{Recipe} Chicken Rice: The ultimate comfort food

There’s spag bol, there’s lasagna, there’s chocolate chip cookies, there’s chicken noodle soup. And then there’s Hainanese chicken rice, my version of the ultimate comfort food. I used to (correction, still do) ask my friends what dish could they eat everyday for 30 days without getting sick of it, just so I can announce ‘chicken rice’ as my star. Hee.

What’s not to love about chicken rice? The fragrant garlic rice cooked in chicken fat, accented by pandan leaves. The succulent steamed chicken, served drizzled with soy sauce and sesame oil, garnished with coriander and sliced chili. The wholesome chicken broth, sprinkled with white pepper and thinly sliced spring onions. The tangy chili sauce, packing bags of sweet, sour and spicy. And then the side dishes that usually grace the table with chicken rice. Cold tofu, Chinese greens and sometimes even Chinese barbecue pork. Fresh soy milk or a cup of icy barley drink would be ideal accompaniments to round up the hearty meal.

Yes. This is my version of comfort food.

Opening Curtain: Chicken 

Serves 4

4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and pounded

2cm fresh ginger, peeled and pounded

pinch salt

4 stalks spring onion, finely sliced (save about 1 stalk’s worth for garnish)

1 small chicken, washed and prepped

1 pandan leaf, knotted

Sesame oil

Light soy sauce

Mix garlic, ginger, salt and spring onion and stuff the cavity of the chicken with mixture. Sit chicken (cavity side down) into stockpot and add boiling water. Ensure chicken is fully immersed in water. Add one knot of pandan leaf, cover with lid and cook chicken on high heat for 30 minutes. Turn stove off and leave chicken immersed in stock for a further 30 minutes for a thoroughly cooked and tender chicken. Chop up the chicken like a veteran (though true veterans only use a cleaver and nothing else). Drizzle sesame oil and light soy sauce. Garnish with spring onions (conventionally, coriander is used).

Main Act: Garlic Rice

1tsp sesame oil

6-8 cloves garlic, peeled and pounded

2cm ginger, peeled and pounded

2 stalks spring onion, finely sliced

pinch salt

2 cups rice, uncooked

2 cups stock from previous step

2 knots pandan leaves (one from the previous step)

In a pan, heat sesame oil on medium. Once oil is hot, add garlic, ginger and spring onion. Cook until fragrant. Add rice and salt. Fry for 1 minute. At this point, your house would smell amazing. Empty contents of pan into a rice cooker. Add stock and pandan leaves. Cook. Serve when piping hot.

Supporting Act 1: Cold tofu with oyster sauce

500g silken tofu

2Tb oyster sauce

1tsp light soy sauce

2 stalks spring onion

1/4c fried onions (I used store bought)

Steam tofu for 8-10 minutes and allow to chill completely. I sometimes plonk it into the freezer to quicken the process. Mix oyster sauce and soy sauce with 2tsp water and pour over chilled tofu. Top with fried onions and spring onion immediately before serving.

Supporting Act 2: Chinese Greens

1 bunch Chinese greens (bok choy, kai lan, choy sum etc)

Oyster sauce mixture from Cold Tofu

2 stalks spring onion

1/4c fried onions

Blanch vegetables. I allow the vegetables to cook for about 2-3 minutes in boiling water. Drizzle oyster sauce mixture and top with onions and spring onion.

Final Curtain: A very satisfied soul