Hainanese Chicken Rice Recipe: Mastering Asia’s Beloved Comfort Dish

Fact Checked By: Macaria Valerie

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Embark on a culinary journey to Southeast Asia with the iconic Hainanese Chicken Rice, a dish celebrated for its delicate flavors and comforting simplicity. This beloved recipe, a staple in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines, perfectly encapsulates the essence of traditional cooking techniques and the harmonious blend of subtle yet impactful ingredients. In this article, we will guide you through the steps of creating this exquisite dish in your own kitchen. From the tender, succulent poached chicken to the fragrantly seasoned rice, each element of Hainanese Chicken Rice comes together to create a symphony of flavors. We’ll also delve into the art of crafting the accompanying sauces, which elevate the dish to new heights. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, this guide will help you master one of Asia’s most cherished culinary treasures.

Hainanese Chicken Rice Recipe

Hainanese Chicken Rice is a classic Southeast Asian dish featuring poached chicken and aromatic rice. The chicken is cooked in ginger and green onion-infused water, then cooled in ice water to keep the skin firm. The rice, cooked in chicken fat or oil, is sautéed with garlic and ginger, then simmered in the flavorful chicken broth. The dish is accompanied by a homemade chili sauce made from chili peppers, garlic, ginger, lime juice, and chicken broth, and a savory soy sauce mixture with sesame oil and oyster sauce. It’s typically garnished with cucumber slices and fresh cilantro. This dish is celebrated for its tender chicken, fragrant rice, and the harmonious blend of flavors in its sauces.

Hainanese Chicken Rice is a classic Southeast Asian dish known for its aromatic rice and tender chicken. Here’s a simple recipe to make it at home:


For the Chicken:
  • 1 whole chicken (about 3-4 lbs), cleaned
  • Salt
  • 4-5 slices of ginger
  • 3-4 stalks of green onions
  • Water, for poaching
For the Rice:
  • 2 cups jasmine rice
  • 2-3 tablespoons chicken fat or vegetable oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4 slices of ginger
  • Chicken broth (from the poached chicken)
  • Salt to taste
For the Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
For the Chili Sauce:
  • 2-3 red chili peppers
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 2 tablespoons chicken broth
  • Salt and sugar to taste
  • Garnish:
  • Cucumber slices
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Prepare the Chicken: Rub the chicken with salt. Stuff the cavity with ginger slices and green onions.
  • Poach the Chicken: In a large pot, bring enough water to cover the chicken to a boil. Add the chicken, breast side down. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer. Cook for about 40-50 minutes. Once cooked, remove the chicken and immerse it in ice water to stop the cooking process and to ensure the skin stays firm.
  • Prepare the Rice: Wash and drain the jasmine rice. In a pot, heat the chicken fat or oil and sauté the garlic and ginger until aromatic. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with the mixture. Add the appropriate amount of chicken broth (as per rice cooking instructions) and salt. Cook the rice until it’s fluffy and fragrant.
  • Make the Sauces: For the soy sauce mixture, combine soy sauce, sesame oil, oyster sauce, and sugar. Adjust to taste. For the chili sauce, blend the chili peppers, garlic, ginger, lime juice, chicken broth, salt, and sugar until smooth.
  • Serve: Carve the chicken into serving pieces. Serve with the aromatic rice, chili sauce, soy sauce mixture, cucumber slices, and fresh cilantro.

Enjoy your homemade Hainanese Chicken Rice! This dish is beloved for its simplicity, yet rich in flavors, making it a comforting meal for any occasion.


Making Hainanese Chicken Rice involves a few culinary nuances to ensure the best flavor and texture. Here are some tips:

  • Selecting the Chicken: Use a fresh, whole chicken. The quality of the chicken greatly influences the flavor of the dish. Organic or free-range chickens are often recommended for their superior taste.
  • Poaching the Chicken: Poach the chicken gently. Rapid boiling can toughen the meat. The goal is to achieve tender, juicy chicken. Once cooked, quickly immerse it in ice water to tighten the skin and stop the cooking process.
  • Rice Preparation: Rinse the jasmine rice thoroughly until the water runs clear. This step removes excess starch, preventing the rice from becoming too sticky.
  • Cooking the Rice: Sauté the rice in chicken fat or oil with garlic and ginger before cooking. This step infuses the rice with rich flavors and helps each grain to absorb the chicken broth evenly.
  • Using Chicken Broth: Use the broth from poaching the chicken to cook the rice. This enriches the rice with a deep chicken flavor. Adjust the salt in the rice cooking process as the broth will already have some seasoning.
  • Making the Chili Sauce: Balance is key in the chili sauce. It should have a blend of heat from the chilies, acidity from the lime, and a hint of sweetness. Adjust the ingredients to suit your taste.
  • Resting the Chicken: Let the chicken rest for a bit after poaching and before cutting. This helps the juices redistribute throughout the meat, ensuring it stays moist.
  • Serving Temperature: Serve the chicken at room temperature. This is traditional and allows the full flavor of the chicken to come through.
  • Garnishes and Accompaniments: Garnish with fresh cucumber to add a refreshing crunch and cilantro for a burst of freshness. The soy sauce mixture should complement, not overpower, the chicken.
  • Portioning the Chicken: Cut the chicken into even, bite-sized pieces. It should be easy to eat with the rice and absorb the flavors of the accompanying sauces.

Remember, Hainanese Chicken Rice is as much about the technique as it is about the ingredients. Each step contributes to the overall taste and experience of this beloved dish.

Why This Recipe Is Just So Good…

Hainanese Chicken Rice stands out for several reasons, making it a beloved dish in Southeast Asian cuisine and beyond:

  • Simplicity and Elegance: The dish is a testament to the beauty of simplicity in cooking. With minimal ingredients, each component – the chicken, rice, and sauces – is cooked to perfection, highlighting their natural flavors.
  • Flavorful Chicken: The chicken is poached in a ginger and green onion broth, which imparts a subtle yet distinct flavor. The ice bath following poaching ensures the skin remains firm and the meat succulent.
  • Aromatic Rice: The rice, cooked in chicken fat and broth, absorbs the flavors and aromas of garlic, ginger, and chicken, making it incredibly fragrant and tasty. It’s not just a side dish but a star in its own right.
  • Perfect Balance of Flavors: The accompanying sauces – a piquant chili sauce and a savory soy-based sauce – add layers of flavor. The chili sauce brings heat and zest, while the soy sauce adds a rich umami depth.
  • Textural Contrast: The tenderness of the chicken contrasts beautifully with the slightly firmer texture of the rice. Garnishes like cucumber add a fresh, crunchy element.
  • Versatility: While there’s a standard recipe, Hainanese Chicken Rice can be adapted to suit different palates. The level of spiciness, the choice of garnishes, and even the method of cooking the chicken (some prefer roasting) can vary.
  • Comfort Food Appeal: There’s a comforting, homely quality to this dish. It’s filling, satisfying, and has a warmth that comes from its home-cooked style.
  • Cultural Significance: For many, this dish is a nostalgic reminder of home or a favorite travel experience. It’s a staple in Singaporean and Malaysian cuisines and has garnered international acclaim for its unique taste.

The combination of these factors – the tender chicken, the fragrant rice, the flavorful sauces, and the simplicity of preparation – all contribute to the widespread appeal of Hainanese Chicken Rice. It’s a dish that celebrates the essence of its ingredients in a harmonious and delicious way.

Storage Instructions

Proper storage of Hainanese Chicken Rice is important for maintaining its taste and ensuring food safety. Here are the storage instructions:

  • Cooling Down: Allow the chicken and rice to cool to room temperature before storing. Do not leave them out for more than two hours to minimize the risk of bacterial growth.
  • Refrigeration: Place the chicken and rice in separate airtight containers. They can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days. The sauces should also be refrigerated in separate containers.
  • Freezing: You can freeze the chicken and rice in separate airtight containers or freezer bags. They can last for up to two months in the freezer. However, be aware that freezing may alter the texture of the rice and chicken slightly.
  • Reheating: To reheat, thaw frozen chicken and rice in the refrigerator if they were frozen. Then, you can warm the chicken in a microwave or an oven until heated through. For the rice, adding a bit of water before microwaving can help retain its moisture. Alternatively, you can reheat the rice in a skillet over low heat.
  • Avoid Reheating Multiple Times: Reheat only the portion you plan to eat. Repeated reheating can degrade the quality and increase the risk of foodborne illness.
  • Check Before Consuming: Before eating leftovers, inspect for any off smells, unusual textures, or signs of spoilage. When in doubt, it’s safer to discard the food.

Remember, these are general guidelines. Depending on the freshness of the ingredients used and how the dish was prepared and handled, shelf life can vary. Always prioritize food safety when dealing with leftovers.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ’s)

Here are some expert-level questions and answers about Hainanese Chicken Rice:

Q: Can I use other parts of chicken instead of a whole chicken?

A: Yes, you can use specific parts like thighs or breasts, though the traditional recipe calls for a whole chicken. The cooking time may vary depending on the cut.

Q: How can I ensure my chicken skin stays firm and not wrinkled?

A: Plunge the cooked chicken into ice water immediately after boiling. This stops the cooking process and tightens the skin, giving it a firm and smooth appearance.

Q: Is it okay to use regular white rice instead of jasmine rice?

A: Jasmine rice is preferred for its fragrance and texture, but if unavailable, you can use other long-grain white rice varieties. The result might not be as aromatic, though.

Q: What if I don’t have chicken fat for the rice?

A: You can use vegetable oil or a neutral oil like canola. The chicken fat adds flavor, but oil is a suitable substitute.

Q: Can I make the chili sauce less spicy?

A: Yes, adjust the spiciness by reducing the number of chilies. You can also remove the seeds from the chilies to lower the heat level.

Q: How long should I poach the chicken?

A: Generally, a whole chicken should be poached for about 40-50 minutes, depending on its size. The internal temperature should reach 165°F (75°C).

Q: Can Hainanese Chicken Rice be reheated?

A: Yes, it can be reheated. For the chicken, use a microwave or oven until it’s warmed through. For the rice, add a little water and reheat it in a microwave or stir-fry it in a pan.

Q: What are some common side dishes served with Hainanese Chicken Rice?

A: Common side dishes include cucumber slices, tomato slices, and a simple clear soup made from the chicken broth.

Q: How do I store leftovers?

A: Store the chicken and rice separately in airtight containers in the refrigerator. They should keep for 3-4 days.

Q: Can I freeze Hainanese Chicken Rice?

A: Yes, both the chicken and rice can be frozen, though the texture of the rice might change slightly. Freeze in airtight containers or freezer bags.

Q: What is the significance of the chicken preparation method in Hainanese Chicken Rice?

A: The traditional method of poaching the chicken in a ginger and green onion-infused broth, followed by an ice bath, is crucial. This technique ensures the chicken is cooked gently, resulting in tender, juicy meat. The ice bath tightens the skin, keeping it firm and giving it a distinct texture.

Q: How does the choice of rice affect the dish, and why is jasmine rice preferred?

A: Jasmine rice is preferred for its fragrant aroma and ideal texture. It absorbs flavors well, especially when cooked in the chicken broth, and has a slightly sticky yet distinct grain texture, which is key for this dish. The rice shouldn’t be too dry or too mushy; jasmine rice strikes the right balance.

Q: What are the key elements to making the perfect chili sauce for Hainanese Chicken Rice?

A: The perfect chili sauce should have a balance of heat, acidity, and a slight sweetness. Fresh red chilies, garlic, and ginger provide the heat and depth, while lime juice adds acidity. The sauce should complement the chicken without overpowering it.

Q: Can the dish be adapted for health-conscious diets, and how?

A: Yes, for a healthier version, you can use skinless chicken and reduce the amount of oil used in cooking the rice. Brown jasmine rice can be a substitute for white for more fiber, though it will alter the traditional texture and flavor slightly.

Q: How important is the chicken stock in the recipe, and are there alternatives?

A: Chicken stock is crucial as it is used to cook the rice, infusing it with flavor. Homemade stock from poaching the chicken is ideal for authenticity. However, in a pinch, store-bought chicken broth can be used, though the flavor might not be as rich.

Q: What are the common mistakes to avoid when making Hainanese Chicken Rice?

A: Common mistakes include overcooking the chicken, leading to dry meat, and not properly rinsing or frying the rice, which can affect its texture. Another mistake is not balancing the flavors in the sauces, which are essential to the dish.

Q: Are there variations of Hainanese Chicken Rice in different Southeast Asian countries, and what are they?

A: Yes, variations exist. In Singapore, the rice tends to be more oily and flavorful, often cooked with pandan leaves. In Malaysia, the dish might be served with a darker soy sauce and more aromatic spices. Each region adds its unique touch while maintaining the core elements of the dish.

These insights demonstrate the depth and versatility of Hainanese Chicken Rice, highlighting the importance of technique, ingredient quality, and flavor balance in creating this beloved dish.


In conclusion, Hainanese Chicken Rice is more than just a meal; it’s a celebration of simplicity and flavor, a dish where every ingredient plays a crucial role. The journey of making this dish, from poaching the chicken to perfection to preparing the fragrant rice and the flavorful sauces, is a testament to the beauty of Asian culinary traditions. This recipe not only brings the authentic taste of Southeast Asian cuisine to your table but also offers a comforting, wholesome meal that can be enjoyed with family and friends. As you savor each bite of the tender chicken paired with aromatic rice and zesty sauces, you’ll appreciate why Hainanese Chicken Rice is a beloved dish worldwide. So gather your ingredients and get ready to transport your senses to the bustling hawker stalls of Singapore and Malaysia, where this dish is a staple and a source of national pride.

Photo of author

Macaria Valerie

About the author

With over 15 years of experience in the culinary world, Macaria Valerie has developed a unique niche expertise in the art and science of rice cooking. Born in Taipei and raised in San Francisco, Macaria's passion for perfectly cooked rice is a blend of her Taiwanese roots and modern culinary techniques. She has traveled across Asia, gathering traditional rice recipes and cooking methodologies. Macaria is not just about plain rice. She's explored the depths of risotto in Italy, paella in Spain, biryani in India, and sushi in Japan. Yet, she believes that the core of these dishes lies in mastering the basic foundation - the rice. In her popular blog, "Expert Reviews Best Rice Cooker", Macaria shares not only her favorite rice recipes but also reviews the latest in rice cooker technology. She's been a consultant for major kitchen appliance brands, aiding in the development and testing of their rice cooker lines. In her spare time, Macaria conducts workshops and classes, ensuring that the art of cooking perfect rice is accessible to everyone. Whether you're aiming for a simple bowl of fluffy white rice or venturing into the intricate world of flavored rice dishes, Macaria Valerie is your go-to guide in the rice cooker niche.

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