Until recently, Justin Cheung was the culinary star behind the success of pan-Asian eatery Longtail Kitchen in New Westminster’s River Market. He left to open his own restaurant but was delayed by the COVID-19 shutdown. Now readying to launch Potluck Hawker Eatery on Vancouver’s Cambie Street at the end of June, Cheung shares a family-favourite recipe that has brought soothing flavours to his home dinner table during these unusual times.
“This is the ultimate comfort food for any given day for my family,” he says. “This nostalgic meal showcases a beautifully poached chicken as the focal point to its just-as-important side dishes of chicken–oil rice and chicken–winter melon soup.
“It is a deliciously simple and humble dish that we eat on a regular basis utilizing ingredients that are easily available at any store. Keeping the master stock afterwards sets up the same meal for the following week.”
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Medium pot for poaching chicken
Small pot for cooking rice, or rice cooker
Deep basin or bowl
Sharp utility knife
2–3 chicken legs with thigh attached (bone-in)
2–3 litres of chicken stock (homemade, canned, or water with bouillon will do)
350 ml jasmine rice
1/2 shallot, diced for rice
1 teaspoon minced ginger, for rice
1 clove minced garlic, for rice
Pandan leaves (optional)
2 stalks of green onion, finely sliced for condiment
1 tablespoon minced ginger, for condiment
Winter melon (if available)
Chili sauce, prepared
For the chicken:
Salt chicken legs generously, about 2 teaspoons per piece. Wrap in cling film and refrigerate overnight until ready to poach.
Reserve 500 ml of chicken broth for the rice. Bring remaining chicken broth to a boil. You may add some aromatics if you have them to hand, such as garlic, shallot, coriander, lemon grass, and ginger. Gently lower the chicken and return to a simmer. If chicken is not fully submerged, add some water and return to a simmer. Take off the heat and cover for 45 minutes. The chicken will continue to cook with residual heat.
After 45 minutes of poaching, gently remove chicken into cold water. If you have some ice cubes, you may use them to chill chicken faster. This will allow the gelatin to form beneath the skin of the chicken and allow the skin to tighten up. Change the water to make sure it stays cold. Let sit for up to 10 minutes.
Take chicken out of its cooling liquid. Let the chicken pieces rest for an additional 5 minutes. Massage a teaspoon of sesame oil on each piece.
Debone or serve on the bone with chicken rice, green onion and ginger condiment, your favourite chili sauce, a few pieces of cucumber, and a side of chicken broth (season as you like with salt and white pepper).
For the rice:
Wash 350 ml of jasmine rice. Drain in a sieve and reserve. Add 1 teaspoon of sesame oil to a small pot. Add chicken skin and render fat on medium heat. Add aromatics (diced shallot, minced ginger, and minced garlic) and continue to fry for another minute.
Add the jasmine rice to the pot and cook together for one minute on medium heat, stirring frequently and making sure the rice does not stick to the bottom of the pot. Add the chicken broth, bring to a simmer, and cover slightly, leaving the lid ajar. Continue to cook on a medium heat. Add half a tablespoon of salt and stir after five minutes.
Continue to stir the rice every few minutes until the rice has absorbed 75 per cent of the liquid. Turn the heat to low, add 2 knots of pandan leaves (if using), and cover with lid. After 12 minutes, take off the heat. Allow to rest for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with chopsticks and keep lid on to keep warm until ready to serve.
For the green onion and ginger condiment:
Heat 4 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small pot. When oil is hot, carefully add green onion, ginger, and 1 teaspoon of salt. Stir and remove from heat. Reserve.
For the soup:
Skim the broth of its fat, and season gently with salt to taste. If you are able to find winter melon, add to the soup and braise for a few minutes until soft.
If you are deboning the chicken, you may add the bones back to the broth and continue to fortify the flavour before serving. Use this master broth as a starter for your next batch a few days later or reduce to a concentrate to make Hainanese chicken rice at a later date.
Read more local recipes in our Food and Drink section.