Hainanese chicken rice



The Hainanese chicken rice is a dish that consists of succulent steamed white chicken cut into bite-size pieces and served on fragrant rice with some light soy sauce. The dish is topped with sprigs of coriander leaf and sesame oil, and accompanied by a garlic-chilli dip.1

History
The only type of chicken rice found in Hainan, an island off the southern coast of China, is made with the wengcheng chicken – a bony fowl with very little flesh and served with rice that is thick with oil.2 The dish usually comes with three dips – chilli sauce, ground ginger and an oyster sauce-and-garlic mix. This is probably the dish that evolved into the Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore – through Hainanese immigrants in the region and infused with local influences. One difference between the Hainanese chicken rice dish and its original version is the stock used. Chefs in Hainan use pork-bone and chicken-bone stock, while their Singapore counterparts avoid the pork base in their chicken rice.3


The Cantonese had played a role in the evolution of the Hainanese chicken rice. They are known for their pak cham kai (white cut chicken), which uses young and tender-fleshed birds – a delicacy which is served on its own. This style of preparing chicken had influenced Hainanese chefs and today, Hainanese chicken rice feature younger birds cooked Cantonese-style.4

The Hainanese chicken rice dish is said to have taken root in areas like Middle Road, Purvis Street and Koek Road more than 60 years ago.5

Description
The rich flavour of the rice comes from the grains that have been pre-fried in chicken fat and then cooked in chicken broth.6 The chicken is steamed until it is just cooked, with a little pink remaining on the flesh near the bones.7 While the cut chicken is presented on a large dish, the rice is served on individual plates.8 The dish is accompanied with a chilli sauce made of chillies, chicken broth, garlic and ginger. A thick broth of chicken stock, garnished with a sprinkle of spring onions and coriander leaves, is also a must.9

An early version of the dish featured rice compacted into balls. The rice balls were made of shorter-grained rice, and cooked with pandan leaves and ginger slices over a controlled fire.10 The rice is then shaped into balls with bare hands before it goes cold.11 This version of the dish is seldom seen in Singapore now.12

Chicken rice in Singapore
Chicken rice is now a specialty dish at some hotels, and is listed on the Singapore Tourism Board website as one of the local dishes that a tourist should not miss.13 So peculiar is chicken rice to Singapore that in western countries, it is sometimes known as the “Singapore chicken rice”.14



Author
Suchitthra Vasu




References
1. Hutton, W. (2007). Singapore Food. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, pp. 128–129. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT)
2. Hainan Tourism Development Commission. (2015). Visit Hainan. Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Hainan Tourism Development Commission website: http://en.visithainan.gov.cn/English/OverviewofHainan/GeographicLocation/; Kwang, M. (1997, October 12). Hainan’s chicken rice is not Hainanese Chicken Rice.
The Straits Times. Retrieved from Factiva via NLB’s eResources website: http://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/; Chan, M. (1993, January 17). Pecking order. The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Chan, M. (1994, November 6). The origins of chicken rice. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Tourism Board. (2016). Chicken rice. Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/dining-drinks-singapore/local-dishes/hainanese-chicken-rice.html
4. Chan, M. (1994, November 6). The origins of chicken rice. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Tourism Board. (2016). Chicken rice. Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Singapore Tourism Board website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/dining-drinks-singapore/local-dishes/hainanese-chicken-rice.html
5. Ee, J. (1992, November 28). Hainanese heritage. The Business Times, p. 22; Lim, H. (2009, August 18). Chicken rice, anyone? The Straits Times, p. 59. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 69. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU); Wong, D., & Wibisono, D. (2005). The food of Singapore: Simple street food recipes from the Lion City. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 WON)
7. Chan, M. (1994, November 6). The origins of chicken rice. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 69. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU) 
8. Mowe, R. (Ed.). (1999). Southeast Asian specialties: A culinary journey. Konemann: Culinaria, p. 69. (Call no.: RSING 641.5959 SOU) 
9. Hutton, W. (2007). Singapore food. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 128. (Call No.: RSING 641.595957 HUT); Wong, D., & Wibisono, D. (2005). The food of Singapore: Simple street food recipes from the Lion City. Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, p. 32. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 WON)
10. Lee, S. H. (1993, August 9). Bird of a nation. The Straits Times, p. 17; Chow, C. (2002, January 27). Yummy old-fashioned chicken balls. The New Paper, p. 43. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Ee, J. (1992, November 28). Hainanese heritage. The Business Times, p. 22; Lim, H. (2009, August 18). Chicken rice, anyone? The Straits Times, p. 59. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Lim, H. (2009, August 18). Chicken rice, anyone? The Straits Times, p. 59. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Boo, K. (2000, December 29). Here’s chicken rice to chat about. The Straits Times, p. H1; Oon, V. (1980, January 6). The original chicken rice. The Straits Times, p. 17. Retrieved from NewspaperSG; Singapore Tourism Board. (2016). Local dishes. Retrieved 2016, June 26 from Singapore Tourism website: http://www.yoursingapore.com/dining-drinks-singapore/local-dishes.html
14. Hutton, W. (2007). Singapore Food. Singapore: Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, p. 128. (Call no.: RSING 641.595957 HUT)



Further resource
Riana Zakir. (1995, November 22). Our chicken rice more S’porean than Hainanese. The New Paper, p. 5. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.




The information in this article is valid as at 2002 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Cookery, Chinese
Ethnic foods
Chinese--Food
Heritage and Culture
Ethnic Communities>>Food
Cookery, Singapore
Cookery>>International and regional cooking>>Chinese