Making authentic Hainanese chicken rice is not something you can casually do on a weeknight. The dish looks deceptively simple—just poached chicken atop a bed of shiny rice. But, as you can tell from the explosion of flavor each bite brings, it takes a lot of toiling in the kitchen to get it right. This one-pot Hainanese chicken rice recipe is not traditional; we take a few shortcuts here and there. But what it is is an easy way to get all the delicious, familiar flavors of Hainanese chicken rice in a short amount of time, all done in one pot.
Chicken thighs are the way to go in this one-pot Hainanese chicken rice recipe. In the method, we cook the rice and the chicken at the same time. So it’s important to use a part of the chicken that doesn’t dry out easily. This gives you a little bit more insurance to make sure that you still end up with juicy, tender pieces after 25 to 30 minutes of cooking. That said, you can always use chicken breasts. Just make sure that they’re fully submerged in the rice when you leave it to cook. Any part that’s exposed runs the risk of drying out.
Before cooking, prep your chicken thighs by trimming the excess skin and fat. (Don’t discard them, though!) If you’re using chicken breasts, there should also be some excess skin. Trim as much as you can. These will be used as the main source of fat in this recipe. If you don’t have enough trimmings, you can also just substitute it with regular oil and a bit of salt.
You still have to season your chicken, but it might not need a lot. Adjust the amount of salt you use to season your chicken depending on how salty the chicken broth you’re using is.
In this one-pot Hainanese chicken rice, the uncooked grains are first toasted in chicken fat and ginger scallion sauce. This step achieves the signature sheen and vibrant flavor of the rice. The excess skin and fat from your chicken are rendered in a pan, leaving you with a pool of chicken fat to cook some of your ginger scallions sauce in. The longer you toast your rice in this base, the more flavor it gets.
This recipe then cooks the rice in chicken stock. You can buy chicken stock by the carton in some supermarkets, or you can prepare some at home by boiling chicken bones or meat. The easiest (cheat) way to get chicken stock, however, is by dissolving chicken bouillon cubes in water. The ratio to follow is 1 bouillon cube is to 3 cups of water—which is exactly what you’ll need in this recipe.
The Hainanese Chicken Rice Sauces
Hainanese chicken rice typically comes with three sauces: ginger scallion sauce, chili sauce, and dark soy sauce. The ginger scallion sauce is what really brings freshness into this dish, so it’s important that you use a great version of the stuff. This recipe uses a homemade ginger scallion sauce recipe which you can easily replicate, too!
We used bottled chili sauce in our version and you can, as well; it’s much easier that way! You can also go the store-bought dark soy sauce (aka kecap manis) route, however, it’s not always available. In any case, you can make it at home by cooking 1/2 cup of regular soy sauce and 2 tbsp brown sugar until it reaches a syrupy texture.
One-Pot Hainanese Chicken Rice
To finish your one-pot Hainanese chicken rice, lift out your chicken, and drizzle a generous amount of dark soy sauce onto the rice. Return the chicken, then dress everything with the rest of your ginger scallion sauce, chili sauce (you can leave this out first if you don’t want it spicy), more dark soy sauce, and spring onions.
You get everything you’d want in a Hainanese chicken rice dish: fragrant rice, juicy chicken, and a medley of flavors from a variety of sauces. But this recipe does it in less time and little effort, making it a great option for a weeknight dinner!