This is one of those meals that I make all the time and I didn’t even know that it had an actual name! I was researching something else, and I clicked on a link for Hainanese Chicken Rice, and I was like, “what,” I thought this was only something that I make! Haha! I love it when this kind of stuff happens.
Follow along as my recipe for this Asian poached chicken is adapted for an easy rendition of the otherwise time-consuming version but it’s just as tasty (if not tastier) than the original. I can hear the aficionados saying “oh, no she didn’t”, but that’s ok because if they make this quicker version, they may just switch!
What is Hainanese Chicken Rice?
Hainanese Chicken Rice is a traditional dish of poached chicken with fatty rice. It’s typically served with a chili soy dipping sauce, sliced cucumbers, and fresh cilantro. It was created by immigrants of the Hainan province of south-east Asia and it is considered to be the national dish of Singapore. It also is served in Malaysia and Thailand where each country claims it to be their own! In 2018, CNN claimed that it is one of the “The World’s Top 50 Foods“.
Typically, the chicken in Hainanese Chicken is poached in a pot of low simmering water to make the broth and cook the chicken. Once the chicken is cooked, it is dunked in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and to give the skin a ‘jelly-like” consistency after the chicken has dried. I guess this is what the Asians love, I am a bit turned off by “jelly-like” chicken skin, but to each their own!
Poaching chicken is something that I always do, at least once a week. I add all different kinds of herbs and spices to the stock to give it whatever flavor I am seeking that week. I know that people think that ‘poached” chicken can be dry but if you start out with bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts or thighs, you can avoid making dry chicken. The trick is also to slowly cook it. If you boil the heck out of it, you will get dried out chicken. This recipe calls for 2 1/2-3 pounds of chicken breasts and it took about 40 minutes to cook on a low simmer. For me, it’s also important to start out using chicken stock instead of water. I always have homemade on hand but boxed or canned stock is ok and gives more flavor than water! Chicken doesn’t have to be boring and poaching chicken with added flavors really makes it quite delicious!
In restaurants in south-east Asia, they make so many of these chickens and reuse the stock over and over while adding more chicken and water to each batch. You can imagine how flavorful the broth gets with each time it is served. You can do this too. If you have any leftover stock, just freeze it and add it to the next batch! That’s what I do!
What makes this Weeknight Hainanese Chicken Rice?
I made this weeknight version of this by not cooking a whole chicken (which takes more time) but rather just using chicken breasts (or thighs) and jazzing up the broth with some great Asian flavors. It’s also made it a bit healthier by not frying the rice in chicken fat before cooking it in the stock. I promise you! You will not miss the added fat. One other thing that is great about this recipe, it is a perfect addition to your food prepping meals if that’s something that you do.
Go ahead and give this recipe a try! Super yum…
Are you looking for other great Asian inspired recipes? Well, here you go!
Just in case you missed it, Homemade Chicken Stock
Weeknight Hainanese Chicken Rice
For the Poached Chicken
- 2.5-3 pounds bone on, skin-on chicken breasts
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 4-5 garlic cloves, skins removed and crushed
- 5 inch piece of fresh ginger, sliced
- 4 star anise, left whole
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons sesame oil
For the Rice
- 2 cups reserved chicken stock from cooking
- 1 cup basmati or jasmine rice
- 1/2 cup sliced green onions
For the Soy Dipping Sauce
- 1/2 cup low sodium Tamari or soy sauce
- 1/4 cup sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 1-2 tablespoons sriracha sauce add to your taste
- 2 tablespoons reserved stock
- 3 teaspoons brown sugar (or substitute honey)
- 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
- 1/4 cup sliced green onions
- pinch salt to taste
- 1 sliced cucumber
- 1 bunch chopped cilantro
- extra stock for making a soup if you wish
For the Chicken
- In a large soup pot, add the stock, garlic, ginger, star anise, and bay leaves and bring to a boil. As the water heats up, salt the chicken breasts with about a teaspoon of salt. Once the stock boils, add the chicken and reduce the heat to simmer and cover the pan. Cook for 35-45 minutes or until the internal temperature on the chicken reaches 165 degrees. You will need a cooking thermometer to check this or if you don't have one cut through one of the breasts and make sure there is no visible pink.
- Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from the stock and place the breasts in an ice bath to stop the cooking process. Reserve the stock. After the chicken has cooled, remove from the water and pat dry. Drizzle a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil over the chicken. Set aside.
To make the rice
- Strain the solids from the stock and set aside.
- In a medium-sized pot, add the strained stock and the rice. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or so or until the liquid has evaporated and the rice is light and fluffy. Stir in the green onions. Set aside.
To make the Soy Dipping Sauce
- In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, sugar, sriracha, reserved stock, hoisin, and green onions. Season with salt if needed. Set aside.
To serve Hainanese Chicken
- Remove the bones from the chicken breasts and cut into even size pieces or shred off the bone. Serve with rice, sauce, cucumbers, cilantro, and stock if you desire.