Saturday, October 14, 2017

Hainanese-Style Chicken Rice (Hainan Ji Fan) in Clay Pot

Hainanese chicken rice, a very popular dish in Singapore and Malaysia, traces its origins to Hainanese immigrants from Southern China. The simplicity of this dish belies the complexity of its flavors: it's essentially chicken and rice cooked in chicken stock, flavored with aromatics like ginger, scallions and garlic, and served with a chili-garlic-ginger dipping sauce on the side. Traditionally, a whole chicken is poached for this dish, with some of the stock reserved to cook the rice in, but I opted to use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for ease of preparation. A clay pot is not necessary to make this recipe (you can just use a pot or wok with a lid), but I like to use one because it makes a really nice presentation. My rice of choice is Jasmine for its flavor and texture, which I saute first in a little vegetable oil and sesame oil along with some ginger slices, smashed garlic cloves, and scallion sections for extra flavor (cooking raw rice first in a little oil is very similar to the way you would start off a risotto or pilaf). My dipping sauce is a combination of soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, fresh chiles, garlic, and lots of ginger.

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 lbs.)
6 cups chicken broth (or 6 cups water + 2 tbsp. Totole chicken powder or bouillon)

1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, smashed
2 slices fresh ginger
1 scallion, cut into 1" sections
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice
Pinch (1/8 tsp.) white pepper

Ar's Dipping Sauce:
4 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
6 tbsp. water
1 tbsp. sesame oil
2 tsp. sugar
1 Fresno chile, seeded and sliced
1 tbsp. minced ginger
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp. chopped cilantro
2 scallions, finely chopped

Sliced scallions and chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Place the chicken broth and chicken thighs together in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 45 minutes to an hour, turning the chicken thighs over 2-3 times during the cooking time. Turn off heat and set aside.

2. Heat 1 tbsp. of vegetable oil and 1 tsp. sesame oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add the garlic, ginger slices and scallion and toss 20-30 seconds until fragrant. Add the jasmine rice with a pinch of white pepper and saute 1-2 minutes or until the rice has absorbed the oil and is translucent.

3. Pour the rice into a clay pot and top with the chicken thighs; add 2 cups of the chicken poaching broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer; cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the rice is just cooked through. If you don't have a clay pot, no worries - just use the same saute pan (as long as it's deep enough) or a pot, add the chicken and poaching liquid, cover, and cook as noted above. 

4. Combine all the dipping sauce ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

5. After 20 minutes, check the rice in the clay pot - if it's a little undercooked or on the dry side, add a few tablespoons of the reserved chicken broth, cover, and let sit for another 10-15 minutes.

6. Garnish the rice with sliced scallions and chopped cilantro, and serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs.

Poach the chicken in 6 cups of chicken broth (bring to a boil first, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook about 1 hour until the stock is reduced by about 1/3). Turn the chicken thighs over a couple times during the cooking period. Turn off heat and set aside.

Totole is my fav brand of chicken powder to make chicken stock. 
You can substitute with chicken bouillon.

Aromatics for the rice: scallions, ginger slices, and whole smashed garlic cloves.

Saute the aromatics in 1 tbsp. vegetable oil and 1 tsp. sesame oil about 1-2 minutes, 
stirring frequently.

Add the raw rice and stir well to blend. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring frequently, until
the rice is translucent and lightly toasted but not browned.

Pour the sautéed rice into a clay pot. 

Top with the poached chicken thighs, skin side up.

Pour in 2 cups of the reserved chicken stock. Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to low. Continue cooking about 20 minutes or until the rice is just cooked through and fluffy.

For the dipping sauce: sliced Fresno chiles, minced scallions, cilantro, garlic, ginger, 
rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, sugar, water, and soy sauce.

After 20 minutes, lift the lid from the clay pot and check the rice. If it's still a little underdone, pour a few tablespoons of the reserved chicken stock around the edges, 
cover and let sit another 10-15 minutes.

Garnish with chopped scallions and cilantro sprigs.

Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

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