Singapore's hawker centers were erected beginning in the 1970s in an effort to move affordable eats off the streets and into hygiene-regulated environments. Today, one can find a dizzying array of brilliantly crafted, affordable dishes of varying origin. Chicken rice, however, is a mainstay, a celebrated national dish that appeals to locals and tourists alike. It is quintessentially light (and Mad Delicious), and should immediately become part of your repertoire. It's so incredibly satisfying, you might cry. Really.
1 cup jasmine rice
1 (5 1/2-pound) whole chicken
a handful coarse sea salt
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1 (2-inch) piece fresh gingerroot (about 2 ounces), peeled and sliced 1/8 inch thick
8 garlic cloves, sliced
2 pandan leaves (likely frozen)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
8 green onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
How to Make It
Wash the rice. Set aside, draining.
In a colander, under cold, trickling water, rub the chicken skin all over with salt as to scour and smooth. Turn the water off, and rub the chicken with a half of a lime, all over the skin. The acid serves to tighten up and firm the skin. Alternately rub with salt and lime until the skin is as smooth as, yes, a baby's bottom.
Now, under fully running cold water, vigorously rub and rinse all of the salt off the bird.
STEAM THE CHICKEN Configure a stovetop steamer. Pour the chicken stock into the pot. Add the ginger, garlic, and pandan leaves.
Raise the heat to high, tapering to medium-high when the stock comes to a boil and is steaming steadily, but not violently.
Put the chicken in the top steamer area and cover. Monitor the steam from time to time to ensure that it sufficiently envelops or "clouds" the chicken.
Steam for about an hour, until a thermometer inserted in the meat closest to the thigh joint of the chicken reaches 165°.
Save the liquid. It's incredible, and will serve as the liquid for the rice, which we'll cook next while the chicken is resting on a platter.
COOK THE RICE
Okay, measure the liquid remaining in the pot. It should be about 3 cups. We'll need about 2 1/2 cups to cook the rice. Strain out and reserve the garlic and ginger. Discard the pandan.
There should be some visible chicken fat floating on the surface of the stock. Transfer a tablespoon or so to a small saucepan. We'll start cooking the rice in that.
Take a piece of the ginger and a little of the garlic (about two cloves' worth), and mash with a fork.
Now, heat up the saucepan to medium. Add the ginger-garlic paste. give it a stir with a wooden spoon. Reduce heat to low.
Add the rice to the pot and sauté for a minute or two. Try not to brown the garlic and ginger too much. This dish should be delicate.
Cover with 2 1/2 cups of hot stock. Cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Then, turn off the heat but leave the saucepan on the stove, covered, for another 10 minutes. Fluff the rice.
If you didn't cut the chicken in advance, do it now. Use your Mad Skills.
Sprinkle the cut chicken with 1 teaspoon kosher salt, green onions, and cilantro. Serve with Hot Chile-Ginger Sauce.
Cooking Light Mad Delicious
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