Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Perfect Chicken Rice

To me, the rice must be moist, must be fragrant with ginger. The chicken must be sweet, the skin crisp and dark. There must a good vegetable sidedish. Don't forget the chilli dip for the chicken. But most important of all - it must not taste of Ajinomoto (a popular taste enhancer used by almost all restaurants in Malaysia!). I don't care too much for the soup if the rice is moist. So there.

There is no doubt a variety of chicken rice recipes out there. I'm not a big fan of the Hainan type although I think they're not bad. I don't really like the fried chicken rice. To me they taste like yesterday's chicken rice leftovers, fried so that it would not expire. Well, at least that's what I would do if I have some chicken rice leftovers. Although in my house, I am happy to say, that is indeed a rare occurence.

I'm happy to share with you the chicken rice recipe that I have been using for the past few months. I have tried several recipes since a few years ago but to me this one is by far the best. Or, the real situation maybe, I've finally perfected it since now I actually have time to practice cooking it at least once a week! Let me first give you some tips about cooking the rice.

(Warning! I am not a professional cook. I do not use sophisticated ways to cook. What follows is the traditional method of cooking rice, passed down from generation to generation in most Malay families. It works very well but it also depends on the rice - some may need more water to be nice and moist, some don't require too much and may be too soft and sticky if the same amount of rice and water is used. My own measured method is also given, using a cup and mls of water but again, this depends on the size of your own measuring cup which may be different from mine. I say this because I have two measuring cups of different makes and they measure '1 cup' differently! ). Right. Let's get to it!

After washing the rice 2 or 3 times, try to spread the rice evenly over the bottom of the rice cooker pot and measure the level of the washed rice with your pointer finger and thumb. That level should be the perfect water level needed for your rice, above the surface of the washed rice. Comprende?

While cooking any rice dishes that include onions, ALWAYS increase the level of water a bit to maintain the moist rice texture as the onions may absorb the water. You need to look at the chart inside you rice cooker pot for this to be easier. Example: If the perfect water level for your rice is '3 cups' (according to the chart) just add more water so that the liquid reaches '4 cups'. This is a rough estimation but going '4 cups' from '3 cups' when cooking chicken rice works perfectly for me. Saying this, in some other rice dishes when the rice is 'fried' first with the onions or the other ingredients of a dish before the water is added, the water level may be maintained at the perfect level as the rice is already half cooked. Phew!...I hope all that made sense!

Ok, before I prattle on, let's get on with the recipe.


Good long grain rice - 4 cups (this will require 1150ml chicken soup for the perfect water level, but must add a little bit more than that for a moist chicken rice - do not simply pour extra liquid into the rice, use the chart inside the pot to gauge how much you need!)
1 chicken (cut into 8 pieces)
Chicken stock cubes - (the recipe says 2 cubes but I just use half a cube - unfortunately without the cube, it will not taste like the chicken rice at the shops in Malaysia at all(!) so you should at least put a little bit in.)
Cooking oil - just a little bit for the soup, a lot to fry the chicken later on
Water - need to be more than 1150ml to accommodate the extra liquid needed and for the side dish soup, if required.
Salt to taste

To be pounded/blended together in the blender with a little bit of water:

Ginger - size about as big as your thumb :-). make sure it's young ginger i.e. when you cut it there should not be a rough texture in the centre of the ginger, it should be smooth and easy to cut through. Be generous with the ginger.
1 Large onion
3 Cloves garlic


3 tbls honey
4 tbls oyster sauce
3 tbls soy sauce
1 tbls sesame oil
1 tbls fennel seed
, pounded (jintan manis)


Heat up a little oil in a pot. Add the blended mixture and stir fry until fragrant. Add the chicken and the stock cubes. Add water. Increase heat to boil and then reduce heat and leave for a while to get the good chicken soup taste. Add salt to taste. Remove the chicken pieces and drain. Marinate chicken with the marinade above for at least 1 hour and fry in medium heat until crispy. If fire is too hot, the chicken will burn very quickly due to the honey. Heat up what's left of the marinade and pour onto fried chicken. Really yummy! Make sure you don't over-fry your chicken so that it won't turn hard. Don't need to fry for long as the chicken is already cooked inside!

Use the prepared soup to cook the rice. Rice must be washed first and drained. While washing, you should measure the amount required for the perfect water level (using your fingers) and drain that amount into a measuring cup so that you'll know exactly how much water is needed. Pour the cleaned rice into the rice cooker pot. Add the soup and the extra bit more to make it moist (Again, for an estimate, just look at the chart inside the pot and increase the soup level by '1 cup' as stated on the chart). Stir the rice and soup and taste it. The mixture must taste a LITTLE salty or else the rice will be bland. Add a bit more salt if necessary(!) I also love to add 3-4 more slices of ginger in the mixture to make it more fragrant. Use the rest of the soup as a side dish.

Chilli Dip

As usual, Malaysians always need something hot to spice up their food. For the chicken rice, a chilli sauce is prepared on the side to pour on the rice or on the chicken.
For this dip/sauce: blend some fresh red chillies (4-5) and some garlic (2-3 cloves) with a little bit of the chicken soup. Squeeze some fresh lime into it or add some vinegar to balance the taste. May add just a pinch of sugar if want to.

This chicken rice is good. It doesn't use any food enhancers and yet it still tastes very nice. The chicken is sweet and succulent and the dip is pleasant. Hope you'll try it and also enjoy the result as I have. If you're used to cooking plain rice, just forget the confusing explanation on how to cook rice above and cook your rice as u normally do. But remember, there must be a little bit more liquid than usual for any rice dish that has onions etc in it for the rice to be nice and moist.

Urap Tomato

Now, this vege side dish is good and to me, the perfect accompaniment to chicken rice. Well, to me, at least. Try it! It's simple and no cooking is required. Mix the ingredients below and leave for a while in the fridge for it to cool.

3 tomatoes
1 large onion
3 green fresh chillies
(slice all the above into very thin slices)
2 tbls pounded dried shrimp
2 lime

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