Hainanese chicken rice

Hainanese chicken rice

The Real Food of China
Leanne Kitchen

Hainanese chicken rice most likely evolved from a simmered chicken recipe known as Wenchang chicken, from Hainan Island. This is the simplest of dishes — a whole chicken is poached and then cut into bite-sized pieces and served with dipping sauces. Like anything simple, the devil lurks in the details; the proteins in the chicken harden with hard simmering, so to achieve the legendary melting, soft texture of the cooked Hainanese chicken, the cooking liquid should be kept over the lowest possible heat.


Quantity Ingredient
4 pandan leaves, bruised and tied in a knot, (optional)
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 x 1.6kg chicken
3 spring onions, trimmed
8 slices ginger, unpeeled
sesame oil, for brushing
1 telegraph cucumber
coriander sprigs, to serve


Quantity Ingredient
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 slices ginger, unpeeled
400g long-grain rice

Spring onion and ginger dipping sauce

Quantity Ingredient
3 large spring onions, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon ginger, finely grated, or to taste
80ml vegetable oil

Chilli dipping sauce

Quantity Ingredient
5 large red chillies, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
2 teaspoons ginger, finely chopped
2 teaspoons sugar
1 tablespoon lime juice, or to taste
1 tablespoon reserved chicken cooking liquid


  1. Bring 2 litres water to the boil in a saucepan large enough to snugly fit the chicken. Add the pandan, if using, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Rub the chicken all over with the remaining salt.
  2. Stuff the whole spring onions and ginger slices into the chicken cavity. Make sure the water is boiling hard, then carefully plunge the chicken, breast side down, into the water to completely submerge it. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, then immediately reduce the heat to very low, using a simmer pad or pulling the pan halfway off the low heat, if necessary — the surface of the water should be just trembling. Cook the chicken for 20 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat and set aside for 1 hour to cool to room temperature, without removing the lid. Carefully remove the chicken from the liquid, reserving the liquid, then transfer the bird to a large bowl of iced water. Leave to cool for 5 minutes, remove and drain well. Pat the chicken dry, brush the skin lightly all over with sesame oil, then cover and set aside. Strain the cooking liquid, discarding the solids.
  3. To prepare the rice, heat the oil in a saucepan over a medium heat, then add the garlic, ginger and rice and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, or until the rice is glossy. Add 750 ml of the reserved chicken cooking liquid and bring to a simmer. Cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid, reduce the heat to low and cook for about 15 minutes, or until the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside, covered, for another 10 minutes, or until the rice is completely tender.
  4. To make the spring onion and ginger dipping sauce, combine the spring onions and ginger in a heatproof bowl. Heat the oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat for 1–2 minutes, or until it starts to sizzle, then pour the oil over the mixture in the bowl. Stir to combine well, then cool. Add a little more grated ginger, if desired.
  5. To make the chilli dipping sauce, combine all the ingredients in a small food processor or a mortar, then process or pound with the pestle to form a smooth paste. Add a little extra chicken cooking liquid to thin the sauce, if necessary.
  6. Skim any fat from the surface of the remaining chicken cooking liquid, pour it into a clean saucepan, then bring to a simmer over a low heat.
  7. To serve, peel the cucumber, cut it in half lengthwise, then cut into thin slices on the diagonal. Using a cleaver, cut the chicken through the bone into neat, bite-sized pieces. Place on a platter with the cucumber slices and coriander sprigs. Serve the chicken with small bowls of rice, the two dipping sauces and small bowls of the hot chicken stock.
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