Are you ready for a flavourful and comforting dish that will make you feel like you’re in the heart of Southeast Asia. No joke, this is beyond amazing! The sweet chili sauce is my personal favourite accompaniment that just completes this whole Hainanese Chicken recipe.
What is Hainanese Chicken Rice?
Pronunced “high-nuh-nees”, this dish originated in the Hainan province of China and is loved worldwide. Succulent poached chicken served on top of fragrant rice cooked in chicken broth and garnished with two AMAZING sauces that give you the good kind of flavour punch! It’s such a satisfying dish; easy to make, and perfect for sharing with family and friends.
Why this recipe is amazing
Flavour/Texture: Juicy, tender chicken poached in a flavourful liquid, which you then use to cook fragrant, fluffy rice. The dipping sauces offer a range of flavours, from spicy to sweet, and the cucumber and coriander garnish adds a fresh crunch to the dish.
Time and Difficulty: This requires some prep work, but the cooking process is mostly hands-off. Gently poach the chicken, and then cook the rice in the leftover broth, using only one pot. Though it takes around 2 hours from start to finish, most of the time is inactive.
Versatility: Adjust the spiciness of the dipping sauces to your liking, and add other garnishes such as sliced green onions, fried shallots, or sliced chillies. Make with different cuts of chicken, such as chicken thighs or drumsticks.
What ingredients are needed for Hainanese Chicken Rice
- Chicken: The star of the dish, usually a whole chicken that you poach to create a tender and juicy texture. You can use thighs, drumsticks or Maryland cut. Yes, chicken breast also works but it is riskier to overcook and has less fat and flavour.
- Garlic, Ginger, and Spring Onions: – Add these aromatics to the poaching liquid to infuse flavour into the chicken and the sauces.
- Sesame Oil: Used in the poaching liquid and in the final assembly of the dish to add a nutty and aromatic flavour.
- Shaoxing Rice Wine: A type of Chinese rice wine to add depth of flavour to dishes. Find it in your international section of the grocery store.
- Light Soy Sauce: Adds a salty umami flavour to the poaching liquid and is also used in rice and sauces.
- Salt: Used to season & boost flavour in every part of the meal.
- Basmati Rice: A long-grain rice that is commonly used in Southeast Asian cuisine. Wash and drain before cooking to remove excess starch and ensure fluffy rice. Sub with jasmine rice.
- Red Chillies: Used in the sweet chilli red sauce to add a spicy kick.
- White Vinegar: Adds acidity to the red sauce and balances out the sweetness from the sugar.
- White Sugar: Used in the red sauce to add sweetness, balance out the spiciness and add acidity.
- Kecap Manis: A sweet and thick Indonesian soy sauce.
Setting you up for success – Tips & Tricks
- Use a high-quality chicken: The chicken is the star of the dish, so it’s important to use a good-quality bird. Look for a chicken that is free-range or organic if possible.
- Don’t forget the sauces: They are the best part in my opinion. The red sweet chili is basically a Chinese hot sauce that is a flavour punch!
- The seasoning of the stock is crucial: If your stock isn’t properly seasoned, the chicken, rice or sauces will be bland! Ensure a flavourful stock, taste it after cooking the chicken – it should be strongly savoury. If it tastes weak, add a little salt, stock powder or MSG.
- Want extra flavour- add more chicken: You can add more chicken pieces with meat or carcasses to add flavour to your stock.
- Poach the chicken slowly & don’t overcook: To ensure the chicken is moist and tender, it’s important to poach it slowly over low heat. This will also help to create a flavourful broth for cooking the rice. Simmering for 45 minutes will result in chicken meat that is pale pink in colour and pink bones. If the bones are brown or grey, it means the chicken is overcooked and will be dry. While still edible, for the best flavour and texture, keep an eye on the meat.
- Use a meat thermometer to ensure that the chicken is fully cooked. The internal temperature should be at least 75°C/165°F.
- Let the rice rest: Once the rice is cooked, it’s important to let it sit, covered for at least 5-10 minutes before fluffing it with a fork. This will help to ensure that the rice has absorbed all the remaining liquid.
- Make the sauces ahead of time: The red sweet chilli sauce and green sauces can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge until needed. This will save you time on the day of cooking and let the flavours meld.
- Serve the dish warm: This Hainanese chicken recipe is best served warm, so make sure to serve it as soon as it’s ready.
- Garnish with fresh herbs and condiments: The dish can be garnished with fresh herbs like cilantro or parsley, as well as condiments like sliced cucumber, deep-fried shallots, and kecap manis. This adds an extra layer of flavour and texture to the dish.
Here are some troubleshooting tips for common issues that may arise when making Hainanese chicken rice:
- The chicken is not cooked through: If you find that the chicken is not cooked through after the poaching time, you can simply return it to the pot and continue cooking until it is done. Alternatively, you can use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 75°C/165°F.
- The rice is too mushy: If the rice is too mushy, it may be because you added too much water. Make sure to measure the water precisely and adjust accordingly for the next time. Also, try to avoid stirring the rice too much during cooking as this can break up the grains and make the rice mushy.
- The rice is too dry: If the rice is too dry, it may be because you didn’t add enough water. Try adding a bit more water and adjusting the cooking time accordingly. Also, make sure to fluff the rice with a fork before serving to ensure that the grains are separated.
- The sauces are too spicy/salty/sweet: If you find that the sauces are too spicy, salty, or sweet, you can adjust the seasoning to your liking. Simply add more sugar or vinegar to balance out the flavours. You can also dilute the sauces with a bit of water if they are too strong.
Frequently Asked Questions
When I made this dish on our live cooking show, some community members asked:
While bone-in chicken is traditionally used for Hainanese chicken rice, you can certainly use boneless chicken if you prefer. Just be aware that the cooking time may be shorter and you may need to adjust the amount of broth used.
Absolutely! In fact, making the broth in advance can help to save time on the day of cooking. Just be sure to store it in an airtight container in the fridge or freezer until you’re ready to use it.
Yes, you can use brown rice instead of white rice for a healthier option. Just be aware that brown rice may take longer to cook and may require slightly more liquid. The flavour and texture won’t be the same.
While it is possible to use a slow cooker or instant pot to make this recipe, it may not produce the same flavour and texture as the traditional stovetop method. If using a slow cooker or instant pot, be sure to adjust the cooking time and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Yes, you can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months in an airtight container. Just be sure to thaw in the fridge overnight before reheating.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
- 1½-2 kgs (3-4 lb) whole chicken
- 6 cloves garlic roughly chopped
- 8 thick slices ginger
- 6 stalks spring onion/scallion cut into quarters
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
- 2 tbsp shaoxing chinese cooking wine
- 2 tbsp light soy sauce
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp neutral flavoured oil rice bran, canola or peanut
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 3 thick slices ginger
- 400 g (2 cups) long grain rice basmati or jasmine
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 ½-3 cups (2½-3 cups) chicken stock (from poaching chicken)
- 1 tsp chicken stock powder or msg optional
The Red Sauce
- 3-4 long red chillies roughly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 80 mls (⅓ cups) white vinegar
- 80 g (⅓ cups) white sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- 2-3 tbsp chicken stock (from poaching chicken)
The Green Sauce
- 2-3 stalks spring onion/scallion finely sliced
- 1½-2 tbsp ginger finely grated or sliced
- 1 tsp salt
- ⅔ cup neutral flavoured oil rice bran, canola or peanut
- cucumber sliced
- spring onion finely sliced
- kecap manis
- Trim the fat and skin surrounding the inner part of the chicken cavity and set aside for the rice.
- Place the chicken in a large pot and fill it with enough water to cover the chicken completely.
- Add the garlic, ginger, spring onions, sesame oil, Shaoxing wine, light soy, and salt to the pot. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low. Let the chicken simmer very gently for 45-50 minutes or until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches 75°C/165°F. Skim any frothy impurities from the surface of the stock as it cooks.
- When the chicken is nearly done cooking, taste the stock to see if it is sufficiently seasoned. It should taste like a strong savoury chicken stock. If it tastes weak, add a little more salt. You can also boost with chicken stock powder, a little fish sauce, or some MSG to boost the umami flavour. See notes above for tips.
- In a separate saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Fry the reserved chicken fat and skin until the fat renders/melts down and it is about half the size. Add the garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and salt and stir to coat the rice with the oil.
- Steal 2½ cups of the chicken stock and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid. Let the rice simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is cooked through. Add more stock if the rice isn't sufficiently cooked if necessary.
- Leaving the stock behind, gently lift the chicken from the pot and place it in a large bowl of ice water for 10 minutes, no more as we want the chicken to still be warm when serving. This will help to make the skin firm up and stop the cooking process. After that time, remove the chicken and place it on a plate, rub the sesame oil all over the chicken to prevent the chicken from drying out. Cover until rice is finished cooking.
- For the red sauce, combine the chillies, garlic, white vinegar, caster sugar, and salt in a blender. Blend until smooth or leave a little chunkier. Set aside to allow flavours to meld.
- In a small saucepan, heat the cooking oil until very hot, when you start seeing wisps of smoke. Turn off heat.
- Add the spring onions, ginger and salt to a heatproof bowl and pour over hot oil, allowing to sizzle. When it has cooled, transfer a serving dish.
- To serve, press one cup of rice into a small bowl and invert it onto individual dinner plates.
- Carve the chicken into small pieces and arrange them on a plate with the sliced cucumber and pour about 1 cup of the broth into small bowls to accompany.
- Allow each person 3 small bowls of red, green sauce and kecap manis for dipping. Be generous with the sauces, add a little of each sauce to every spoonful of the dish. The chicken itself is simple it its flavour but comes alive with the sauces
Nutritional information is only an estimate. The accuracy of the nutritional information for any recipe on this site is not guaranteed.
Hey, we are Molly & Exceede
Former operating room Nurse and self-taught home cook + IT Engineer passionate about Approachable, No-Nonsense recipes to help you level up in the kitchen. We create simplified dishes for busy people with easy-to-find ingredients!
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