Hainanese Chicken With Rice Inspired by 'Take-Out'

Hainanese Chicken With Rice Inspired by 'Take-Out'

Wednesday, 6 November, 2019

Food and drinks are some of the easiest ways — and the most fun— to vicariously experience another culture. When you add a great book to the mix, you've got the makings of a perfect evening. In Food+Fiction, we recommend a delicious read and a related recipe so you can try the taste of different destinations in your own kitchen.

This post is part of our Food+Fiction series.


Rob Hart’s story collection Take-Out serves up deliciously wry tales that meet at the corner of cuisine and crime. Backroom gambling in Chinatown, food truck politics, street food that’s so good, it becomes a kind of poetry… they’re all seasoned liberally with sharp prose, vivid characters, and plenty of feeling.

In the title story, a gambler makes suspicious deliveries to work off his debt to a Chinatown gambling parlor; just what it is in those white take-out boxes, anyway? ‘How to Make the Perfect New York Bagel’ is a snapshot of shakedowns, enduring friendship, and the savory satisfaction of well-timed payback. There’s also a sly look at the dangers of modern dating, a gleeful skewering of pretentious foodies, a hot-pepper-spiked homage to Agatha Christie, and a prison break story that tackles hunger and philosophy with equal aplomb.

This recipe pays homage to one of our favorite stories in the collection ‘Have you eaten?’. In this slightly sinister celebration of street food in Singapore’s Chinatown, our hero waxes poetic about his favorite eats at hole-in-the-wall joints around the world while tucking into char kway teow (‘…rice noodles and Chinese sausage and blood cockles. There were crisp cubes of pork lard, too…) and Hainanese chicken rice. (‘…boiled chicken, served with a sauce, then the rice is cooked in ginger and chicken fat.’)

Look, we know what you’re thinking: Boiled chicken. Why?! But trust. This is considered one of the national dishes of Singapore. It’s luscious (hello, chicken fat), tender (poached chicken), and loaded with flavor, thanks to the quick, homemade chicken and the spicy dipping sauces of which there are three. It’s deceptively simple and wildly satisfying.

Hainanese Chicken with Rice

Hainanese Chicken With Rice

Serves 4-6. Total time 90 minutes, plus cooling time.


Chicken and Rice:

  • 1 whole 3- to 4-pound chicken
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and peeled, plus 2 cloves, minced
  • 6 slices fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup peanut or light-flavored olive oil
  • 3 shallots (or 1 small onion), minced
  • 2 cups long-grain rice
  • 4 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 2 cucumbers, peeled and sliced
  • chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Chili Sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons sambal
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece ginger root, grated
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons reserved chicken poaching broth

Ginger-Garlic Sauce:

  • 2-inch piece ginger root, grated
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • pinch salt
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut or light-tasting olive oil

Soy Dipping Sauce:

  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1-inch piece ginger root, grated
  • 1 tablespoon oyster sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dark sweet soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon light soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons reserved chicken poaching broth


Cook the chicken. Add water to a large soup pot until it’s 2/3 full and add 1 tablespoon salt. Place over high heat and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, trim any extra fat from the chicken and sprinkle it generously with salt and pepper. Place the chicken in the pot along with the smashed garlic and sliced ginger. The chicken should be just submerged in the water, completely covered, but not swimming. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to medium, and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat, keep the lid on the pot, and let the chicken remain in the water for 45 to 60 minutes, or until it is cooked through.

Cool the chicken. Remove the chicken from pot, reserving the stock, and let the chicken cool to room temperature.

Cook the rice. Place 2 tablespoons of the oil in a skillet and warm over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the teaspoon of minced garlic, along with the shallots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir, cooking until it’s glossy. Add 4 cups of the reserved chicken stock and bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, until the rice has absorbed all of the liquid, about 20 minutes. Taste and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper; stir and taste again.

Make the chili sauce. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork until smooth.

Make the ginger-garlic sauce. Combine the ginger, garlic, salt, and rice vinegar in a small bowl; mix with a fork until combined. While whisking with the fork, slowly drizzle in the oil until combined.

Make the soy dipping sauce. Combine the ingredients in a small bowl and mix with a fork until combined.

Finish the chicken. Shred or chop the chicken, discarding skin.

To serve, mound the rice on a large platter and pile the chicken on top of it, then decorate the plate with cucumbers and sprinkle with scallions and cilantro. Serve with the dipping sauce on the side.

New York’s restaurant scene is surmountable only to the smartest, the most talented, the most willing. This is a city where a week’s salary will buy you a meal at Per Se and a handful of crumbled bills will buy you a meal at a filthy stall in Chinatown, and you’d be hard-pressed to pick a favorite between the two. — Rob Hart


by Rob Hart

This collection of 16 deliciously suspenseful culinary crime stories will ignite your imagination and your appetite. Each installment is a sharply detailed, bite-sized world — like a novel that’s been simmered and reduced just right. The characters are multifaceted, the settings are vividly rendered, the atmosphere is thick with aromas and smoke and deception. Hart’s prose is descriptive without drawing undue attention to itself. Water from an oudoor spigot tastes like ‘old loose change’ and ‘The silence in the car is like an echo, constantly reminding him it’s there.’ {more}

This crime story collection (304 pages) was published in January of 2019 by Polis Books. The book takes you to the underworld of eating. Melissa read Take-Out and loved it; it wouldn't be on our site if she didn't recommend it.

Bookshop.org is an online bookstore with a mission to financially support independent bookstores and give back to the book community.

Take-Out: And Other Tales of Culinary Crime


Top image courtesy of S..

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