One of Emma’s absolute favourite things to eat is Singapore style Chicken Rice, also known as Hainanese Chicken Rice. Conveniently for me, she’ll choose it over nearly any meal on offer, so when we were in Singapore recently, eating out was a breeze because you can get Chicken Rice at every hawker centre, cafe and restaurant in town. It’s a delicious and comforting dish with a delicate balance of flavours – I like to add plenty of chilli to mine, but Emma prefers hers plain.
We go out regularly to eat it at our local Malaysian cafe but until now I never even thought to try making it at home. The authentic version that you get in Singapore involves poaching whole chickens, spice rubs and pandan leaves, not impossible to make, but not a weeknight kind of recipe. It was Poh, host of SBS’ Poh & Co, runner up of Masterchef season 1 and SunRice ambassador, to the rescue with her easy weeknight, ‘anyone can make it even when you are pressed for time’ version – Cheat’s Chicken Rice.
Poh’s cheat recipe manages to pack in all the authentic flavour without the fuss – perfect for weeknights. The cheat part is that you use only the chicken breasts and bake them in the oven rather than poaching a whole chicken. The depth of flavour comes from lots of yummy garlic and ginger in the rice as well as a tasty spring onion toping on the chicken, so tasty for winter. I tested out the Cheat’s Chicken Rice recipe and it was a big winner, taking less than 45 minutes to put on the table and with minimal ingredients.
- FOR RICE
- 2 cups SunRice brown rice (white rice can be used if preferred)
- 1 Tbs rice bran oil or vegetable oil
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled, chopped finely
- 2 slices ginger, 5mm thick, bashed
- 3 cups chicken stock
- salt to taste
- FOR CHICKEN
- 8 stalks spring onions, finely sliced
- 6-7cm ginger, peeled, finely grated
- 2 tsp salt
- ⅓ cup rice bran or vegetable oil
- 8 chicken thigh fillets or 4 breasts, scored at 2cm
- 8 heads of Bok choy, blanched with boiling hot water for 1 - 2 minutes, drained
- To make the rice, combine the oil, garlic and ginger in a non-stick saucepan.
- Sauté until golden and fragrant. Add the rice and toast until the rice is coated with oil.
- Add the stock. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes, or until rice is soft and cooked.
- Remove from the heat and allow to sit for a further 10 minutes before fluffing up with a spoon.
- Preheat chicken in oven at 180ºC
- To prepare the chicken, combine the spring onion, ginger and salt in a medium mixing bowl.
- Heat the oil in a small saucepan until smoking, then carefully pour this over the spring onion, ginger and salt. This can spit quite a bit, so stand back.
- Place all the chicken in an oven proof dish preferably with a lid, (otherwise cover tightly with foil) then spread all the green sauce over the meat.
- Cover and bake for 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Divide the rice and chicken into 4 portions and garnish with the bok choy.
- Serve immediately.
I adapted some of the steps and quantities slightly to suit our smaller family and only used 3 chicken breasts. This recipe is easy to scale for any quantity.
Rather than pour hot oil over the spring onion mixture (which can cause some spitting), I added the mixture to the oil and warmed it up till it was bubbling.
I found my vintage Corning Ware was ideal for cooking the chicken, the glass lid kept the steam and juices in and stopped the chicken drying out.
When the recipe says “preheat chicken” I popped the chicken right in the oven (without the topping) as the oven was preheating. This will shorten the overall cooking time as the chicken is already warmed and not cold from the fridge. “Bake for 15min”, doesn’t sound like a lot, but my chicken was just done and then I let it rest for a few more minutes which finished the job nicely. The result isn’t as moist as poached chicken, but it’s still very juicy and tender.
We aren’t normally brown rice eaters, so the texture was a bit new to me. It has much more bite than white rice, and I found it took a little longer to cook than the recipe recommended (let it cook for an extra 5 min). I actually thought it added a nice nuttiness to the dish and the kid really loved it. I’ll be cooking with brown rice a lot more in future.
Next time I might try doing the rice in my rice cooker and steaming the bok choy on the steaming tray at the same time. As an alternative, you can also use white rice for this recipe, if you prefer the taste or just happen to have it already stocked in your pantry.
So there you have it – Cheat’s Chicken Rice. Tasty, easy to make and cheaper than a trip to Singapore when your Chicken Rice craving hits. I’ll be making it again because I can guarantee that the kid will eat all her dinner without fuss. Thanks Poh!