Hainanese Chicken Rice with Chili Sauce

hainanese chicken rice recipe

Hainanese chicken rice is a dish that was created in the southern Chinese island province of Hainan. There are many variations of this dish all over the world, but at its core, a Hainanese chicken rice recipe is simply poached chicken, served with seasoned rice, and a side of sauce. Hainanese chicken rice is a staple dish across various parts of Asia such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and even Japan.

One of my most poignant memories of Hainanese chicken rice was eating it at a hawker center in Singapore, with the sweat dripping down from my head to my shirt from the humidity. Despite the heat, you can bet that the Hainanese chicken rice made an impression on me. Ever since then, I’ve been on the search for the best method of cooking Hainanese chicken rice that will be as tender, juicy, and flavorful as the one I ate in Singapore. 

Balancing Flavors of Hainanese Chicken Recipe

Upon a few hours of research and comparing recipes, it took me a while to figure out what the best technique is. You wouldn’t guess it,  but Hainanese chicken rice is a lot more complicated than it looks. In the end, I’ve drilled it down to three key components that would make this dish successful. First, the chicken has to be seasoned well.

The chicken is the star of the dish, so it is essential that it is properly seasoned so that the natural flavor of the chicken can truly shine. Secondly, the rice has to incorporate the flavor of the chicken. This is a large part of what makes Hainanese chicken rice what it is. It was initially invented to stretch the flavors of the chicken as much as possible, which is why the rice is the second star of the dish. Third, the sauce has to compliment the lightly poached chicken without overpowering it.

The toughest part is figuring out #1 and #2 and let me tell you why. 

Hainanese Chicken Rice

The Chicken or the Rice?

Hainanese chicken rice is traditionally seasoned heavily – I mean heavily – with salt and poached in water. After the chicken has been poached for a while, the water is then used to cook the seasoned rice. The problem with this is, in order for the broth to be flavorful enough with chicken flavor, the chicken will need to be poached for a long time in water, thus increasing the chances of the chicken being over cooked.

The chicken broth can also be too salty to make the chicken rice in order to make the poached chicken flavorful enough. Traditionally, the chicken must be poached and not steamed in order to make it a true Hainanese chicken rice dish. You see where it gets tricky? Navigating this delicate balance was not easy, but I took it on as a challenge, and I’m excited to share with you my results! 

My Hainanese Chicken Recipe Method

After some trial and error, I discovered just the right amount of seasoning to season the chicken with, and learned that 35 minutes of poaching is just the right amount of time for the flavor of the chicken to come out. Right at that mark, I take out some of the chicken broth that is already immersed in chicken flavor to cook the rice. Traditionally, Chinese people use dried scallops to season the rice to give it more umami flavor.

The dried scallop is submerged in warm water to soften the scallop before it is thrown in with the rice and steamed. But here is the kicker: instead of tossing the water used to soften the dried scallop, I instead, repurposed it by mixing the scallop water with the salted chicken broth. This helps to make the seasoned rice a little less salty while also incorporating more of the scallop flavor! The result was the most fluffy and delicious rice!

Chili Sauce

The last key component to complete this delicious dish is the sauce. Ya’ll know that green onion and ginger sauce is always my go-to for chicken, but there is nothing like this spicy chili sauce. During my trip to Singapore, I was blown away by how perfectly the sauce complemented the chicken. In the dead heat, I was sweating from the humidity AND the spiciness of the sauce. The chili sauce is super easy to make! It can complement pretty much any kind of dish. The trickiest part was simply finding the right balance of chili, oil, and garlic. 

What kind of Chicken to use for Hainan Chicken Rice?

Traditionally, Chinese people like to use free range chicken, because free range tends to be a bit more chewy, lean, and more flavorful. This is why most Chinese restaurants prefer to use free range. But when I had the best hainanese chicken rice though, I found the texture of the chicken to be more silky, tender, and juicy. That is why I decided to use heirloom chicken instead of free range, and I must say, it really does taste like the best hainanese chicken rice! You know the chicken is good when the white meat tastes so soft and juicy! 

Anyways, I really hope you enjoy this delicious hainanese chicken recipe, let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

Equipment: Stock Pot

Difficulty level: Easy

Time: 1 hour

Plateware

Slow Sunday Life: Gatis Caramel Plate

Ingredients

  • 1 whole heirloom chicken
  • 5 whole pieces of dried scallops
  • ¼ cup cured chinese ham (optional)
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 5 tbsp salt
  • 5 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 thumb size ginger
  • 2 sprigs of green onion
  • 2 cups of jasmine rice

Chili Sauce

  • 4 thai chili
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ⅔ tsp salt

Sauce Alternative: For ginger and green onion sauce, reference my recipe for steamed chicken.

Notes: Make sure your chicken is 90 percent submerged in the water in order for it to be cooked evenly. If your liquid does not cover the top of the chicken, at the 35 minute mark flip the chicken over for the last remaining 10 minutes. For a more detail tutorial on chopping chicken, reference my guide on how to chop a chicken chinese style.

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, add in dried scallops and fill with 1 cup of hot or warm water. Wait 15-20 minutes. Once dried scallop is rehydrated, shred scallops using your fingers. Set aside for for later use. Slice cured ham into small cubes. Boil 8 cups of water and add chicken broth and bring to a boil on medium heat. 
  2. Slice ginger and smack with the knife to bruise the ginger. Tie green onion into a knot and stuff with ginger into the cavity of chicken. 
  3. Once water is boiling, add in chicken bouillon, salt, 1/2 of the shredded dried scallop, and cured ham to taste. When water is boiling, place chicken inside the pot and turn off the stove. Cover with a lid and let chicken cook for 35 minutes. 
  4. Prepare 2 cups of rice and rinse and drain 3 times before cooking. 
  5. When chicken has been cooked for 35 minutes, open the lid and quickly take out 1 cup of chicken broth. Combine chicken broth with dried scalloped water and pour into rice cooker. Add remaining 1/2 shredded dried scallops and spread across the rice cooker. Cook rice right away. 
  6. Once chicken has been cooked for 40-45 minutes, take out the chicken. 
  7. While the chicken is cooling, slice thai chilis. Add thai chilis and garlic into a mortar & pestle. Use the pestle to smash and blend thai chili and garlic until it forms a paste. Transfer to a bowl afterwards, and add ⅔ tsp of salt to the bowl. 
  8. Boil 4 tbsp of oil on high heat in a small pot. Once the oil in the pot is steaming, pour hot oil into chili paste to create the chili sauce. 
  9. Once chicken is completely cooled, chop chicken into small 1-inch pieces and serve. (Check out my post on how to chop a whole chicken.)
  10. When rice is cooked, serve with chicken and chili sauce. Garnish with cilantro! 
Hainanese Chicken Rice Youtube Video
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Hainanese Chicken Rice with Chili Sauce

hainanese chicken rice recipe

Hainanese chicken rice recipe is simply poached chicken, served with seasoned rice, and a side of sauce.

  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 45 minutes
  • Total Time: 1 hour
  • Yield: 23 1x
  • Method: poach
  • Cuisine: chinese

Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 whole heirloom chicken
  • 5 whole pieces of dried scallops
  • ¼ cup cured chinese ham
  • 8 cups water
  • 1 quart chicken broth
  • 5 tbsp salt
  • 5 tbsp chicken bouillon
  • 1 thumb size ginger
  • 2 sprigs of green onion
  • 2 cups of jasmine rice

Sauce

  • 4 thai chili
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • ⅔ tsp salt

Instructions

  1. In a small bowl, add in dried scallops and fill with 1 cup of hot or warm water. Wait 15-20 minutes. Once dried scallop is rehydrated, shred scallops using your fingers. Set aside for for later use. Slice cured ham into small cubes. Boil 8 cups of water and add chicken broth and bring to a boil on medium heat. 
  2. Slice ginger and smack with the knife to bruise the ginger. Tie green onion into a knot and stuff with ginger into the cavity of chicken. 
  3. Once water is boiling, add in chicken bouillon, salt, ½ of the pieces of dried scallop, and cured ham to taste. When water is boiling, place chicken inside the pot and turn off the stove. Cover with a lid and let chicken cook for 35 minutes. 
  4. Prepare 2 cups of rice and rinse and drain 3 times before cooking. 
  5. When chicken has been cooked for 35 minutes, open the lid and quickly take out 1 cup of chicken broth. Combine chicken broth with driied scalloped water and pour into rice cooker. Add the remaining ½ of shredded dried scallops and spread across the rice cooker. Cook rice right away. 
  6. Once chicken has been cooked for 40-45 minutes, take out the chicken. 
  7. While the chicken is cooling, slice thai chilis. Add thai chilis and garlic into a mortar & pestle. Use the pestle to smash and blend thai chili and garlic until it forms a paste. Transfer to a bowl afterwards, and add ⅔ tsp of salt to the bowl. 
  8. Boil 4 tbsp of oil on high heat in a small pot. Once the oil in the pot is steaming, pour hot oil into chili paste to create the chili sauce. 
  9. Once chicken is completely cooled, chop chicken into small 1-inch pieces and serve. (Check out my post on how to chop a whole chicken.)
  10. When rice is cooked, serve with chicken and chili sauce. Garnish with cilantro! 

Notes

Make sure your chicken is 90 percent submerged in the water in order for it to be cooked evenly. If your liquid does not cover the top of the chicken, at the 35 minute mark flip the chicken over for the last remaining 10 minutes.

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12 thoughts on “Hainanese Chicken Rice with Chili Sauce

  1. This recipe is awesome!! Thanks for sharing your tips! I always have trouble making this dish… it’s deceiving my hard!

  2. This is great! So detailed and very helpful for someone who’s never made hainanese chicken before, thank you!

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