When I first discovered the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California, I was amazed at the number of Asian restaurants. Driving down the streets, I would spot at least 5 Vietnamese restaurants in one block followed by at least 4 Chinese cafes on the next and numerous desserts spots in the same area. It was difficult to choose which location to try first unless you have an expert guide like I did. I was taken to the best of the best eateries, including one restaurant that specialized in a dish called Hainan chicken. Hainan chicken is originally a Chinese dish but has been adapted in other cuisines, such as Singaporean, Hainanese and Malaysian. After trying the chicken I knew I had to recreate it myself. Much easier to prepare than I had anticipated and the flavors are incredible!
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
There are two stars in this dish, the rice, and the chicken. This recipe is more based on the Singaporean style, using the broth made from cooking the chicken to cook the rice.
The first step is preparing the chicken. Hainan chicken is cooked with the skin on; however, in this particular dish, the skin is oh so soft and buttery. To accomplish this, you want to massage the outside with a liberal amount of salt. Within minutes, I could see a difference in the texture of the skin.
Cooking the chicken is as easy as poaching it. You want the fire to remain low to slowly cook the chicken and preventing it from drying out. Because you already cleaned the chicken with salt, there should only be a small amount of foam that arises while cooking.
Now that you’ve produced a lovely chicken broth, you want to use that liquid to cook your rice. If you are able to locate Pandan leaves, add one to the pot with the rice. I was unable to locate the ingredient and had to omit it from my version. Personally, the rice is my favorite part of the dish. It’s incredibly simple but the result is outstanding.
Serve with the chili sauce and ginger sauce and you have created the traditional Hainan chicken! I drizzle the soy sauce over the rice and dip the chicken in a generous amount of the ginger and chili sauce to add even more flavor to the meal. If you’ve never had Hainan chicken before, I highly recommend it!
Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles.