Friday, August 5, 2011

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Hainanese chicken rice with broth

Many consider Hainanese chicken rice to be Singapore's national dish, but to an outsider it's hard to imagine a blander looking meal. I mean, boiled chicken served on white rice? What's that even about? If you're a "No Reservations" fan you know that Bourdain absolutely raved about the stuff in an episode on Singapore, but even so, it's a little hard to get excited about something so... monochromatic.

I don't really recall what led me down the path making this dish, but make it I did, following a recipe from Steamy Kitchen. One nice thing about this recipe is that the ingredient list is certainly not too intimidating, requiring little beyond the chicken itself and pantry staples... in addition, it takes about an hour to get the final dish on the table so it's perfectly doable on a weeknight. Everything went off without a hitch, so I can't really think of anything you should be especially cognizant of if you decide to make it yourself... other than to spend a little extra on a good quality chicken since it is basically the star, director, and executive producer of the meal.

So what did I think of Singapore's national dish? The chicken itself was moist and delicate and the rice was fantastic (I had never washed rice before, but I guess maybe I should from now on?). The chili ginger lime sauce was also great, but I'm a big fan of Sriracha even though it is no longer cool to be so. However I have to say the broth was pretty disappointing... I'd go so far as to call it insipid. Though I don't know why you'd expect anything different after only 30 minutes of simmering. Conceivably you could cut up the chicken before the simmering and make a stock from the back and wings to poach the rest in and get much better results, but it's not my national dish is it? The skin, with the ice bath, comes out a little bit gelatinous and weird... but I think that's the intention. Not entirely sure how I feel about it, but some recipes call for discarding the skin, and I probably lean that way.

Still, even with the lackluster broth I think this is pretty nice dish.