Hainanese chicken and rice

Hainanese chicken and rice

People sometimes react in funny ways when I tell them that I have a blog about food. It can get even more confusing when I don’t have cuisine that is my specialty. I love new flavors and dishes and I love to experiment in the kitchen. The result is, I would guess, food inspired by a global cuisine. The internet brings food from all corners of the world straight to my home and the inspiration is endless.

A friend of mine very excitedly told me about Hainanese Chicken that he had eaten on one of his last trips to Asia. I was so curious and I looked it up when I got home. The recipe reminds me of a Swedish dish, Rimmad kyckling, cooked on a similar basis but I have to say without the amazing additional flavors. The chicken is slowly simmered and comes out deliciously soft and juicy.


For me it all starts with the quality of the chicken. When we lived in London I always bought free range chicken but it came at a premium, here we have a local farmers market with a butcher who sells free range chickens for about one third of the price. Supporting local business isn’t always more expensive we always have a lovely chat as well!


I found a few recipes and made some minor changes, here is the original recipe that I decided to follow and below is my version.

Hainanese chicken is just as much about the rice as the chicken so don’t skip any of the steps, it is delicious.


Hainanese chicken and rice 

preparation time 15 minutes 

cooking time about 40 minutes 

serves 5


  • 1 large whole chicken
  • 1/2 dl or 1/4 cup salt
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 large piece of ginger, unpeeled and cut in to slices
  • 1/3 leek, chopped
  • 1 star anise
  • enough water to just cover the chicken
  • 4 dl or 2 cups of rice, I had brown rice but white jasmine rice would be delicious
  • 2 1/2 cm or 1 inch ginger, peeled and cut fine julienne
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
  • 8 dl or 4 cups of the chicken stock
  • vegetable oil

Start with the chicken. Usually if I simmer the chicken I wouldn’t use the skin but this is a key ingredient so the chicken needs to be exfoliated, just like I do before a big night out!

Rinse and pat dry the chicken. Pour over the salt.


salted chicken


Start to exfoliate, be firm but gentle enough not to break the skin. Rinse the chicken and pat it dry. This will help remove any impurities from the chicken skin that should now be smooth.


exfoliated chicken


Place the chicken in a pot and bring it to a boil. Discard the water and do it again. Once this is done twice stuff the chicken with ginger and leek.


ginger and leek


Cover the chicken with cold water, add the 2 tablespoons of salt and the star anise. Bring the water to a boil and then lower the heat to a gentle simmer. The water should just be moving. Skim when necessary and leave to cook for 40 minutes. Taste the stock during cooking and add more salt if needed. Check the chicken at the thickest part of the thigh to make sure that clear juices are coming out and the chicken is cooked through.


Gently remove the chicken from the boiling water, ideally don’t break the skin but this can be tricky, yes I did it! Place the chicken in a cold bath, ideally an ice bath to cool, stop the cooking process and firm up the skin.


Start the rice before the chicken is done. Soak it for ten minutes, whilst chopping the ginger and garlic.

Heat up oil in a pan and gently fry the ginger and garlic. Add the soaked rice and continue to fry everything for a few minutes.


hainanese rice


Add the hot chicken stock and place a lid on. Let cook on low heat for 20 minutes. Turn the heat off but keep the lid on and let stand for an additional 15 minutes and the rice should be ready.


Cut the chicken and serve with some coriander and chilli oil. A hot sauce would work as well, the chilli gives this dish a nice zing.


Hainanese chicken and rice


My friend was right, the chicken was so soft and flavorful it was hard not to eat all of it even before plating it. The rice, oh, I have never had rice like this. I would have been happy with just a large pile of rice and chilli oil! This is Chinese comfort food that just gives you a very happy, foodie hug. The Swedish version is no where near as aromatic, even if delicious but I like the idea of cooking, no matter where you are in the world, using the same basic cooking method, making so much of the food we cook and eat world food.












12 Responses to “Hainanese chicken and rice”
  1. I am so glad you posted this recipe. I am going to try it soon for sure. I also like the fact that, as you say, it is not exactly a ‘looker’. By this I mean that we have seen a spate of recipes ‘looking good’ but actually failing us, taste wise. We need to be reintroduced to the idea that good food should taste good first and foremost and that its looks are, yes, important ! but perhaps secondary.

    • petra08 says:

      hello Jo,
      I absolutely agree with you! I do love to plate but it means nothing if it doesn’t taste good! This chicken is so soft and all about very subtle, aromatic flavors! 🙂 Enjoy your Sunday!

  2. chefjulianna says:

    Oh, the flavours here sound just lovely, Petra! I will have to add this to my growing list of things to make very soon. I am always on a hunt for tasty chicken recipes as we eat a lot of it, so I will try it soon! 😀

    • petra08 says:

      hi Julianna
      Thank you! The chicken is so soft and moist it is incredible. It is a very light dish. I have tried it with jasmine rice, brown rice and bulgur wheat and have to admit the white Jasmine rice is just sensational, naughty but nice 🙂
      Have a lovely and relaxing Sunday.

  3. Sumith says:

    Sounds so amazing, truly love your innovations in your recipes. Thanks for the share Petra.

    • petra08 says:

      hi Sumith
      Thank you for your very kind comment! This worked out really well and I have already done it again 🙂 Have a great week ahead!

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