Here in Asia-Pacific, chicken and rice is quite a popular street food. Thanks to Melbourne’s dynamic Singaporean and Malaysian populations, their classic Hainanese Chicken Rice can be found in tuck shops all over town. The Hainanese and Middle Eastern versions are very similar in concept – a whole chicken is poached with whole spices and aromats, and the resulting full-bodied stock is used to gently cook and infuse white rice. The chicken and rice are served together, with additional sauce or stock on the side.
In their case it may be chili or soy sauce, and in ours it is toasted nuts and fresh coriander. But I love how this simple, homestyle dish is so popular and beloved in my own culture as well as the modern, global Australian one I’ve felt so fortunate to behold.
Place a portion of rice on each plate, and surround with the sliced or shredded chicken. Sprinkle over the toasted nuts and coriander, and finally, pour an extra bit of hot stock on top. I also indulge in the tart contrast of minted yogurt on the side – simply mix plain yogurt with a big pinch of dried mint, garlic powder and salt, to taste. The creaminess of the yogurt makes this light dish more substantial, with the added benefit of lean protein to keep you fuller, longer.
Be sure to put your leftover stock to good use; the rich aromas of cinnamon, star anise and cloves can be used for soups, rice or braising liquid in the future. Freeze it in a container or pour it into ice cubes to use small, customizable quantities at a time.
- 1 whole chicken (preferably free range)
- 2 cloves garlic, whole
- 1 star anise
- 6-7 cloves, whole
- 1 stick cinnamon
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups long grain white rice (or basmati)
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
- Handful fresh coriander leaves
- Rinse and pat the chicken dry, inside and out. Place the chicken in a large stock pot with all of the spices (garlic cloves, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves, black peppercorns and salt). Pour in enough water to cover the chicken (1" or so of exposed meat at the top is fine, just baste the chicken periodically). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a very gentle simmer for 1.5-2 hours, until the chicken is falling off the bone.
- Remove the chicken from the stock and set aside to cool. Once cooled enough to handle, shred the meat, cover with foil and set aside. Season the stock with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Rinse the rice until the water runs clear. Place in a pot with the turmeric and 2 cups of the chicken stock. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes (or, per the package instructions. If using basmati rice, the ratio is generally 1 part rice to 1.5 parts liquid). Reserve remaining stock for serving.
- Arrange the cooked rice on the plate. Place the chicken pieces around the rice. Sprinkle the top with toasted pine nuts and coriander, plus several tablespoons of hot stock. Serve with additional stock on the side.
- Freeze remaining chicken stock for future use.
Audio pairing: Bonobo f/ Erykah Badu, “Heaven for the Sinner”