This is my go-to, family favourite comfort food. I love to take my time making this meal and I think it’s the time taken that adds extra love to the deliciousness.






Skill level

Average: 3.8 (53 votes)

In Thailand this is served early in the morning, people will stop for a plate on the way to work or kids on the way to school. Our favourite spot for this dish in HuaHin, where we have holidayed as a family for the past 40 years, can be sold out by 11am on busy days. Most travellers through South-East Asia would know this dish well as it's available in various forms in most countries in the region.

In Singapore they poach the chicken, but the Thais steam it in a big steamer with the water in the bottom pot catching the fat drippings to be made into a delicious broth soup to have with the fatty chicken rice. I always brine my chickens, even when I’m steaming them as I always get a better, juicier result so that works for me. Fresh young ginger is much more subtle than old ginger so I try to use that whenever I can. As with most dishes, the fresher the ingredient, the finer and better the result. The children will just love the chicken and rice served as is with a little kecap manis over the top. 


Brined chicken

  • 1 whole chicken
  • 600 g (2 cups) cooking salt
  • 1 tbsp Chinese cooking wine
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, bruised
  • 2 cm piece ginger, bruised
  • 2 coriander roots, bruised

Steamed chicken

  • 1 tbsp soy sauce, for brushing
  • 2 cm piece ginger, bruised
  • 2 garlic cloves, bruised
  • 2 coriander roots, bruised
  • 2 long red chillies, halved
  • 2 long green chillies, halved

Chicken fat rice

  • 600 g (3 cups) Jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 2 garlic cloves, bruised
  • 2 coriander roots, bruised
  • 2 cm piece ginger, bruised
  • 1 pandan leaf, optional, tied in a knot
  • salt, to taste
  • 625 ml (2 ½ cups) chicken stock or water


  • 2 tsp chicken stock powder
  • ½ brown onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 6 Chinese cabbage leaves, chopped
  • 2 coriander roots, bruised
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 6 spring onions, chopped
  • kecap manis (sweet soy sauce), to taste
  • sesame oil, to taste
  • white pepper, to taste

To serve

  • sliced peeled cucumber, coriander sprigs and sauces (optional)

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.


Standing time: 4 hours

  1. To brine the chicken, trim any excess fat from the chicken and set aside to use for the chicken rice (see Notes). Place 2 litres of cold water in a container large enough to hold the chicken as well. Add all the ingredients except the chicken and stir until the salt has dissolved. Add the chicken and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight if time permits.   
  2. To steam the chicken, take the chicken out of the brine, drain well and pat dry. Rub all over with the soy sauce. Stuff the ginger, garlic and coriander root inside the chicken and place in a steamer. Fill the bottom of the steamer with water to a little over half–way (this will become the base for the broth). Steam for 50-60 minutes or until cooked. Let the chicken rest in the steamer until you’re ready to make the broth.
  3. Meanwhile, for the chicken fat rice, place the reserved chicken fat in a small saucepan and cook over low heat until the fat has rendered. Transfer the fat to a rice cooker or heavy–based saucepan. Add the rinsed and drained rice and stir to coat. Add the garlic, coriander roots, ginger and the pandan leaf if using. Add a good pinch of salt and cover with the stock or water. If using a rice cooker, follow manufacturer’s instructions. If using a saucepan, bring to the boil over high heat, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to as low as possible, cover and simmer for 12 minutes. Remove from the heat and stand for another 10-15 minutes to finish steaming. Chicken rice uses less water than normal, it is supposed to be a little drier and on the firmer side but not al dente.
  4. While the chicken is resting, for the broth, add the stock powder to the cooking liquid in the bottom section of the steamer. Add the onion, shiitake mushrooms, Chinese cabbage, coriander root, garlic and spring onions. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust the seasoning with kecap manis, sesame oil, salt and white pepper.

• Ideally, you should have about 60 g chicken fat but if you need a bit more fat to add to the rice once rendered, just add a little vegetable oil.

• Whilst waiting for your rice and chicken to cook, you can make the sauces that go wonderfully with the chicken and the rice:

Spring onion sauce
Peel and finely grate a 2 cm piece of ginger. Sprinkle a good pinch of salt over 3 spring onions and finely chop. Combine the ginger, spring onion and a good drizzle of sesame oil in a bowl.

Ginger, chilli and garlic
Combine finely chopped ginger with thinly sliced long green and red chillies, chopped coriander and garlic and a little chicken stock. Season with sweet soy sauce (kecap manis) and a little extra sugar if needed.


Adam Liaw cooks, laughs, and explores culture with some of Australia's most beloved in The Cook Up With Adam Liaw.

Photography by Adam Liaw.