This Hainan chicken and rice recipe is from my good friend Chelsea’s family. Watching Chelsea and her grandmother cook together, and patiently communicate with each other, despite language barriers, inspires me to write the following story, which is dedicated to unsung heroes in my life.
While growing up with 22 people in Yangon, everything I had ever wanted was my own room, and the freedom to not answer everyone whenever I go out. Try answering to at least 5 people every time you go somewhere, especially when these five people are strong, stubborn single Asian aunts, who take no bullshit. Guilt often builds up fast. Even a casual hang out with a friend starts to feel like you are committing an adulterous act. Hence, I am entitled to blame all my current problems to the fact that I grew up in a big household. Why are you late for class? I grew up with 22 people. Why did you run red light? My aunts were overprotective.When I moved to the United States in 2008, I was able to finally get my own room. For the first time, I was able to fall asleep on the bed without having to worry about when my brother accidentally kicking me in the groin. I could go out anywhere and anytime I wanted. For someone in his teens, this freedom was quite addictive. In fact, I was so drunk in this freedom, and part of me actually buried away the full experience, both bad and good, of living with a big family.
|Cover the chicken with water, but not too much.|
I forgot how I was never lonely. I forgot about a long dinner table inundated with endless chatters. I forgot about those nights where I was half-awake, and felt my aunts fixing my blankets. I forgot about the fact that my aunts waited for us every day at school to pick us up with our favorite snacks, because our entitled ass refused to take school bus and eat street food. I certainly try to repress countless times when my aunts brought me a hot chicken soup with unforgiving smell of medicinal plants, when I was studying to go to the United States. My aunts, who are basically my second parents, knew I was leaving, and made sure I was well-taken care of.
|You will need lots of garlic for this. So, start peeling.|
But, these memories resurfaced recently with a full force when I started living with my landlord’s family of four, this year. I started again to see my messy bedroom suddenly became neat while I was gone for school. Lunch boxes, hot breakfasts, and automatic folded clothes reappeared in my life. For the first time in a long time, I actually start to feel…comfortable. When I use the word “comfort”, I meant to transcend the meaning beyond the physical ease of Simba the lion king. In fact, it might even be more about psychological comfort. These days, I may be alone in my room, doing my things, but I rarely feel lonely because I know there are people around me who would still care for me even if I show pile up all my flaws and insecurities on the table. I can come back late from school, and there will always be someone who simply just be with me while I eat my incredibly late dinner. These are small permutations are in my life that shouldn’t matter on how I feel overall, but surprising they do. My landlords somehow showed me that many small reasons often are the catapult for a single big change in a person’s life.
|Flip the chicken, after 8 minutes of boiling.|
|Toast garlic and ginger until golden brown.|
Today, the society praises the ideology of individuality and a sense of adventure, shaming those, like my aunts and my landlords, who are content, working 9-5 and finding happiness within their simple life. Yes, their lives do not have spotlights, money, brand new cars, brand name clothes, organic foods, juice cleanse or attractive sparkles. Ok, I digress but the point is I will take moments of cooking with them, laughing with them over anything. People say you never know how precious something is until you lost it. Well, I think the complete one should be you never know how precious something is until you found that something back after a long absence - kind of like the first ray of sunshine in the spring is always the warmest and the prettiest after a long harsh winter.
|The most amazing ginger sauce ever|
Notes for the chicken
I used organic yellow-feather chicken from specialty poultry store. I personally like this variety because they are much leaner, and have more robust taste. They weigh about 2-3 lbs. If you do not have access to them, good organic broiler chickens will do.
Notes for the rice
The key to the most succulent rice with the equal balance of fluff and stickiness is glutinous white rice (also known as sticky rice or sweet rice). Contrary to its name, the glutinous white rice has no gluten. So just relax and enjoy.
The succulent ginger-scented chicken to accompany the rice
Ingredients2 organic brown chickens (about 2 lbs. each) (See the notes)
10 slices of ginger (slightly pounded)
1 tbsps. of sesame oil
Place the chickens in a big stock pot, and fill up the pot with water so that 80% of the chicken is submerged in water. Then, take the chicken out, throw in ginger slices and bring the water to a boil.
While waiting for the water to boil, rub the chicken all over with salt, and let the chicken marinate for about 15 minutes.
When the water boils, place the chicken in the pot, breast side down. Turn down the heat to medium. Cover and cook for exactly 8 minutes (4-minute per lbs. - if your chicken weighs 3 lbs., do 12 minutes). When the time is up, turn OFF the heat. Open the lid, and flip the chickens, so the back side that was not submerged in water before, is now under water. Cover, and let the chickens sit in hot water for 10 minutes. When the 10-minute is up, flip the chicken again, and wait for another 10 minutes. If you insert a knife where the leg attaches to the body, and no blood comes out, the chicken is done.
Then, take out the chickens and rinse thoroughly under cold water until the meat is no longer hot. Shred the chicken by hand, drizzle with sesame oil and put aside.
Place the bones back in the pot, and bring the broth to a boil, and then keep it simmering. Taste the broth, and season accordingly.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 0 hrs. 15 mins.
Cook time: 0 hrs. 30 mins.
Total time: 45 mins.
Tags: chicken, ginger, hainan, chinese
Ginger garlic rice
This aromatic rice makes a great side dish for almost anything. Pair it with chicken, roasted vegetables or grilled steak.
Ingredients4 cups of jasmine rice
1 cup of sticky or glutinous rice (see the notes below)
1/2 cup of vegetable oil
15 slices of ginger (slightly pounded)
1 head of garlic (sliced roughly)
Rinse the rice under running water until the water runs clear. The best way is to place the rice in a colander and let the water runs through.
In your frying pan, heat up the oil, and throw in garlic and ginger slices. Fry them for a good 5 minute under medium-low heat until the garlic pieces start to turn gorgeously brown.
Put in your rinsed rice. Fry, under medium heat, for a good 5 minutes, with constant stirring. Then, transfer the rice into your rice cooker. Ladle in the chicken broth you just made, until the water level reaches about 2.5 cm above the rice. The easiest way to measure is to fill up the broth, until it reaches the very first segment of your finger.
When the rice is done cooking, wait for at least 15 minutes so all the excess liquid can fully evaporate. Your patience will be rewarded with the most aromatic rice you will ever had.
Tip – sometimes, with hot oil, your rice cooker sometimes can turn off suddenly. So be sure to keep an eye out for that. Don’t panic – just turn it back on, when it turns off.
Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 0 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 0 hrs. 45 mins.
Total time: 55 mins.
Tags: rice, ginger, garlic, side dish
Ginger garlic paste
The most aromatic and versatile to put on anything and everything
1 head of garlic
2 tbsps. of fish sauce
2 tbsps. of water
2 tbsps. of sugar
2 tbsps. of vinegar
Place all the ingredients in a food processor, blitz until the whole combination becomes a mushy puree.
Yield: About 1/4 cup
Prep Time: 0 hrs. 5 mins.
Cook time: 0 hrs. 1 mins.
Total time: 6 mins.
Tags: ginger, garlic, sauce, condiment