Widely considered to be the national dish of Singapore, Hainanese chicken rice has played a significant part in Adam Liaw’s upbringing.






Skill level

Average: 4.1 (61 votes)

He says, “It’s not just about a dish that I enjoy eating, it’s a part of my family history. It tells a story of who came here [to Singapore], where they came from, and what they did. And even though I’ve probably eaten my grandmother’s version about a thousand times, there’s always room to learn from someone else: in this case a cousin on my father’s Hainanese side of the family.”

In true Hawker centre style, this version contains MSG, a very common and completely safe food additive. If you prefer not to use MSG, replace the water, salt and MSG for poaching the chicken with a very strong, salted chicken stock.″ Adam Liaw, Destination Flavour Singapore 


  • 1 large whole chicken (about 1.7 kg), at room temperature
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp monosodium glutamate (MSG; optional)
  • 5 cm piece unpeeled ginger
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • coriander sprigs, shredded spring onion, thinly sliced cucumber and chilli sauce, to serve


Chicken rice

  • 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
  • 3 cm piece unpeeled ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 675 g (3⅓ cups) jasmine rice



  • 1 tbsp sesame oil 
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce

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 20 minutes

Trim any visible fat from the chicken. Roughly chop the fat and place in a large saucepan filled with enough water to cover the whole chicken well once you put that in, but don’t add the chicken yet. Pound the ginger in a mortar and pestle and add to the pan with the salt and MSG if using and bring to the boil over high heat. Taste the water and adjust the amount of salt so that it tastes savoury and a little salty.

Reduce the heat to very low and carefully add the chicken to the pan, breast-side down. The water should be steaming well but not bubbling. Keep the heat at this level and cook the chicken for 45 minutes.

Using a slotted ladle or poultry hook, carefully lift the chicken out of the pan, ensuring you don’t break the skin and plunge into a large bowl of salted iced water. Strain and reserve the stock and stand the chicken in the iced water for 10 minutes, turning once or until cooled. Remove from the iced water and hang over a bowl or the sink to drain well. Brush the skin all over with the sesame oil. The chicken should be cooked very lightly, pink inside the bones and with a gelatinous skin.

Meanwhile, for the rice, heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the garlic and ginger stir until starting to brown, then strain through a sieve. Reserve the oil and discard the solids.

Place the rice in a rice cooker or heavy-based saucepan. Add 1.2 litres of the reserved stock and the reserved oil from the garlic and ginger. Bring to the boil over high heat and continue to boil for about 5 minutes or until the level of the liquid reaches the top of the rice, then reduce the heat to very low, cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and cook for 12 minutes, then remove from the heat and stand, covered for another 10 minutes.

When the rice is ready, use a cleaver to slice and debone the chicken Chinese-style and pour the dressing over it. Scatter with the coriander sprigs, shredded spring onion and sliced cucumber and serve with the rice and chilli sauce.


Image by Adam Liaw.

Destination Flavour Singapore airs Thursdays at 8.05pm on SBS. Visit the program page for more details, recipes and guides.