Tonight is the last day of the Chinese lunar calendar. We are entering the year of the dog, particularly auspicious as we have so many dogs in the family (my father, my husband, my son), from an astrology perspective and also because many are actually… dogs.
I’ve been in the best of moods all week, despite the weather, cooking some Chinese favorites and enjoying various blossom branches – always the very first sign of spring. Those and the mimosas. Earlier in the week I cooked this childhood favorite, the Hainan chicken, one of the most soothing and comforting recipes I can think of. I wanted to cook something Asian to put on the blog today and while there are many other dishes with more flair and flavor – this one feels just right for the last weeks (yes I said last) of winter. It’s filled with goodness and all the things that keep the doctors away, garlic, ginger, broth.
Tomorrow I’m off to Venice with the whole family, a little adventure on a river boat but it makes me happy that I’m keeping my promise to post a recipe per week.
Wishing you all a happy, healthy, loving and prosperous Chinese new year! Mimi x
Hainan Chicken Rice (serves 6)
Chinese food is not complicated, it’s just about making sure to get a few steps right! Enjoy this delicious recipe, it’s my Asian comfort food, there are so many memories linked with this dish. Growing up in Hong Kong, I would meet my best friends and we would often order this dish (especially the one at the Clipper Lounge at the Mandarin Oriental hotel, do they still serve it? I hope o!). The chicken is blanched, dropped in an ice-bath, so it can retain its moisture. I find this recipe beautiful to make, like an old-fashioned ritual. And on top of everything, it’s such a healthy dish.
For the chicken and the broth
1.5 kg whole chicken
10 cloves of garlic, halved
A large piece (about the size of your palm) piece of ginger, sliced
1 large bunch of spring onions (scallions)
2 tablespoon Shao xing rice wine
2 tablespoon light soy
4 teaspoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon salt and pepper
For the chicken and broth
Remove the chicken giblets. Rinse the chicken inside and out. Remove any leftover feathers and trim excess fat (you will need it for the rice, so set aside).
Rub both the inside and outside of the chicken really well with coarse salt to ‘exfoliate’ the skin on the chicken. Rinse well and pat dry. The chicken will be smooth and ready for cooking. Season the chicken with salt and pepper.
Boil a large pot of water and add a few spring onion stalks, slices of ginger and 5 cloves of peeled garlic. Fill the chicken with a few more ginger slices, garlic cloves and spring onion.
Place the chicken into the large pot (neck-side down) and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and rinse under cold water. Lower the heat and return the chicken to the pot, let it simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the heat off, cover with a lid and leave the chicken to stand for 30 more minutes. Place the chicken in an ice bowl for a few minutes, remove the ice cubes and leave aside to rest and cool for 20 minutes. Drizzle some sesame oil and light soya sauce on the chicken. This technique will make the chicken extra tender.
2) For the rice.
Wash the rice and soak for 20 mins. Drain dry and set aside.
In a small pan, heat the chicken fat with 1 tablespoon water and cook until the fat has melted. When the fat is hot, add a few slices of ginger and garlic, sauté for 2-3 minutes. Transfer all the ingredients including the oil into the rice cooker and mix in the washed rice. Add enough chicken stock to cook the rice according to your favorite method. I have a classic rice cooker, and it takes approx. 15-20 minutes to cook.
3) For the broth
Re-heat the chicken stock and add salt according to your taste. I like to add a few tablespoons of Shao Xing wine for taste, but that is optional. Garnish with coriander and sliced spring onion before serving.
4) For the sauce
1 large piece of ginger (about the size of half your palm), peeled and cut into small chunks
1 bunch of spring onion (scallions), chopped
2 teaspoon sea salt, or more if you prefer
150-200 ml/ about 2/3 cup peanut oil, add more if you want a looser sauce
Place the ginger in the food processor and process until the ginger is finely minced. Transfer to a bowl. Repeat the same with the spring onions (make sure they are lightly minced). Add them to bowl with the ginger. Season generously with salt.
Heat the peanut oil in a pan until it is very hot, the add the ginger and spring onions. Stir quickly for a 5 seconds and transfer to a bowl. Leave to cool and serve with chicken.
Chop the chicken into slices (with the skin on). Drizzle with a little soya sauce and sesame oil. Serve with a bowl of rice, a bowl of soup, the ginger sauce and garnish everything with fresh coriander, sliced cucumber, and don’t forget your favorite chilli sauce too!