This one’s for you, Ma

So I grew up riding horses competitively. It all started on a family vacation to the Philippines when I was three, where I rode a local pony around with my cousin. We were living in Vancouver (Burnaby, actually) at the time and my next door neighbor rode horses, and so offered to take me and her little sister to the stable to see them. Well that turned into a bareback jumping session with her riding behind me. I was hooked. Fast forward to high school in the Philippines – after having done the CA circuit and traveled to Canada and Mexico to compete, I was dragged back to the Philippines, kicking and screaming. The only good that came of that ordeal was getting to travel all over the Asia-Pacific to rep the Philippines and compete in horseback.

Hold on, I am getting to the food.

I competed in Japan, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Australia, and New Zealand. My mom, who had gotten way more into it than I was at that point (hello, boys and high school parties), was usually the Chef d’Equippe, or team captain, and was always on those trips with me. We first had this dish together in Malaysia and fell in love. It’s just in this past year that I’ve tried to make it and it’s really cheap and simple to make. My mom hasn’t visited me in the East Coast since 2001 so this is my way of luring her over. This and all those ramen-soba-noodle photos that I post. She lives by herself in Seattle so I worry about what she’s eating.

So Ma, if you come to visit, I’ll be sure we make this together:

Hainan Chicken Rice

You need:
1 whole chicken
2-4 bunches scallions, depending on how big they are
3-4 “thumbs” of ginger, peeled
4-5 peeled, smashed garlic cloves
2 cups rice
Huy Fong Chili Garlic Sauce
Soy sauce (any Chinese kind, NOT Kikkoman because that’s Japanese. I like Pearl River.)
Sesame oil
Cucumber – you can use the regular kind but I like English/seedless because the skin is thinner and there are less seeds/moisture

Put some water in a big pot to boil – I used a 5 qt Le Creuset Dutch oven, enough to fit the chicken and then some. The chicken should be completely submerged in water. Mine had a little bit of breast peeking out, which is okay. I would prefer to use a much bigger pot but I don’t have one.
First, cut away all the excess fat from the chicken and reserve. Make sure you take out any gizzards/organs/etc from the cavity. Take the reserved chicken fat and put it into another pot on low heat. You’re going to render the fat from the chicken, so this needs to be done slowly.
Next, stuff the cavity with sliced ginger, garlic, and scallions. The garlic can be left whole, and the scallions can be tied into big knots or folded up to fit inside. Just smash all that stuff in there til it’s completely jammed.
Once the water starts to boil, SLOWLY submerge the chicken into the water. This is common sense – but if you just drop it in you will splash your chest and face with boiling water and then you will probably forget about this delicious meal you’re about to make. So be careful. Once the chicken is submerged, turn the heat down to its lowest setting, cover the pot, and let the bird poach for about 35-40 minutes. Just leave it.
Now for the sauces, you only really need to make one. Chop the remaining scallion up, just the pale green/white parts. I sliced the stalks thinly, then minced/chopped them up pretty finely and place in a small bowl. Grate 1-1 1/2 thumbs of ginger into the mix, and add a bit of salt and some sesame oil. Sesame oil is pretty strong, so just add about a quarter-half teaspoon-ish. I say this because I don’t really use any measuring instruments. Mix well and put it in the fridge til you’re ready to use it.
Once enough fat has rendered (I had about a tablespoon after 30 minutes), toss the lumps of chicken fat and measure out 2 cups of rice into the pot. Turn the heat up to medium and stir, lightly coating the rice in chicken fat. To cook it, take some of the poaching liquid from the chicken. For every cup of rice you want 1 1/2 cups of water. So that’s 3 cups of water. It should be hot and near boiling already, so just bring it to a low simmer and cover it. Leave it on the lowest heat setting.
To serve, lay the chicken on a cutting board to cool – this is served at room temperature. Ying has a cleaver so I used that to take apart the chicken. Split it in half and separate legs, thighs, and wings. To cut up the breasts, there’s no need to take it off the breast bone. Just slice through the meat, then use the cleaver to hack through the bone. It sounds more crunk than it actually is, but you get the idea. Slicing through the meat first ensures that it looks pretty, rather than just straight up hacking through everything in one go. That is just something I made up, but it worked.
Slice up the cucumber.
Serve with all the sauces in different dishes – chili garlic, soy, scallion ginger. The point of this is so that you can adjust the taste however you want. The cucumber helps with the heat of the chili sauce. Drink with beer, or if you’re fancy like me, sauvignon blanc (thank you, Madrigal).


One response to “This one’s for you, Ma

  1. I just wanted to add this comment – When the chicken has been submerged in the pot and the heat adjusted to the lowest setting, just make sure that it doesn’t get to a boiling point. I can’t wait to cook this dish with you. Love ya, mom…

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