  18. #
    Raymund posted April 10, 2011 at 3:31 am

    This looks really delicious!

  19. #
    Maria @ Scandifoodie posted April 10, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    I have never tried this dish, but I’m very intrigued!

  20. #
    Bizzy posted April 18, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    The dipping sauces really enhance the chicken. It sounds delicious.

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