I’m sure that if any Chinese cook who knows his or her Hainanese Chicken Rice were to read this recipe, I would be in for something of a roasting. But this is a tasty dish I have adapted over the years and that was inspired by the delicious and authentic Hainanese Chicken Rice dishes I have enjoyed as street food in Penang, Singapore and elsewhere.
The real thing is made by boiling a whole chicken, then cooking the rice in its stock, the meat served on the side along with a bowl of broth and two dipping sauces, one of garlic and ginger, the other a kind of chili sambal.
My dish is a sort of variation on paella in terms of technique, ideally made with fresh chicken but also delicious made with turkey stock and leftover turkey meat.
The overriding flavour, along with a deep and satisfying Chickeneness (or Turkeyness) is ginger. Good fresh ginger is absolutely essential to this dish.
To fill a large frying pan or medium paella dish:
• 1 litre (approx) of homemade chicken or turkey stock
• 300grs rice (risotto or paella rice – Arborio works well)
• Peeled and finely chopped fresh ginger (around 1 heaped tablespoon)
• 1 large onion chopped
• A splash of rice wine or dry sherry (dry white wine will suffice)
• 2 chicken breasts with skin (or similar amount of turkey meat)
• 2 cloves garlic, chopped
• Chives to garnish
• Sesame seeds to garnish
• Sesame oil and vegetable oil for frying
• Light soy sauce
For the dipping sauce (simply combine and adapt to taste)
• Chopped fresh chilies to taste
• Kekap manis (sweet soy sauce)
• Chopped garlic
Coat the chicken breasts in kekap manis and some chopped garlic, leave to marinate whilst cooking the rice.
Heat an equal mixture of sesame and vegetable oil in the pan and add the chopped ginger, fry for a minute or so until fragrant then add onions, fry until soft then add chopped garlic, fry for another minute or so.
Add the rice and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring well to coat. Add good splash of rice wine or sherry to deglaze, then add around ¾ of the hot chicken stock, leave to simmer, stirring occasionally for around 20 minutes until the rice is nearly tender, adding more stock as needed and soy sauce to taste.
The aim is to achieve a slightly wet rice, not the creamy texture of a risotto or the near dry texture of a paella. Once the rice is cooked remove from the heat, cover and leave to rest.
Pat the chicken breasts dry and fry gently, skin side down, in a mixture of sesame and vegetable oil until skin is crispy. Then turn over to complete cooking. Remove from pan and roll in sesame seeds.
To finish the rice, garnish with chopped spring onions, arrange the chicken breasts on top of the rice.
If using leftover turkey, slice up and stir fry in a mixture of sesame and vegetable oil, place in a bowl, dress with kekap manis and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
By PATRICK STUART