Homey Hainanese Chicken Rice For A Quiet Family Meal

Credit: Gerald Lee

Family is the basis of Chinese society and that is why, without fail, Chinese all over the world will find time to come back and attend the New Year’s Eve dinner with relatives and loved ones. After all, a family that eats together, stays together! One of the dishes that is sure to bring us all together at the dinner table is Hainanese Chicken Rice.

For me, a reunion dinner, although loud and boisterous with laughter and conversation, has a more significant meaning. Each dish is served on a big, round marble table and represents a member of the family. In other words, the reunion dinner as a whole resembles an entire family unit and each dish served symbolizes every family member. Without one, a family won’t be complete. Such a beautiful thought isn’t it?

For me, a hearty, warm and complete dish that gives me the closest feeling to the wonderful memories of a reunion dinner is Hainanese Chicken Rice.

To explain at length on why a reunion dinner is very much a mandatory itinerary before the celebration of the Lunar New Year commences, we have to go back all the way to ancient China.

My Mom’s Specialty

As per Chinese tradition, all the decorations and dishes prepared must symbolize good fortune and wealth. We believe that by eating foods with similar homonyms of words like ‘prosperity’, ‘wealth’, luck and so on so forth, we are imbuing ourselves with these positive thoughts and wishes.

Though different customs are being observed in different places, there are some common dishes that you will see served on the table in every Malaysian Chinese household..

In my family, a good wholesome poached chicken is one of the dishes that is served and nothing highlights the delicious flavours of the chicken more than a plate of soulful Hainanese Chicken Rice.

According to my mom, this recipe is really only authentic when made with a “kampung” chicken or free range chicken. You can experiment and see by trying out the recipe yourself!


a) Poached Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken, salted, cleaned and washed
  • 2 stalks of spring onion
  • 6 slices of young ginger
  • 3 pieces of chicken stock cube, without MSG

b) Rice

  • 850g Thai jasmine rice, washed
  • 40g of butter
  • 1 tablespoon of oil
  • 2 bulbs of garlic – halved
  • 60g of young ginger
  • 7 – 8 pandan leaves, knotted
  • 5 cups of poached chicken liquid

c) Seasoning liquid

  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of light soy sauce

d) Ginger sauce

  • 3 shallots, remove skin and sliced thinly
  • 4 tablespoons of oil
  • 60g of ginger, chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of concentrated chicken stock

e) Chilli sauce

  • 22 fresh red chillies, remove seeds and cut into 1 cm-pieces
  • 1 bulb of garlic, remove skin
  • 50g of ginger, peeled and sliced
  • Juice from 15 calamansi
  • 3 teaspoons of sugar
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of plum sauce


a) Poached Chicken

  1. Make sure chicken is cleaned and the cavity at the neck are open to ensure the chicken stock flow through.
  2. Stuff the spring onions and ginger into the chicken.
  3. Seal the rear of the chicken with tooth picks.
  4. Boil water with 3 pieces of chicken stock and chicken feet before immersing the whole chicken into the boiling water completely.
  5. Bath the chicken with scoops of the boiling water. This process helps to shrink and tighten up the chicken skin.
  6. Leave the chicken in the boiling stock for 20 minutes with the lid close.
  7. Switch off the heat and leave the chicken inside for another 30 minutes with the lid off.
  8. Prepare a pot of ice and cold water.
  9. Gently scoop the chicken out from the hot stock and dip the chicken into the ice water till cool to touch. This step helps to keep the chicken moist and tender.
  10. Scoop it out and leave it aside for 10 minutes.
  11. Cut the whole chicken and arrange the pieces on a nice big plate.
  12. Before serving, add the season liquid ( see recipe below).

b) Rice

  1. Heat up the oil in the wok on medium heat.
  2. Add in the garlic and ginger. Keep an eye on the process as you want to cook the garlic until it’s aromatic, but not until it starts to burn or become crispy. Remove and set aside.
  3. In the rice cooker, add in the butter, the fried garlic and young ginger. Add in the rice as well as chicken stock.
  4. Mix till well and place the pandan leaves in.
  5. Let the rice cook.

c) Ginger Sauce

  1. Heat oil in a wok on medium heat and fry shallots till semi golden brown.
  2. Add in ginger and fry till fragrant for 5 minutes.
  3. Add in sugar, salt, sesame oil and concentrated chicken stock.
  4. Fry till all are well combined.

d) Chilli Sauce

  1. Add all ingredients into the blender.
  2. Add in 2 tablespoons of water.
  3. Blend all together coursely till a paste is formed.

e) Serving Liquid

  1. In a wok, add all the ingredients used in the serving liquid. Heat them on medium heat.
  2. Stir continuously until boiling.

Auspicious and Delicious

Nothing says ‘home’ more than a plate of classic Hainanese Chicken Rice. Just like a family, all the components of the dish work together to create an exquisite combination of sweet, sour and heat.

Any questions about this dish can be asked directly on my Instagram page, @justinescakesandkueh and do follow Butterkicap’sInstagram and Facebook pages for more recipe updates!

Justine Lim

With love for the freshest and natural ingredients, Justine Lim aspires to recreate heritage Malaysian recipes into modern, elegant-looking delicacies. Catch more of her delicious creations on her Instagram profile, @justinescakesnkueh

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