Chicken rice equals comfort food. This dish has been a staple meal for me from early childhood. Whether it was for breakfast, lunch, dinner, late night supper, or a cheering meal when sick, it satisfies without fail. There are so many different ways of making and serving chicken rice but my favourite is the Thai-Chinese way, which I think has a clean flavour that really shows off the star ingredient.
I have always thought that simple dishes made well are the most satisfying. You can’t make chicken rice without a good bird, so free range is without a doubt the way to go. This also reflects in the nutritional value of the dish, as healthy free range birds are much lower in toxins, and higher in nutrients – especially omega-3. People often complain that free range birds are tough and chewy, but I personally think it’s because we are so used to the soft, plump (and flavourless) battery chickens that crowd our supermarket shelves. Once you start eating free-range meat, you won’t turn back to the bland cage-raised kind.
In this recipe, I teach you how to make chicken rice using a steeping method, that will ensure your chicken to be as moist and tender as possible, because it cooks slowly in a bath of water (as opposed to boiling it which makes the proteins seize up). Along with the chicken rice, I give you two sauces (spicy and non-spicy) that are typically Thai-Chinese. Another sauce that I love having with chicken rice is thick, dark soy sauce that has the consistency of molasses. Each one has a completely different character from the other, but when they are together they make the dish so luxuriously complex.
Chicken Rice with / Chilli and Soybean Sauce / Ginger and Spring Onion Sauce
You will need:
2 large, or 4 small free range chickens
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and sliced into 4 discs
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed and peeled
2 spring onions
3 cups of long grain rice
coarse cooking salt
coconut oil or rice bran oil (for frying)
1 thumb of ginger, peeled and grated finely
1 small bunch of spring onions, sliced as thin as possible
1-4 birds eye chillies, chopped very finely (remove the seeds if you want less heat)
2 tbsp fermented soyabean sauce
1 tbsp thick dark soy sauce
1 tbsp soy sauce
juice of 1/2 a lime
1 tbsp raw sugar
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
thick dark soy sauce
sprigs of coriander
cucumber, washed and sliced
Begin by washing your birds in cold water, then rub handfuls of the coarse salt all over each bird, inside and out. Let them sit for about 20mins, then rinse off salt on the outside of the chickens. In a large stockpot, fill with water and bring to the boil. Once boiling, turn off the heat, add 3 discs of ginger, 2 spring onions, and the chickens. Cover with the lid, and leave to steep in the hot water for 1 1/2 hrs until cooked. Don’t be tempted to open the lid during this time, or else precious heat will escape from the pot. Once the time is up, check that the chicken is cooked by inserting a knife into the thickest part of the bird. The juice that emerges should be clear. If blood comes out, you need to steep the birds for longer.
Remove the birds from the stock pot, and leave to drain. Meanwhile, place a large wok with a dash of cooking oil over a medium heat. Add the rice and stir fry until translucent (3-5mins) then scrape into a rice cooker, and fill with the chicken stock liquid up to the appropriate level for cooking white rice. Drop in the 3 cloves of garlic and the last disc of ginger, then close the lid to cook.
For the ginger and spring onion sauce, combine the sliced spring onion and grated ginger in a bowl. Pour the sesame over the ingredients until everything is well coated, then season to taste with salt.
For the chilli sauce, combine the chilli, fermented soybean sauce, dark soy sauce, soy sauce, sugar, lime juice, and garlic in a small bowl, and stir to combine. Taste to balance the flavours: if it needs more sweetness, add more sugar, if it needs to be saltier, add more soy sauce, if it needs more acidity, add more lime juice.
When the rice is cooked, you are ready to serve. Heat the remaining chicken stock in the pot and season to taste. If you like, you can drop in some pieces of winter melon and boil until cooked. Carve up your chicken into bite sized pieces. Use a rice paddle to fluff up the rice in the rice cooker. Now to assemble: Scoop some rice onto your plate, slide on some chicken, and garnish with a few slices of cucumber and sprigs of coriander. Serve the soup in a small bowl alongside the rice, and float some chopped coriander and spring onion on top. Serve with small amounts of each sauce and eat immediately.