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hainanese chicken rice with chilli

March 19, 2012

“Hey! Cheh! Are you finished with the kitchen yet?”

It’s a common question in this household – particularly come late Saturday morning.

Turns out, I wasn’t.

Turns out, she was bored and in need of something to rest her itchy fingers on while she waited for her hair colour to take.

Luckily for me, it turns out the object of her itchy fingers happened to be a recipe I’d been trying to get off her for years.

I ran to get my camera.

Hainanese chicken rice (also known as Singapore Chicken Rice) is a staple in our family.

We eat it on good days. We eat it on really (really) bad days.

We get to a point, collectively, where we each crave it so badly that we’ll head out and try to find something that will come close to the chicken rice we eat at home.

We are inevitably disappointed.

(And, strangely enough, we always tend to get to that point on the very day my mother decides to cook it. Meaning that we eat one version for lunch and another for dinner. Mum has since taken to sending us texts informing us of impending hainan chicken rice so we don’t make that mistake too often.)

I’ve showed you how to make the chicken and soup before on the blog (albeit in the form of a cleansing soup) and I love that recipe to pieces.

If you want to make the hainanese chicken recipe, its a simple matter of adding ginger, garlic and stock to your rice pot.

And if you want to make the black soy-based sauce that sits underneath the chicken (and in our family’s case, spread all over the rice too) it’s a mere matter of mixing up some light soy, dark soy, sesame oil and chicken stock to taste.

But the chilli.

Oh that’s a whole ‘nother story.

Lurid orange-red.

Firey from the chilli and the garlic and the ginger.

But subtle and sweet and sour and nuanced all the same.

We eat it, scraped from the frozen jar and doused with a shot of hot stock.

Smear it all over our rice and our chicken (and sneak a bit into our bowls of soup).

Prepping the garlic and the ginger

It’s the chilli we taste on our breaths when we burp our way through the night, over full from stuffing ourselves with twice our normal portion (and tucking some away for lunch the next day), fearing the wait before we eat our mother’s chicken rice next.

Chicken rice is one of the few meals I can eat twice as much as normal of. It’s frightening. For me and my dining companions.

The ginger, after being blended (we didn’t use all of it). It’s taken on the colour of the chilli!

I watched as my mother minced the aromatics. Laughed as the Bean was told to pour the vinegar into the saucepan (“Do I stop now?” “No. Keep pouring.” “Now?” “Pour lah!”) Sniffed at the jar in a happy reverie when it was done.

As with all of my mother’s recipes, the key phrases here are “agar agar” (the hokkien equivalent of guesstimating your volumes) and “chin chai la!” (the hokkien equivalent of anything goes). Meaning that every batch is slightly different and any attempts at replicating the recipe are somewhat stymied by her wariness at me holding measuring spoons under her free pours of vinegar.

I’ve done my best to represent the recipe here as it was made and having watched her make it again since, am pretty sure it hits close to the mark.

Don’t worry! We didn’t use all of the ginger shown here in this picture.

hainanese chicken rice with chilli
 

makes about 1 cup of chilli base
Ingredients
  • ½C finely chopped chilli
  • ⅓C finely chopped garlic
  • 2tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2tsp vegetable oil
  • 2tbsp white sugar
  • 1tsp salt
  • white vinegar (you’ll see the measure for that later)

How to make it
  1. To prepare your chilli, cut the tops off and chop them roughly. Pop them into a food processor and whiz away until it is chopped into bits about half to a quarter the size of a chocolate chip.
  2. To prepare the garlic, pull the cloves off the bulb and skin them. Cut them in half lengthwise and pull out the thin core going down the centre.  Pop them into a food processor and whiz away until it is chopped into bits about half to a quarter the size of a chocolate chip.
  3. To prepare the ginger, peel the skin off with a teaspoon and chop into chunks. Pop them into a food processor and whiz away until it is a stringy paste.
  4. Add the vegetable oil to a saucepan. Put the garlic, ginger and chilli in and, over a medium heat, fry until they are fragrant and your eyes are watering from the fumes.
  5. Add the sugar and salt and keep cooking over a medium heat until it is stirred through. Lower the heat and press the mixture down with your spoon to achieve a flattish surface.
  6. Grab your bottle of vinegar and slowly pour it in until the level of liquid is just below the surface of the chilli mixture. Cook for about two minutes, stirring until the vinegar has evaporated slightly and the mixture has dried up to a loose paste (think pesto).
  7. Taste a little bit of it. If it feels too sour, add a bit more sugar until the flavour feels right to you.
  8. Transfer the chilli into a clean jar and store in the fridge or freezer. If you want to use it for chicken rice, put a tablespoon or so into a small bowl and top with hot stock to thin it out until it is a slurry.


  • #1
    March 20th, 2012

    I will travel a long way for a good Hainan chicken but have never made it myself. Thanks for sharing your recipe as I think it’s about time I did try to make it.

  • #2
    March 20th, 2012

    That looks amazingly delicious! How long would it last if I wanted to give some for a gift or something?

  • March 20th, 2012

    Hi Sarah! It will last about 3 weeks if you keep it in the fridge or months and months if you keep it in the freezer! We only make a batch every few months or so and whittle away at it in scrapes.

  • #3
    March 21st, 2012

    Absolutely love home cooked meals. And it’s great that you’re sharing some family meals. Hainanese chicken is always good comfort food. mmm nom

  • #4
    March 22nd, 2012

    One of my favourite dishes, period. I bookmarked your soup recipe to attempt this dish on my own, now I have the chilli to go with it!

  • #5
    March 22nd, 2012

    YUM!!!! i really want to cook this but hate that i have to reduce chilli so much so the kidlets will eat, and i don’t think its worth cooking if its not hot!

  • #6
    March 22nd, 2012

    Wow! Great photos. Think of all the many different ways you could use this… brilliant!

  • #7
    March 22nd, 2012

    I adore, completely and utterly adore that your mum texts you guys when chicken rice will be happening. Will be giving the chilli recipe a go (along with the Hainanese chook).

  • #8
    bigbite
    March 23rd, 2012

    if mum doesn’t call, we call just to make sure we do not buy ‘next then perfect’ chicken rice. now you make me crave for it again. aargh!!!!!!!

  • #9
    March 24th, 2012

    I need to give this recipe a go or else I dont think I will be able to properly satisfy my Hainanese cravings!

  • #10
    March 27th, 2012

    Im a hainanese and a huge fan of chicken rice. However, my family usually prepares chicken and rice without the chilli (because no one in the house eats chilli except me) but it’s such a pity to each chicken rice without the chilli. So thank you for the recipe. I will try to make the chilli someday with my chicken rice! :)

  • #11
    April 2nd, 2012

    Digging the theme,also that thing looks delicious,thanks

  • #12
    August 11th, 2014

    […] standard accompaniment to Hainanese chicken rice and I’ve randomly googled up some recipes here and here if you want to know more about the […]

Shez