I used to poach a whole chicken to make this dish. But, sometimes, a whole chicken is too much. And, with the exception of my older daughter, Sam, we’re not really fans of breast meat anyway. Sam isn’t home right now, so, I cooked my Hainanese-style chicken using three large chicken thighs with the back portion attached.
The dish was also simplified by serving the poached chicken with plain rice — leftover from last night that was simply reheated and drizzled with the poaching liquid.
Other than that, it’s Hainanese-style chicken with all the right flavors. The secret, of course, is the correct cooking method and the right ingredients.
Start by scrubbing your chicken clean. A strange term, to use, I’m sure but it really involves scrubbing. Place the chicken in a large bowl, add rock salt, chopped ginger and scallions, and rub the chicken thoroughly, working the salt, ginger and scallions into every inch of the surface of the chicken.
What’s the purpose of this step? This removes impurities and also gives the chicken a cleaner taste.
Next, the poaching liquid. Shao xing rice wine, chicken bone broth, scallions, ginger, garlic and salt were dumped into a deep pan to make the poaching liquid. Don’t use plain water and don’t ditch the rice wine. Otherwise, your chicken will taste bland and it will also look pale.
Boil the poaching liquid and spices for about five minutes to allow the strong alcohol smell and taste to dissipate. There will still be alcohol in the liquid but it will be mellower rather than sharp.
When the poaching liquid has boiled sufficiently, slide in the chicken and make sure they are all submerged in the liquid. Wait for the liquid to boil then turn down the heat and poach the chicken for ten minutes.
It’s poach, not simmer. Poaching temperature is lower than simmering temperature. As a guide, there should be very little agitation on the surface of the liquid.
After poaching the chicken for ten minutes, turn off the heat, cover the pot and leave the chicken to cook in the residual heat for another ten minutes.
If this were a a whole chicken, I’d scoop it out of the poaching liquid and place it in a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking immediately. But these are chicken thighs. I simply placed a bowl in the fridge while the chicken were cooking. When I scooped the chicken out of the poaching liquid, I laid them in the cold bowl to bring the temperature down immediately.
If you’re wondering why the chicken still looks pale at this point, that’s because it needed another ingredient. The skin needs to be brushed with sesame seed oil.
Meanwhile, I reheated the poaching liquid, dumped in broccoli florets and blanched them for five minutes.
The chicken were chopped through the bone into slices and arranged on plates with the reheated rice, blanced broccoli and cucumber slices.
Poached chicken Hainanese-style
Clean the chicken
- Place the chicken in a large mixing bowl, add the chopped ginger and scallions and salt.
- Rub the salt, ginger and scallions thoroughly on the chicken to scrape off impurities and remove any strong odor.
- Rinse the chicken under the tap and rest on a rack to allow excess water to drip off.
Make the poaching liquid
- In a deep pan, pour in the chicken bone broth and Shao xing rice wine.
- Add the ginger, garlic and scallions.
- Bring to the boil and leave to boil, uncovered, for five minutes.
- Taste and add salt if the liquid tastes bland.
Poach the chicken
- Slide in the chicken thighs, make sure they're all submerged, and leave until the poaching liquid comes to a boil.
- Lower the heat immediately until there's very little agitation on the surface of the liquid.
- Cover the pan and poach the chicken for ten minutes.
- Turn off the heat and let the chicken cook in the residual heat for another ten minutes.
Serve your poached chicken
- Scoop out the chicken and lay on a cold plate or bowl.
- Brush the skins with sesame seed oil and leave to rest for ten minutes.
- Reheat the poaching liquid, drop in the broccoli florets and leave to cook for five minutes before scooping out.
- Chop the chicken through the bone into slices.
- Place rice on plates, drizzle some of the poaching liquid over it (and sprinkle in a bit of herb salt, optionally), arrange the chicken slices on one side, and add cucumber slices and broccoli.
- Serve the poached chicken immediately.
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 1 teaspoon grated garlic
- 1/4 cup finely sliced scallions
- 1/4 cup peanut oil
- refined salt, to taste