We totally exploited a friend’s move out of the area. There, I said it. D recently departed from the Bay Area, which we used an excuse to throw four separate food-based farewells. The last hurrah: a cozy dinner hosted by me and Jay. Hey, why not turn a bittersweet occasion into a delicious one (or two, or more)?
Jay decided to dust off the ol’ stockpot and make one of his most treasured specialties: Hainanese chicken rice. In college, I had a housemate who introduced us to this seriously fantastic dish. Jay and I fell hard for its killer combination of tender poached chicken, flavorful broth-infused rice, and tart, tangy sauce. Bright, healthy, homey, unique, perfect for a crowd — it encapsulates all the best qualities in Southeast Asian cooking.
Upon first taste, my dear partner took it upon himself to learn the process of making Hainanese chicken rice. and now here we are. The whole thing can be quite time-intensive, since you’re really cooking several different components at once. However, in response to your undoubtedly raised eyebrow, I raise two points: (a) not all of the time spent in the kitchen will be spent actively cooking, and (b) it’s totally, absolutely worth it — especially because you’re almost guaranteed delicious leftovers the following day. This dish is securely positioned as Jay’s favorite signature dish, and anyone who’s had it can see why.
Keeping with the regional theme of the dinner, I put together a Vietnamese shrimp salad. It involves a medley of unlikely greens and root vegetables, which are julienned, wilted, rinsed, and wrung out. Yup — like the chicken rice, this recipe, too, is a labor of love. The pay-off, however, is great: a light yet filling slaw with tons of textural and flavorful contrast.
Combined, these two dishes made for an excellent meal. We comfortably fed our party of seven, getting rave reviews across the board. No meal, however, is complete at Jay’s apartment without our default dessert: banana cream pie. What more could we ask for?
Hainanese chicken rice
Chicken and rice method adapted from The Chronicles of Ms. I-Hua and The Boy, with a sauce contributed by Jay
Ingredients for the chicken (poaching):
- 1 whole family-sized chicken – gutted and cleaned with neck and feet removed
- 4 stalks of green onion
- 2 carrots, halved
- 5-6 cloves of garlic (whole)
- 5-6 slices of ginger (5 mm thick)
- 3 tablespoons of light soy sauce
- handful of kosher or any coarse salt (for exfoliating the chicken)
- 1 tablespoon of sesame oil
Ingredients for the rice
- 2 cups of jasmine rice (if cooking for more, adjust amount of ingredients accordingly)
- 2 tsp of salt
- 5-6 thin slices of ginger
- 2 cloves of shallots, finely diced
- 2 1/4 cups of chicken broth (from poaching)
- 2 tablespoons of chicken fat with skin attached (obtained by trimming excess fat from chicken)
- 2 tablespoons of water
Ingredients for the sauce
- 1/2 cup of lime juice
- 1/2 cup of fish sauce
- 1/4 cup of chicken stock (from poaching)
- 3 chopped thai chili peppers, with seeds (optional)
Ingredients for the sides
- 1 cucumber – cut diagonally into thin slices
- Cilantro leaves
Instructions for the chicken
- Boil a large pot of water (that can fit a whole chicken) with the carrots and 2 spring onion stalks.
- Trim off any excess fat and skin from the chicken and keep it aside (this will be used for the rice).
- Exfoliate the chicken by rubbing salt firmly all over the skin. The goal is to remove trapped dirt and grime from the skin, while still being careful not to tear or damage the skin.
- Loosen up the chicken by gently pulling and stretching its legs and wings. The idea is to create more tender flesh by loosening up some of the tension in the chicken muscles.
- Rub the chicken cavity with 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce. Fill it with garlic cloves, ginger slices and the remaining 2 spring onion stalks.
- Put chicken into the large pot (breast-side down) and lower the heat and let it simmer; do not let it boil. After 15 minutes, switch the heat off, cover the pot with the lid and let it stand for 40 minutes.
- Take chicken out, making sure to reserve the chicken stock, and plunge into an ice bath. Once cooled, empty the chicken cavity.
- Rub the chicken with a mixture of 1 tablespoon sesame oil & 1 tablespoon light soy sauce.
- Leave aside to cool for 10-15 minutes before cutting into desired pieces.
Instructions for the rice
- Wash the rice with 3 to 4 changes of water to remove excess starch and other impurities. Soak rice in water (water must completely cover the top) with 1 teaspoon of salt added. Soak for 10 minutes and drain once completed.
- Remember that excess chicken fat and skin at the start of Step 1? You’ll need to render the fat. To do so, heat a wok on medium heat and add the chicken fat with 2 tablespoons of water. Bring it down to a low simmering boil for about 10 minutes until oil is released from the fat. Transfer oil into a small bowl. You can keep the crispy chicken fat/skin as garnish for the rice.
- In the same wok, pour 2 Tablespoons of the chicken oil. Add garlic and ginger and fry until fragrant (approx. 1 to 2 minutes) under medium heat. Add in rice and 1 teaspoon of salt and continue to fry for another 2 minutes. Transfer all ingredients into a rice cooker. Add chicken stock and pandan leaf and cook rice until done. Once cooked, use a fork to fluff the rice.
- Instructions for the sauce
Instructions for the sauce
- Combine all ingredients and whisk thoroughly. Adjust ratio of liquids and season to taste.
Instructions for serving
- For extra flavor, feel free to pour hot broth, light soy sauce, sesame oil, and/or sauce over the chicken right before serving. Just be careful not to overdo it!
- Serve the chicken on top of the rice and cucumbers. We suggest serving the sauce on the side, to be added according to each guest’s tastes.
Vietnamese shrimp salad (gỏi tôm)
Adapted from The Ravenous Couple
Ingredients for salad
- 1 pound of medium shrimp, cooked
- 1 bunch of celery stalks, thinly sliced on the diagonal
- 1 English cucumber, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced on a diagonal
- 3 carrots, thinly sliced on diagonal or shredded
- 1 medium daikon, thinly sliced on diagonal or shredded
- 1/2 of a jalapeno, deseeded and sliced (optional)
- 1.5 tbs salt
- 3 cloves of garlic or 1 shallot, minced
- 1 tablespoon of olive oil
- 1/4 cup of peanuts
- 1/2 cup of cilantro, chopped
- sweetened nước mắm chấm as a dressing (we had our own, but you can use The Ravenous Couple or Andrea Nguyen‘s versions as jumping-off points)
- Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
- In mixing bowl, combine the celery, cucumbers, carrots, daikon, and jalapeno with 1.5 tbs salt. Mix well, cover, and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- Toss the peanuts in 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil and salt to taste. Toast in oven until golden (about 8 minutes in my toaster oven). Once finished, let cool and chop coarsely.
- Fry the shallot or garlic in 1/2 a tablespoon of olive oil until fragrant and golden. Set aside on paper towel to drain.
- By now, the vegetables should appear slightly wilted. In a colander, rinse the salt off well with cold water. Working in small batches, place the vegetables in your cheesecloth and wring out well. Try to get as much moisture out as possible (and don’t be afraid to apply pressure!).
- Return the vegetables to a bowl and add the shrimp, peanuts, and cilantro. Mix well and serve.
Safe travels to one of my dearest friends (and excellent sous-chef), Denise!