easy Hainan chicken & rice

I always have trouble choosing my favorite part of this this easy Hainan chicken & rice:

  1. The moist pieces of dark meat chicken, slowly poached until juicy and tender.

  2. The skin on the chicken is. so. bouncy. (Might be my first time describing food as bouncy?)

  3. If you love carbs as much as I do, the fragrant rice that’s infused with the chicken broth, garlic, ginger, and shallots… might be your (and my) favorite 🙂

  4. We can’t forget about the broth! To get extra flavor here, we’ll start with homemade or good quality store-bought chicken broth instead of water.

I’ve done a lot of testing for this recipe, and am confident you can easily recreate this at home. If you’ve always wanted to make Hainan chicken and rice, but never wanted to wrestle with cooking or butchering a whole chicken (or if you only care for dark meat like me), then please try this recipe!

Despite not cooking an entire chicken, this recipe is still pretty involved (I promise it’s worth it) — follow the steps closely, and feel free to comment or let me know if you have any questions!

Notes / FAQs:

What kind of rice should I use?

  • Most traditional is likely a jasmine, long-grain rice, but I only had Japanese medium-grain rice at home, so that’s what I use! Use what you have 🙂

Tips & tricks:

  • Make sure your chicken gets some time to come to room temperature before cooking it. This makes sure that the meat cooks evenly, and doesn’t end up being raw in the middle.

  • I’ve tested this recipe many times with different cooking methods for the chicken, and the method of bringing the full pot to boil, then turning it off to cook the chicken with the residual heat gets you the softest, most tender, juicy chicken.

  • Make sure you use a big pot that has a fitting lid! If you use the above method but don’t have a lid that fits, the broth won’t stay hot enough to cook the chicken through.

  • The ice bath is crucial for the texture of the chicken skin — please don’t skip this step (or any, really)!

  • Since we’re not cooking a whole chicken here, we’re taking a shortcut for the broth by starting with good quality chicken broth instead of water, which is more traditional. Good quality chicken broth (organic, free range) actually tastes so much better than normal store-bought chicken broth, so if you have the choice between the cheaper or more expensive one at the store, choose the latter for this recipe. If you happen to have homemade chicken broth, definitely use it.


Hainan chicken & rice
PREP:   15 mins
COOK:   45 mins
TOTAL:   1 hour
for 2-3 servings

Chicken and broth
  • 3 chicken thighs, skin and bone attached

  • 2 quarts (8 cups) good quality, low-sodium chicken broth

  • 4-5 slices of ginger

  • 3-4 green onion stalks

  • salt, to taste

  • white pepper, to taste

  • msg or chicken bouillon, to taste (optional)

  • ice, for water bath

  • cucumbers

  • sesame oil (optional)

  • 1 cup uncooked rice

  • 1 ¼ cups of your chicken broth

  • 2 tablespoon minced shallot

  • 2 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger

  • fat trimmings from chicken thighs

  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger

  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic

  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions

  • 3 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil

  • salt, to taste

  • soy sauce

  • sambal and/or sriracha

Making the chicken and broth
  1. Take the chicken out of the fridge to let it come to room temperature for at least 20-30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat up 2 quarts of chicken broth to boil in a pot with a fitting lid. Add green onion (sliced into 3 inch pieces) and ginger slices.
  3. While that’s heating up, scrub your chicken thighs well with salt (kosher salt if you have it) to exfoliate the skin, then rinse it off with cold water. Pat dry with a paper towel. Feel how smooth this makes the skin!
  4. Chicken thighs usually come with some extra hanging fat — using scissors or a sharp knife, trim these off (try to get as much as you can) and save this for your rice.
  5. Once the chicken broth has come to a full boil, let it continue boiling for 1 minute before carefully adding the chicken thighs. Cover the pot with the lid, and turn off the heat, and set a timer for 25 minutes. Cooking the chicken with the residual heat instead of fully boiling it gets you the tender, juicy texture. (Meanwhile, start prepping the rice; see below for instructions).
  6. Once 25 minutes is up, remove the chicken thighs and check the internal temperature (should reach 165F) if you have a thermometer. If you don’t have one, use a small knife to make a slit near the bone to see if it’s cooked through. If it’s just slightly pink by the bone, it’s ready! If it’s looking red or too pink, put it back into the chicken broth for a few minutes.
  7. Once you’re done checking the temp, immediately submerge the chicken thighs into a big bowl of ice water, and let sit for at least 10 minutes. This is a crucial step to give the skin its bouncy texture.
Cooking the rice
  1. You should start this step once you drop the chicken thighs into the broth. Begin by prepping the aromatics: mincing your shallots, garlic, and ginger.
  2. You should’ve gotten some fat trimmings from the chicken — cut these up into little pieces (1 cm or smaller) with a scissor or sharp knife.
  3. Heat up a non-stick pan on low heat, and add the pieces of fat trimmings. Slowly, they should start releasing oil into the pan.
  4. Once the fat trimmings are golden in color, add your shallots, garlic, and ginger to the pan, and mix well. Turn heat up to medium, and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until fragrant. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  5. Wash your rice, drain the excess water, and add it to the pan of aromatics, which should still be warm. Mix well, then add everything to your rice cooker, or whatever you use to cook rice.
  6. Now we need to get the chicken broth from the pot for the rice. If your chicken is still cooking in the pot at this point, we want to make sure that not too much heat escapes when we do this step: have a big cup or bowl ready, quickly lift the lid of the pot, grab at least 1.5 cups of chicken broth, then put the lid back on.
  7. Using the chicken broth, add the amount of liquid you normally use to cook rice (I use the finger knuckle method, which comes out to about 1 ¼ cups of liquid to 1 cup of rice). Turn on the rice cooker (or turn on the heat for your pot), and let the rice cook.
Making the sauces
  1. While your rice is cooking, prepare your sauces. First, heat up 3 tablespoon of vegetable or canola oil in a pot on medium heat for 2-3 minutes or until hot, then turn off the heat.
  2. Mince all the ingredients for your garlic and ginger sauce: ginger, garlic, and green onion, and add to a heat-proof bowl. Add a pinch of salt.
  3. Carefully add the hot oil to the aromatics in the heat-proof bowl.
  4. I don’t put too much effort into the other 2 sauces: the soy sauce and spicy sauce. For the soy sauce, I just mix equal parts soy sauce with the chicken broth we prepared. If you have the dark, sweet soy sauce, that’s usually more traditional to this dish when you get it in Singapore.
  5. For the spicy sauce, the low-effort method is to just mix some sambal, sriracha, and chicken broth.
Putting everything together
  1. Reheat up your pot of chicken broth, taste, and season. I usually add a pinch of salt, white pepper, and msg — but it will depend on your taste and also on the type of chicken broth you started with.
  2. If you haven’t yet, remove your chicken thighs from the ice bath. Take a knife, and carefully cut around the bone to remove it. If you want some extra flavor, brush some sesame oil over the chicken skin. Using your knife, slice up the chicken perpendicular to where the bone was.
  3. Plate the chicken, sliced cucumbers, and the cooked rice. If you want, add some green onions or cilantro for garnish. Enjoy with a warm bowl of the chicken broth!

One Comment

  1. Suzy called this recipe easy and IT REALLY IS!! I followed all her tips and tricks and it was NOT HARD AT ALL! What an absolutely FANTASTIC payoff!!!

    The tip of cooking the chicken in residual heat is :chefskiss:!! I was scared the chicken would be undercooked cause I am just bad at cooking chicken (I either overcook or undercook— never do it perfectly) but damn did I succeed when listening to Suzy.

    I will be honest and say I skipped the ice bath (could not be bothered with ice) and also used cheap non-organic chicken broth and it was still very delicious!

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