hoi nam gai fan – hainanese chicken rice

I am in the midst of full-on hating life in Saskatchewan.  I miss my family and friends and I miss decent weather.  After 9 months of winter, it’s raining pretty much all the damn time.  Being from Vancouver, I don’t mind rain but that’s cus we’re spared the 9 month winter.  I’m also apparently in the crazy phase of being pregnant and seriously craving all the yummy things that I don’t get to here.  So I’ve decided I just have to up my game and start cooking more Chinese food that I just can’t get here.  I’m sorry but egg rolls and chicken balls are just not Chinese food. OK!  Had to get that all out of my system.

One of the things I miss is hoi nam gai fan, a longtime favourite.  My mom always used to get us takeaway hoi nam gai fan from Richmond so that’s probably why it’s such a comfort food for me.  It’s basically a cold chicken dish served with a flavoured rice and I like to eat it with a ginger-green onion sauce.  So I set out to figure out how to make it and after a first attempt at our friends’ last night, I think it was a success!  I always figured it would be very difficult to make but it was not very hard at all.

A whole chicken  /  2 pieces of ginger root, peeled  /  2 bunches of green onion  /  ~ 3 cloves garlic  /  2 cups jasmine rice  /  canola oil (except my friend Katharina’s much healthier than me and had only avocado oil instead, which turned out great so feel free to be healthier and go with avocado)  /  ~ 1 tsp sesame oil (not hoisin sauce, like I accidentally have in the photo, oops)  /  cucumber (optional)  /  coarse salt

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Start off by scrubbing some coarse salt all over the chicken.  Use quite a bit of salt too because you’ll be poaching the chicken and then using the stock to flavour the rice so you don’t want it to be bland.  Slice up one of the pieces of ginger and just casually chop one bunch of the green onion.  Stuff the cavity of the chicken with the ginger and green onion, toss the chicken into a pot and fill with water until the chicken is fully submerged.  Set of low-medium heat and let it slowly simmer away until the chicken is cooked all the way through (I just checked by using a meat thermometer).  Don’t let it really come to a boil though, it should be a slow process so the meat doesn’t get tough.

In the meantime, using a fine grater, grate the other piece of ginger.  In a small saucepan, warm up the ginger with a generous amount of canola or avocado oil.  Finely dice up the green parts of the other bunch of green onion and after you’ve removed the saucepan from the heat, just add that in.  Season with some salt and the sauce is done.

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I cooked 2 chickens last night! Greedy.

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As soon as the chicken’s cooked through, you have to cool it down.  Ideally you throw it into an ice bath but we didn’t have any ice so we just ran it under cold water in the sink until it was cold.  Make sure you don’t throw out the water that you were poaching the chicken in though, because you’ll be using that to cook the rice!

Mince up the garlic cloves and toss into a pot with a bit of oil and give it a stir over medium heat.  Then wash your rice and toss it in, giving that a bit of a stir too.  If you have a rice cooker (which I forgot to bring over to our friends’) then transfer the rice to that.  Otherwise, just cook it on the stovetop.  Strain the poaching liquid and add in 3 and 1/2 cups of the liquid to the rice.  In a rice cooker, you know what to do next.  On the stovetop, cover with a lid and turn the heat to low and cook ’til it’s done.  (Like any respectable Asian, I never cook rice on the stove so this is a new technique for me).

While the rice is cooking, using preferably a Chinese cleaver, chop up the chicken, bone, skin and all.  You can slice up some cucumber too go along with it if you’re feeling like you need a bit of green in your meal.  And when the rice is done, you’re all finished!  Rock says the sauce was amazing and now it’s one of his favourites.  Everything tasted remarkably close to exactly how I wanted it to taste so I’m very happy with it. If you’ve never had hainanese chicken rice, you have got to give this recipe a try.

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