We ate lots of Hainan Ji Fan when I was growing up. This poached chicken dish originates from Hainan, an island in China just south of the mainland where my grandparents are from. It's also a popular dish in Singapore and Malaysia, where my parents were born. And my mom continues to make it in her New York kitchen, where she taught it to me on a Mother's Day weekend visit. The best part is the rice. After the chicken is poached, the water essentially becomes chicken stock, and that liquid is used to infuse the rice, making it flavorful and rich. If you have homemade chicken stock on hand, substitute it for some of the water for more potent chicken flavor. The rice is also imbued with garlic and a hint of ginger.
|This is how Mom rolls. I don't have a problem with the head, but I have no use for it either.|
So I bought the usual supermarket variety.
|My parents, brother, paternal grandparents, and my twin sister and me. Once again, not sure which runt I am.|
What are some of your quintessential family recipes?
Hainan Chicken Rice
Barely adapted from Mom
5 lb. whole chicken
10 cloves garlic, 8 whole and 2 minced
3-inch piece of ginger
1 tsp plus 1 tbs coarse salt
2 cups rice
1 tbs canola oil
1 cucumber, sliced
Hot sauce and soy sauce, for serving
Cilantro, optional, for garnish
Make the chicken:
Place the chicken in a large pot. Fill the pot with water to about 1 inch from the top of the chicken, nearly submerging it. If you have homemade chicken stock, you can substitute some of the water here with stock for more potent chicken flavor. Cut 1 inch off the ginger and add to the water with 1 tsp salt. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Simmer the chicken for 30 minutes.
While the chicken is simmering, fill a tea kettle with cold water and some ice cubes, and set aside a large bowl with a strainer set over it, lined with an industrial-sized coffee filter if you have one. When the chicken is done, carefully pour the broth from the pot into the bowl lined with the strainer. Then pour the ice water over the chicken into the pot, letting it sit for about 30 seconds. Pour off and discard the ice water -- you don't want to lose too much of the chicken flavor, but shocking it briefly with cold water will give the chicken a silkier texture.
Make the rice:
Slice the remaining ginger. Rinse the rice a few times with cold water, then drain. Heat a large pot over medium heat, drizzle in the oil, then add the minced garlic. Saute for a minute until fragrant, being careful not to let it brown, then add the rice and stir for a minute more.
Add 4 cups of the chicken stock and the remaining tablespoon of salt. Bring to a boil, then scatter the ginger and the garlic cloves over the top. Cover the pot and reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes -- no lifting the lid to peek or you'll release precious steam -- or until rice is done. Discard garlic cloves and ginger.
Cut the chicken into pieces and serve with the rice. Serve cucumber, hot sauce, and soy sauce on the side.
This recipe may not be reprinted without permission.