Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Typhoon Pepeng and Hainanese Chicken Rice

Saturday, many waited for Typhoon Pepeng's fury with bated breath-- as they indulged in their favorite comfort food. So did we.

Among those eats that we truly enjoy as a family is Hainanese Chicken Rice. I love this dish because it's simple yet flavorful. It feeds the senses--from the smell to the mouth feel to the taste.

For many who have gone to Singapore, I bet their shopping expeditions were mostly for clothes and shoes. As for me? My luggage had a box which contained the following: A couple of jars of chicken rice mix, 3 bottles of premium soy sauce, 2 small jars of chicken rice chili, 1 bottle of laksa paste, curry mix and black pepper mix and 6 bottles of kaya jam for pasalubong. I also brought home difficult to find spices like cardammon. And given the chance to go back--I will bring home more of the same things!

Because I won't be going to Singapore anytime soon, I've learned to make my own chicken rice mix and kaya jam (coconut cream jam). I wanted to get as close to the original taste that I so thoroughly enjoyed! I intend to bottle these and join bazaars one of these days.

Hainanese Chicken Rice is not hard to do. I've checked different recipes and they varied a bit from each other. So what I'm sharing is what works best for me. I've tried the boiling-chicken-and-plunge-in-ice-water method...but I find that what I like to do best is steam it. The chicken stays succulent that way. The trick I believe is in the prep.

1 whole medium to big chicken
dash of salt, pepper and garlic powder
thumb size ginger, cut into thin slices

Remove excess chicken fat--the yellowish mass under the skin, near the thighs. Gently run your fingers under the chicken skin, to separate it from the meat, especially at the breast area. Massage with the mix of salt, pepper and garlic powder on the meaty side. So as the chicken cooks ,it is already infused with flavor. Under the skin, put the ginger slices in strategic areas: breasts, legs, thighs.

Steam chicken in a steamer or wok. The water for steaming itself should have a couple of slices of ginger,too. The water must remain a rolling boil. Steam for 40 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the chicken. Cover tighly, and add water every now and then to prevent it from drying up. The water used to steam the chicken will catch the juices and basically becomes the broth. Set this aside for the chicken rice.

Chicken Rice

Thumb size ginger,sliced into thin strips (matchsticks)
2 big segments of garlic, sliced into thin strips (match sticks)
1 t salt
1/3 c of oil
3 c uncooked rice

Heat oil in the pot (or the rice cooker pot on stove flame). It should be a gentle heat...add the ginger and garlic, just to release the aroma-about 30- seconds to 1 minute, then add the uncooked rice so as to coat the grains with oil. Use the chicken broth as the water (about 3 cups) ,add the salt--stir and let cook as you normally would with rice. (Likewise with the rice cooker pot-- after the open flame--let it cook in the rice cooker).

Chop chicken into smaller pieces, serve chicken rice heaping in bowls and a siding of really good soy sauce and chili paste. What I like about the premium soy sauce is its syrupy thick and mild sweet-salty taste. My friend prefers the salty variety. To contrast with crunch, serve with cucumber slices. It is a lovely and cool counterpart to the chili. If you don't have chili paste-- a little tabasco will do the trick.

The rice has to be piping hot!

Once we took the first spoonful-- Pepeng was soon forgotten.

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