This dish originates from wenchang chicken, which is from Hainan Island off the southern coast of China. As the Hainanese migrated to Singapore and Malaysia, the recipe was adapted, taking on flavours of the regions, and became known as Hainanese chicken rice. 






Skill level

Average: 4.4 (9 votes)

It's traditionally served with three dipping sauces: ginger, chilli and dark soy. Serve the fragrant chicken broth as a side dish.


  • 1.8 kg whole chicken
  • 2 limes, halved, 1 tbsp juice reserved
  • 15 cm piece (about 90 g) ginger
  • 8 spring onions, plus extra, sliced, to serve
  • 11 garlic cloves, 8 bruised, 3 finely chopped 
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) (see Note)
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 400 g (2 cups) jasmine rice, rinsed
  • 1 pandanus leaf (see Note), tied in a knot
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • 6 long red chillies, seeded, roughly chopped
  • dark soy sauce or kecap manis and sliced cucumber, to serve
  • ½ tsp salt, plus extra salt to taste

Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


Rub chicken, including cavity, with salt, then rub with lime. Rinse well, remove and reserve excess fatty skin, and pat chicken dry with paper towel. Finely grate 2 tbsp ginger and set aside for rice and sauces, then thinly slice the remainder. Cut 6 spring onions into 4 cm pieces. Fill chicken cavity with half the spring onion pieces, 2 bruised garlic cloves, half the sliced ginger, rice wine and soy sauce.

Place chicken in a large saucepan and cover with water. Remove and set aside. Place remaining spring onion pieces, 2 bruised garlic cloves and remaining sliced ginger in water and bring to the boil. Turn off heat, then carefully return chicken to the pan and cover. Leave for 15 minutes, then lift chicken above broth, drain water from cavity back into pan, return chicken to broth and cover. Leave for a further 15 minutes and repeat draining process. Bring water almost back to the boil, then turn off heat. Repeat draining process for two more 15-minute intervals. In total, chicken should 'cook’ for 1 hour. Remove chicken from broth, transfer to a plate, season with salt, then cover with foil to keep warm. Set chicken broth aside.

To make rice, melt reserved chicken skin in a large saucepan over low heat to render 1 tbsp fat, then remove and discard excess fat and skin. Increase heat to medium and add 1 tbsp grated ginger and the finely chopped garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1 minute or until light golden. Add rice and toss to coat. Add 600ml reserved broth, pandanus leaf and season well with salt. Cover, bring to the boil, then reduce heat to low. Cook for 15 minutes, then turn off heat and set aside, covered, for a further 10 minutes or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Discard pandanus leaf.

Meanwhile, to make ginger sauce, process remaining 4 bruised garlic cloves, 1 tbsp grated ginger, reserved lime juice, sugar, ½ tsp salt and 60 ml (¼ cup) broth in a food processor until smooth. Transfer half the mixture to a bowl. Finely chop remaining 2 spring onions, add them to the bowl and stir to combine. To make chilli sauce, process chillies with remaining ginger sauce in the food processor to a coarse paste.

Line a fine sieve with muslin or a clean Chux cloth and set over a clean pan. Strain broth through sieve and heat over medium heat.

Joint chicken and thickly slice. Place on a plate and scatter over extra spring onions. Serve with rice, ginger, chilli and dark soy sauces, cucumber and broth.


• Chinese rice wine (shaoxing) is available from Asian food shops; substitute dry sherry.
• Pandanus leaves are available from Asian food shops.



Photography by Alan Benson.


As seen in Feast magazine, October 2011, Issue 2.