The chicken for this favourite dish must be fresh said my teacher in Penang. Getting a fresh chicken there was not a problem. All I had to do was call me favourite Chinese grocery store and they would deliver. “Male or female’ the lass in the shop would ask me. Once overhearing this conversation, my perplexed spouse asked “what the hell are you ordering a female for?”
It is a dish adapted from early Chinese immigrants originally from Hainan province in southern Chinas and is called Hainanese Chicken Rice. Of course, there are plenty of shops that sell the authentic stuff in Malaysia, Singapore and the belt of Asian countries and it’s easy enough to go buy this. But I haven’t found any restaurants serving anything close to this even here.
However, when I used to take my Sunday leftovers to eat in office, my Sri Lankan colleagues would turn up their noses at the plate of white rice, with a pale white piece of chicken, cucumbers in soya sauce. The only thing I got pass marks were for the accompanying chillie sauce. So must say, it is an acquired taste!
Here, in Sri Lanka don’t try this recipe, with those frozen tasteless birds. Try to get to a market or a shop that sells fresh chicken and get one with the skin on. You can discard the skin when you are eating if you worry about cholesterol levels!
1 whole fresh chicken, weighing about 1kg.
1 teaspoon rice wine but I opt here for brandy or sherry
1 1/2 Tblespoon light soya sauce
2 slices fresh ginger
1-2 cloves garlic crushed
1 -2 sprigs spring onions ( 1 is enough if you are in Aussie, 2 in Sri Lanka)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 sprig coriander leaves
1/2 tspn salt
Rub the chicken with the brandy/sherry or wine and 1/2 tableespoon of soya sauce and stuff the cavity with the garlic, ginger, spring onion and coriander if you are using that. Bring a pot of water to boil, put the chicken in, turn off the heat and let the chicken stand in the water for 5 minutes. After, the 5 minutes, lift the chicken out and drain off the water from the stomach cavity. Put the chicken back in the pot and bring the water to boiling and again switch off and leave the chicken to steep. Repeat this process 3 or 4 times till the chicken is cooked through. The secret to get tender, juicy meat is never to let the water boil. At the end of an hour or so, remove chicken, rub over with the rest of the soya sauce, sesame oil and salt and slice into pieces.
For the savoury rice that goes with it:
3 cups long grain rice
About 3-4 cups water or a mixture of water and stock.
2 Tablespoons Margarine ( my recipe from the 1970’s says Planta Margarine — a Malaysian brand we used then)– healthier option is olive oil which I will use now.
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon finely diced ginger root
1 1/2 Tablespoons finely dice onion
2X 1″ pieces of Rampe ( daun pandang)
In the good old days, I will use some chicken fat and margarine to saute some of the diced liver and gizzards, before add ing the garlic, ginger and onions. Keep stirring to avoid burning. Add rice, stir well to coat add water or water and stock. Cover pan, bring to boil, lower heat and cook covered till the water is absorbed.
Fresh Chilli Sauce
6 fresh red chillies ( possibly 2 or 3 in Aussie)
4 slices ginger
2 cloves garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons white or apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
A little water
Pound together chillies, ginger and garlic but not too fine. remove to a bowl, add the other ingredients Check and adjust flavours.
Lastly slice some cucumbers, drown them in soya sauce and serve with the rice, chicken, chilli sauce and a bowl of the stock with some coriander or spring onions on the side.
Ideally, end the Malaysian rendezvous with that luscious fruit you get plenty here during the season now — Rambutans.
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