Hainanese Chicken & Rice

I love this dish! It’s so damn tasty and so damn simple. This Malaysian treat looks a lot more difficult than it really is. If I’m feeling virtuous it’s the choice I make at one of my favourite Malaysian restaurants which is awkwardly positioned right next door to the gym. If I don’t fall prey to either a Laksa or a fabulous Roti Canai then this is the dish I always choose. I made it at home for the second time tonight and I must say, my version was pretty much the same as I get at the restaurant. Spot on! The condiments are essential with this – I used shop bought sambal together with a spring onion and ginger relish, which is easy to make and almost stole the show.

1 whole chicken (1.5kg)
2 teaspoons salt
2 cloves garlic (peeled and bruised with the side of a knife)
4 slices fresh ginger
4 spring onions (trimmed and cleaned)
1 lemon grass stalk (trimmed and bruised at end)
5-6 coriander stalks (with roots – cleaned)
3 tablespoons sesame oil

2 cups long-grain rice
2 tablespoons peanut oil
5 spring onions (very finely chopped)
5 cloves garlic (very finely chopped)
3/4 teaspoon salt

1 small cucumber (sliced)
1 tomato (sliced)
Fresh coriander
Malaysian chilli sambal
Spring onion & ginger relish*

*Spring onion & ginger relish:
5 spring onions (sliced)
1 teaspoon fresh ginger (grated)
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Wash and dry the chicken inside and out. Stuff the ginger, garlic and spring onions into the cavity. Place in a large saucepan, breast side down. Pour over 3 litres of water and season with salt. Bring to a boil over a moderate heat then turn down to very gentle simmer and cook for 45 minutes. Turn off the heat then plunge the bird into a large bowl of ice water to stop it cooking. Keep the cooking liquid. When cooled, pat the chicken dry, then rub the sesame oil all over and leave covered to come to room temperature.

To make the spring onion relish:
Mix together the peanut and sesame oils in a small saucepan, add the onion and ginger and then turn on the heat. Let it come to a gentle fry over a moderate heat and cook, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the salt and soy sauce. The flavour is supposed to be quite salty and intense. Leave to cool completely.

To make the rice, wash and drain until the water runs clear then leave to dry a little. Heat a saucepan with the oil and fry the spring onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes over a moderate heat. Add the rice and stir for 1-2 minutes to coat thoroughly. Add 4 cups of the chicken cooking liquid and the salt. Bring to a boil over a high heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes until air holes appear on the surface. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pan. Cook for 20-30 minutes without stirring until the rice is cooked and is just beginning to stick to the bottom. Cover the top of the pan with a tea towel, then replace the lid and leave for 10 minutes before serving.

Remove the skin and cut the chicken into large chunks. Serve a few chunks of chicken on a plate alongside a little mound of rice moulded from a small bowl. Add a few slices of cucumber and tomatoes and a sprinkle of fresh coriander. If you like, you can also serve some of the left over hot chicken broth with a little chinese greens in as a simple soup to accompany.

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