Chicken Rice: smells of home :)

Ginger paste, dark soy sauce and chilli sauce

In my opinion, the best food is often the simple, unfancy dish which sometimes doesn’t even look that appetising… but whose smell wafts through the house and reminds you of home. For me, chicken rice is that dish, a regular presence on our kitchen table since childhood. The dish originates in Hainan, in the south of China, but is most popularly sold (and eaten) in Singapore and Malaysia.

In a nation of professional food-lovers I would dare to say that chicken rice is one of the most loved dishes in Singapore. No hawker centre is complete without it and whenever I visit I will take my time browsing the stalls selling fried noodles or fish ball soup, but will inevitably double back to the old uncle making chicken rice from the same recipe he has used for the past 20 years. I can go out on a limb and order a spicy laksa or char kway teow (and enjoy it immensely) but there would always be a small part of my stomach wishing I had ordered the chicken rice. In short, it’s all about the chicken rice.


    • 1 whole chicken or 6-8 chicken drumsticks/ thighs
    • 1-2 tsp salt
    • 4 cloves garlic, peeled
    • 4 slices fresh ginger, peeled
    • 4 spring onions
    • 2 tbsp sesame oil
    • about 12 cups water, or enough to cover the chicken
    • 2 cups long-grain rice
    • 3 tbsp peanut oil
    • 5 shallots, peeled and minced
    • 3.5 cups chicken stock
1. Wash chicken and remove excess fat (keep this aside for later). Rub the inside of the cavity with salt, if using individual pieces rub skin with salt making sure to get some underneath the skin as well.
2. Bring water to the boil in a pot large enough to hold the chicken.
3. Cut spring onions into 1 inch lengths. Smash garlic and ginger lightly with the flat side of a knife. Add these to the pot along with the chicken.
4. Simmer, covered, for 30-40 minutes until the chicken is cooked (when pricked with a fork juices will run clear).
5. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and plunge into ice water for 5-10 minutes to stop the cooking process and tighten the skin. Then drain, rub with sesame oil and leave to cool to room temperature.
6. Wash the rice and heat oil in a wok. Add the shallots, garlic and trimmed chicken fat and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the rice and stir-fry for 3-4 mins until glossy and fragrant. Remove fat.
7. Transfer to the rice cooker and add chicken stock and salt.
8. Once cooked serve with chicken and a bowl of the remaining chicken stock.


  • make sure the pot is just the right size for your chicken. If the pot is too large you will need to use more water to boil it and the stock will become too watery.
  • the chicken is normally eaten at room temperature, but if you can warm your chicken in the stock before eating if you prefer.
  • the dish is usually served with sliced cucumber, but I find that some stir-fried vegetables are more substantial.
  • a recipe for chicken rice chilli and ginger paste can be found here.

2 thoughts on “Chicken Rice: smells of home :)

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