I almost never ate chicken growing up.
My mom doesn't like chicken, and thus we hardly ate chicken at home. Furthermore, there just aren't nearly as many Taiwanese dishes made with chicken. Chicken wasn't nearly as available in Taiwan as, say pork, which is an essential ingredient in so many Taiwanese dishes. In fact, Bryan's dad talks about how in Taiwan, his family ate chicken only once a year as a treat, on his father's birthday.
For most of my life, I didn't love chicken because I also associated it with the dry and bland meat that you see in a lot of places. It wasn't until recently (for example, when I started playing around with sous vide), that I realized chicken can be just as juicy, tender, and flavorful as any other meat.
The other day, a Singaporean friend came over and we cooked up a bunch of Malaysian dishes from a new cookbook that I recently received. Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of Bryan's favorite Malaysian dishes, so I immediately opted to try that recipe.
What resulted was seriously one of the best (and simplest!) chicken dishes I have ever made.
Before I go on with the recipe, let me just say a few things about the book. I received a free review copy of Flavors of Malaysia: A Journey Through Time, Tastes, and Traditions about a month ago.
I have very little experience with Malaysian food, so I invited my good friend Chia Chi, who is from Singapore, to come over and cook some dishes with me. Aside from her lovely company and wonderful cooking skills, Chia Chi gave helpful insight regarding the authenticity of the recipes in the book.
The author, Susheela Raghavan, was born and raised in Malaysia and gives a lot of background about Malaysian food culture throughout the book. The book is full of information, over 300 pages filled with all sorts of Malaysian recipes, personal stories, and cultural insights. As Raghavan says herself in the introduction to her book, "This is not just a recipe collection, but a cultural and gastronomical journey through the centuries."
Accordingly to Chia Chi, all of the classic Malaysian favorites are in this book. You've got a bunch of Indian-style recipes as well as Chinese-style recipes. There are all kinds of dishes, ranging from snacks, soups, salads, sauces, noodles, to all the various meats. There are separate sections for desserts and fusion cuisine, as well as sections highlighting certain festivals. The center section includes a collection of beautiful color photographs, all taken by the author herself.
The flavors of the dishes we made are pretty authentic, although the author herself says that she has toned down the spice levels to accommodate western palates.
Overall, we found the recipes to be very easy to follow. The book is organized neatly with the recipe amounts listed on a separate column from the rest of the text. Her measurements are often given in ranges, which is very typical of Asian cooking (my mom never measured ANYTHING!). As an inexact cook myself, I appreciate the ranges. It tells me which parts of the recipe are more flexible and frankly, it makes me a lot less relaxed when I'm measuring stuff!
Chia Chi and I had no trouble following this recipe, and the Hainanese Chicken and Rice came out beautifully. The chicken was juicy and flavorful. Everyone who was there (even Bryan, my harshest critic!) thought the chicken was delicious.
The chicken rice was also fluffy and fragrant, although one diner commented that it did not have as strong of a chicken fat flavor. I think that's mostly because I purchased an organic free range chicken which does not have as much fat as a typical supermarket chicken. On the flip side, the flavors of the poached chicken were very nice. I seriously think you get what you pay for when it comes to the inherent flavor of the chicken - organic free range has an edge.
The publishers of this book were kind enough to give me three books to give away! I will be hosting a new giveaway for the next three days (one book per day!) as part of a three-part Malaysian Food Series. Each day I will describe a different dish I made from the book.
To enter the Giveaway
Please leave a comment below telling me what your favorite Malaysian dish is. If you are not familiar to with Malaysian cuisine, tell me your favorite Southeast Asian dish, or Asian dish of you are not familiar with Southeast Asia.
My favorite dish is Popiah, a fresh spring roll filled with pork, cilantro, peanuts, sugar, hoisin sauce, vermicelli, bean sprouts, cabbage, and carrots. I first had it at a food stall in Singapore and fell in love! It wasn't until years later that my mom taught me how to make my own!
You may submit comments until midnight, Wednesday March 2, 2011, at which time I will do the drawing.
If you are interested in Malaysian food in general, check out Malaysia Kitchen for the World, a global initiative of the Malaysian government that aims to educate and inform consumers about Malaysian cuisine and Malaysian restaurants throughout the world.
Hainanese Chicken Rice
from Flavors of Malaysia: A Journey Through Time, Tastes, and Traditions
1 4/12 lb whole chicken
1-2 T finely crushed fresh ginger
2 heaping T finely crushed garlic cloves
½ cup chopped scallions or spring onions
½ teaspoon freshly ground white pepper
12 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoon regular soy sauce
1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Saute garlic and ginger for about ½ to 1 minute. Add shallots/onions and saute 1-2 minutes.
2. Stir in rice and saute until translucent, about 2-3 minutes. Add 1 ½ cups reserved chicken stock, salt, sesame oil, and pandan leaf (see photos above for how to tie)
3. If you have a rice cooker: put the contents in a rice cooker and cook until done.
If using a stovetop: Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes (until all liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked). Remove from heat and let rice cook in its steam for about 10 minutes.
4 cups reserved chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt
¼ to ½ finely ground white pepper
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 teaspoon chopped garlic cloves (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped or crushed ginger (optional)
Place all ingredients in a pot, stir and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 1-2 minutes. Garlic with scallions and serve.
Dip #1: Savory Chile Sauce / Sos Lemak
½ cup chicken stock
6 fresh red chilies (Fresno, jalapeno, Serrano, cayenne, THai, or cherry peppers), finely chopped
1 heaping T chopped or crushed garlic cloves
1 T chopped or crushed ginger
¾ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon white sugar
1 ½ teaspoon freshly squeezed or bottled lime juice
2 teaspoon cooking oil or fat skimmed from boiled chicken stock
Dip #2: Pounded Ginger in Flavored Oil
4 heaping T chopped or crushed ginger
2 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white sugar
1 tsp freshly squeezed or bottled lime juice
1 teaspoon regular soy sauce
¼ cup cooking oil
Combine all ingredients together and mix well. Let stand 30 minutes before serving.
Put it All Together
Serve with chicken, soup, and the two dips.
Time to time I receive free products, meals, etc. as a food blogger. I do not receive any payment for blog posts/reviews nor am I required to write a post when I receive free products, meals, etc. The views expressed in this post are completely my own. I was given a free review copy of the book.
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