Hainanese Chicken Rice does not exist in Hainan Island, China. It is the brainchild of Hainanese immigrants from China that moved to Singapore, and uses the Hainanese cooking technique of boiling the chickens in stock. The boiled chickens are immediately transferred to ice water after they are cooked, resulting in a nice jelly-like skin, and this also stops the chicken from cooking any further. Chicken rice is often served with a garlic/ginger-chili sauce, thick dark soy sauce (not the thin types) like kecap manis and at some places, a ginger and oyster sauce dipping sauce.
In Singapore, chicken rice (We don't usually call it Hainanese Chicken Rice because it is too long. Actually, I'm surprised nobody started calling it by its abbreviation HCR yet. As everyone knows, Singapore is very fond of abbreviating everything.) is sold everywhere. And by everywhere, I do literally mean everywhere. You'll walk around in a food center and there may be two, three or four stalls selling chicken rice. Most chicken rice stalls also sell roasted chicken rice as well, but that is another recipe for another day. Hence, in Singapore, nobody cooks chicken rice at home. Why would you need to if you can walk 5 minutes and pay $2.50 (okay, maybe $3 these days?) and have a nice delicious plate of chicken rice?
When I moved here, I started making my own chicken rice. It is hard. The chicken needs to be boiled properly with the right amount of flavoring ingredients. The rice has to be perfectly cooked and fragrant. The chicken needs to be dunked in ice water. The whole chicken needs to be chopped up nicely. Seriously, there is a lot of skill needed in cooking a perfect plate of chicken rice. Hacking up a chicken may seem easy, but here in the US, everyone buys meat that is already cut up and most home cooks can't fathom hacking up a chicken on their own. Hell! Some idiot freaked at a fast-food chicken joint once because he/she thought that they had served her chicken brain. It was actually the chicken kidney in the thigh part of the chicken - delicious bit, I have to say.
So, here in this part of the world, I had no one to turn to for help making chicken rice - seriously, out here, I might as well be the chicken rice expert in 100 miles, since I probably am the only person who has had the authentic one from Singapore, and has tried to cook it, not from a packet. So, I made chicken rice, and made more chicken rice. Every time I made it, it was a huge risk and all about learning from past mistakes and trial and error. Eventually, after cooking it so many times, I can say I finally finally mastered it. I mastered the dish of my homeland. Yes, I think my chicken rice is as good as Boon Tong Kee or Maxwell Road's chicken rice - I kid you not! And definitely, it is the best chicken rice you will find in New England. For sure!
And I'm sharing my recipe below. I'm so proud to be Singaporean - yes, only because of chicken rice and the foods that come out of the island. Politics and whatever else, I'm ignoring it, because what good is it to think about things you can't change? Food is what keeps me going! (I'm also making this post as idiot proof as possible - photos at each stage of the way - so there is no reason why someone can't understand it or does it wrong. I'm just keeping all bases covered.) Also, check out my chicken rice chili sauce recipe. It might be the most important element of chicken rice.
This recipe has moved to the new Emylogues on Wordpress. Visit the new blog here, and change your links. Also, here's a recipe for Hainanese Chicken Rice Chili Sauce!