by Lifestyle Desk
If Singaporeans were asked to pick a national dish, chances are they would plump for chicken rice. The tender poached white chicken on fragrant white rice which reminds Singaporeans abroad of home may be called Hainanese chicken rice, but members of the Hainanese community say the version in Singapore is very different from the version in Hainan.
The original Hainanese chicken rice was actually a ball of cooked rice, about the size of two tennis balls, with a chicken filling.
The rice ball was carried by farmers to the fields and was not served with chilli or dark soya sauce.
The Hainanese chicken rice dish is said to have taken root in areas such as Middle Road, Purvis Street and Koek Road in Singapore more than 60 years ago.
And such has been its popularity and debate over who makes the best chicken rice that it led to the movie Chicken Rice War being made in 2000.
Today, the dish is often used as visual icon to promote Singapore as a culinary destination, and hawkers have become millionaires selling this dish.
One of the famous eateries selling this dish here is Boon Tong Kee.
The company's founder, Thian Boon Hua, 55, is Hockchew and learnt to cook Cantonese poached chicken when he trained as a cook in Cantonese restaurants in his youth.
He learnt the recipe for Hainanese flavoured rice from an elderly Hainanese chicken rice hawker in Boon Tat Street in 1979, and came up with the chilli sauce recipe himself. — The Straits Times
Cantonese poached chicken
- 1 whole chicken weighing 1.6kg to 1.8kg
- 20g salt
- 20g old ginger, smashed
- 3 tsp shallot oil, drained from frying shallots with oil
- 3 tbsp soya sauce
- 3 tbsp water
- 15g sugar
- 1 tsp sesame oil
- 1. Place chicken in a pot, pour in enough water to cover the bird. Remove the chicken and bring the water to a boil.
- 2. Add salt and ginger to the boiling water. Bring to boil again.
- 3. Hold the chicken by the neck, slowly immerse then lift it from the boiling water. Repeat five times.
- 4. Place it in the pot, cover and turn off the heat. Allow it to cook for about 45 minutes.
- 5. Remove the chicken and rinse under cold tap water for a few minutes until the inside is no longer too hot to touch.
- 6. Immerse the chicken in an ice bath and set aside for about 10 minutes or until it is cooled.
- 7. Cut it up into serving sizes.
- 8. Drizzle shallot oil over.
- 9. Dissolve the sugar in water then mix in soya sauce. Pour this mixture over the chicken before drizzling sesame oil over it.
Hainanese flavoured rice
- 700g Thai fragrant white rice
- 60g chicken fat, available from wet market poultry stalls
- 40g old ginger
- 40g shallots
- 20g garlic
- 900ml chicken stock
- 7g monosodium glutamate (optional)
- 5g chicken essence powder
- 3g sugar
- 10g salt
- 3 pandan leaves, tied into a knot
- 1. Rinse rice, drain and set aside for 30 minutes before use.
- 2. Blend ginger, shallots and garlic to a smooth paste.
- 3. To a heated wok, stir fry the blended paste with chicken fat till fragrant.
- 4. Add the rice and stir fry until well mixed. Transfer to an electric rice cooker. Turn the rice cooker on.
- 5. Add chicken stock, monosodium glutamate, chicken essence powder, sugar and salt. Stir continuously until enough moisture has evaporated and the rice is no longer covered by stock.
- 6. Add pandan leaves, close the cooker lid and allow the rice to cook.
- 7. Wait five minutes after the cooker has automatically switched off when the rice has cooked, before turning on the cooker again. Re-heating the rice ensures that it is dry and fragrant.
- 60g fresh red chilli
- 30g bird's eye chili
- 10g dried red chilli, soaked till soft then drained
- 10g salt
- 15g ginger
- 10g shallots
- 7g garlic
- 4g monosodium glutamate (optional)
- 4g chicken essence powder
- 5g sugar
- 3ml vinegar
- 2ml sesame oil
- 10ml cooking oil
- 5ml lime juice
- 1. Scald fresh red chilli and bird's eye chilli briefly.
- 2. Blend fresh red chilli, dried red chilli and bird's eye chilli until a smooth paste forms.
- 3. Place the chilli paste in a jar, mix well with salt and cover. Keep the jar in a cool, dark place for between 10 and 15 days. Mould may form naturally as part of the fermentation process.
- 4. Blend ginger, shallots and garlic to form a smooth paste.
- 5. Remove the layer of mould from the chilli paste and pour the remaining fermented paste into a pot.
- 6. Add the ginger-shallots-garlic paste, monosodium glutamate, chicken essence powder, sugar, vinegar, sesame oil and cooking oil. Bring the mixture to a gentle simmer over low heat, stirring regularly to prevent the paste from burning.
- 7. Turn off the heat when the mixture reaches about 90 Celsius and leave to cool before adding lime juice. Mix well. If the paste is too thick, dilute with a little chicken stock.