I am a die hard fan of good chicken rice as this has been my favourite food since I was young.
I started off by making a lot of mistakes with the method I cook my chicken. Took me 6 years of frequent practice before I could master the perfect chicken – i.e. moist, silky smooth skin, so tender that the meat ‘melts’ in your mouth.
Initially I did silly things with my chicken by boiling it under high heat for 30 minutes, resulting in tough dry meat and not being able to understand why would others not finish the dish.
Then, my friend taught me a technique of dipping the chicken into a pot of boiling hot water for 30 minutes. This yield pretty good results. But as I didn’t have the proper equipment, I had to pierce the chicken rib cage with chopsticks to dip the chicken into the water. Tiring. This method was abandoned after I had to cook 13 chickens for chicken rice to supply my church welcome night outreach.
After that, I tried using a method where I would start the fire on high heat till the water is boiling hot. drop the chicken breast down into the water, cover immediately and turn off the fire. Leave the chicken in the water for one hour. Then take the chicken out, turn the water onto high heat once again till the water is boiling, drop the chicken into the water for another 30 minutes. During that 30 minutes, the fire is once again turned off the moment the chicken is in the water. There was a good outcome with this method, but it takes simply too long….
This method was of course abandoned due to the long waiting time.
In the past 4 years, I have then discovered the easiest way of yielding the best results with a shorter cooking time, that is to dip the chicken into a huge stock pot of boiling hot water, shut the lid immediately and turn the fire down to a tiny simmer. The size of the chicken affects the cooking time. A 1.2kg chicken would take 30 minutes to simmer and a 1.7kg chicken would take 45 minutes to simmer. Take the chicken out at the end of the cooking time, be careful not to tear the skin as the juices are contained within it, leave it aside and slice it up after.
Some people recommend putting the chicken into icy cold water after taking it out of the stock pot to stop the chicken from cooking further. I did this initially but after a few years, I just take the chicken out just a couple of minutes before and leave it aside as the remaining heat will cook it slightly further. This works as well for me but it took me a few years of practice before my body clock could tell me when the chicken is ready.
Slicing the chicken takes skill to make it look pretty. I wouldn’t say I am the best. But I can guide you on how you could do it properly once I figure out how if I can arrange my photos in a step by step guide. 4-5 years ago, this skill was taught by my dear friend who opens a nyonya chang (Kim choo bak chang) shop in singapore and I am eternally grateful to him for teaching me the basics. I have over the years, improved the basics and now I feel that I have reached the standard where I am satisfied with my chicken rice results, as quoted ‘best chicken rice in UK’ by a die-hard chicken rice fan of mine in London who has travelled all over singapore and London to eat chicken rice.
So I am now sharing the recipe of the chicken rice which I have worked on over the years:
For the Chicken
1 preferably corn fed chicken – size of chicken determines cooking time. I normally go for 1.5kg chicken.
6 slices fresh ginger
3 spring onions, cut in halves
3-4 pandan leaves, cut to fit the pot.
5 clove garlic, slightly bruised
6 shallots, chopped in halves
3 tbsp sesame oil and 2 tbsp light soy sauce mixed together. (Reminder: soy sauce depends on what brand you use as the saltiness varies so you need to adjust to taste and my recipe is only a guide)
Sesame oil separate for rubbing chicken.
For the Chicken Rice
3 cups thai fragrant rice
2 tbsp chicken fat (sometimes I just take the fat from the chicken and put it straight into the pot)
2-3cm ginger, 6 cloves garlic, 5 shallots, grinded into paste or chopped into very very small pieces if no grinder.
1-2 tsp salt or chicken bouillon powder (to taste)
chicken stock (reserved from boiled chicken)
2 pandan leaves
5 fresh red chillies, seeds removed
5 cloves garlic
2 tsp chicken stock (from the boiled chicken)
Juice from kaffir limes to taste
Salt to taste (approx 1-2 tsp)
caster sugar to taste (approx 1-2 tsp)
ABC sweet soya sauce
Drop in the shallots, ginger, garlic and pandan leaves into a huge stock pot of water. Bring a huge stock pot of water to the boil, the pot being large enough to fit the whole chicken. Put the lid on the stock pot. While the water is heating up to boiling, rub the skin of the chicken with sea salt but be careful not to damage the skin. This step is for the smoothness of the skin.
Put spring onions into the cavity of the chicken.
When the water is boiling hot, drop the chicken breast side down into the pot and shut the lid immediately. (Do not at any time open the lid once shut.)
Turn the heat/fire down to the smallest heat on your stove and leave the chicken to stand in the water for approximately 45 minutes. (Every stove works differently, weight of chicken determines how cooked the chicken is. I want the chicken to be just right where u can still see a few streaks of blood but the meat is cooked. Unfortunately, the timing of how long the chicken stands in the water is by experimenting a few times with the chicken before you get the timing right as all stove works differently)
You do not want the water to be boiling at anytime as this will damage the skin of the chicken and will cause the meat of the chicken to be very dry.
After 45 minutes, turn the heat off. Take the chicken out of the water and be careful not to damage the skin. Run the chicken under cold water (UK water is very cold) to stop the chicken from cooking/ put chicken in a bowl of water with ice in malaysia weather conditions.
Remove the chicken approximately 5 minutes or so, and rub the chicken with some sesame oil so the skin looks silky.
Debone the chicken and put on a plate, pour the mixed sesame oil and soy sauce over the chicken and garnish at the end with spring onions.
Extras: For the chicken stock, you can add extra chicken bones or pieces, three slices of ginger and two shallots to the water in which the chicken was cooked. Boil for one to two hours until stock has a strong chicken flavour. Remove any scum on top of the water. Discard chicken bones/pieces and strain the stock through a sieve.
you can just use chicken stock powder if you cannot be bothered.
wash the rice and drain well (the more water in the rice, the less chicken flavour!)
In a wok, fry chicken fat until oil is released and then add the grinded ginger, shallots and garlic and fry well. Remove from heat. Add the rice and salt and stir fry briskly for about 1-2 minutes. Transfer rice into an electric rice cooker or pot. Add in chicken stock and pandan leaves. Follow normal instructions for cooking rice. Discard the chicken fat and skin after rice is cooked.
For chilli sauce, roughly chop chillies, garlic and ginger and then blend in a food processor or you can just pound them with a pestle and mortar like what I do. Add chicken stock, lime juice, salt and sugar to taste.
For chicken soup, ladle a small amount of hot strained stock into serving bowls. Add finely chopped spring onions.