Hainanese chicken rice
Hainanese chicken rice is a dish of Chinese origin
Chinese cuisine
Chinese cuisine is any of several styles originating in the regions of China, some of which have become highly popular in other parts of the world – from Asia to the Americas, Australia, Western Europe and Southern Africa...

 most commonly associated with Hainanese
Hainan cuisine
Hainan cuisine is derived from the cooking styles of the peoples of Hainan province of China, such as the Li, Miao, and Hui minorities. The food is lighter, with mild seasonings. Seafood predominates the menu, as shrimp, crab, and fish are widely available...

 and Singaporean cuisine
Cuisine of Singapore
Singaporean cuisine is indicative of the ethnic diversity of the culture of Singapore, as a product of centuries of cultural interaction owing to Singapore's strategic location...

, although it is also commonly sold in neighbouring Thailand
Thailand , officially the Kingdom of Thailand , formerly known as Siam , is a country located at the centre of the Indochina peninsula and Southeast Asia. It is bordered to the north by Burma and Laos, to the east by Laos and Cambodia, to the south by the Gulf of Thailand and Malaysia, and to the...

 and Malaysia. It is based on the well-known Hainanese dish called Wenchang chicken
Wenchang Chicken
Wenchang chicken , is a type of chicken and a chicken dish from the Wenchang city area in Hainan, China.-Chicken:This variety of small, fleshy free-range chicken is fed coconut and peanut bran. During the last two months before going to market, they are kept in coops above the ground.-Dish:Wenchang...

 (文昌雞), so-called due to its roots in Hainan cuisine and its adoption by the Hainanese overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese
Overseas Chinese are people of Chinese birth or descent who live outside the Greater China Area . People of partial Chinese ancestry living outside the Greater China Area may also consider themselves Overseas Chinese....

 population in the Nanyang
Nanyang (geographical region)
Nanyang is the Chinese name for the geographical region south of China, particularly Southeast Asia. Literally meaning "Southern Ocean", it came into common usage in self-reference to the large ethnic Chinese migrant population in Southeast Asia, to be more precise, in Singapore, the Philippines,...

 area (present-day Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia
Southeast Asia, South-East Asia, South East Asia or Southeastern Asia is a subregion of Asia, consisting of the countries that are geographically south of China, east of India, west of New Guinea and north of Australia. The region lies on the intersection of geological plates, with heavy seismic...



The chicken
The chicken is a domesticated fowl, a subspecies of the Red Junglefowl. As one of the most common and widespread domestic animals, and with a population of more than 24 billion in 2003, there are more chickens in the world than any other species of bird...

 is prepared in traditional Hainanese methods which involve the boiling of the entire chicken in a pork and chicken bone stock, reusing the broth over and over and only topping it up with water when needed, in accordance with the Chinese preferences for creating master stock
Master stock
A master stock refers to a stock which is repeatedly reused to poach or braise meats. It has its origins in Chinese cuisine and is typically used in Cantonese and Fujian cuisines.-Composition:...

s. This stock is not used for rice preparation, which instead involves chicken stock created specifically for that purpose, producing an oily, flavourful rice sometimes known as "oily rice" with Southeast Asian pandan leaves added sometimes. Some cooks may add coconut milk
Coconut milk
Coconut milk is the water that comes from the grated meat of a coconut. The colour and rich taste of the milk can be attributed to the high oil content. In many parts of the world, the term coconut milk is also used to refer to coconut water, the naturally occurring liquid found inside the hollow...

 to the rice, reminiscent of the Malay dish nasi lemak
Nasi lemak
Nasi lemak is a dish sold in Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Riau Islands and Southern Thailand. The dish is considered the national dish and a national heritage of Malaysia. It is not to be confused with Nasi Dagang sold on the east coast of Malaysia or Terengganu and Kelantan although both dishes...


The Hainanese prefer using older, plumper birds to maximise the amount of oil extracted, thus creating a more flavourful dish. Over time, however, the dish began adopting elements of Cantonese cooking styles, such as using younger birds to produce more tender meats. In another variation, the bird is dipped in ice after cooking to produce a jelly-like skin finishing, commonly referred to as Báijī (白雞) for "white chicken", in contrast to the more traditional Lǔjī (滷雞, stock chicken) or Shāojī (燒雞, roasted chicken). In Singapore, where modernity has made the maintenance and long-term storage of master stocks unfeasible, the meat is cooked by boiling in water flavoured with garlic and ginger instead, with the resulting stock used in the preparation of the rice and also in the accompanying soup.

The dish is usually served with several dips, including chilli sauce and pounded ginger. It is common in Hainan to also offer a third sauce involving oyster sauce
Oyster sauce
Oyster sauce describes a number of sauces made by cooking oysters. The most common in modern use is a viscous dark brown condiment made from sugar, salt and water thickened with cornstarch, flavoured with a little oyster essence or extract and some versions may be darkened with caramel, though high...

 mixed with garlic, while dark soy sauce
Soy sauce
Soy sauce is a condiment produced by fermenting soybeans with Aspergillus oryzae or Aspergillus sojae molds, along with water and salt...

 is more commonly served in Malaysia/Singapore. The Malaysian/Singaporean version of the chili are also spicier, reflecting its Southeast Asian influences, and may also involve a mixture of chilli with garlic
Allium sativum, commonly known as garlic, is a species in the onion genus, Allium. Its close relatives include the onion, shallot, leek, chive, and rakkyo. Dating back over 6,000 years, garlic is native to central Asia, and has long been a staple in the Mediterranean region, as well as a frequent...

. Most dishes are served with sliced cucumber
The cucumber is a widely cultivated plant in the gourd family Cucurbitaceae, which includes squash, and in the same genus as the muskmelon. The plant is a creeping vine which bears cylindrical edible fruit when ripe. There are three main varieties of cucumber: "slicing", "pickling", and...

, reflecting the Chinese preference for introducing some variety for a more complete meal.

Sometimes a boneless version of chicken rice is served in Malaysia or Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...



In Malacca
Malacca , dubbed The Historic State or Negeri Bersejarah among locals) is the third smallest Malaysian state, after Perlis and Penang. It is located in the southern region of the Malay Peninsula, on the Straits of Malacca. It borders Negeri Sembilan to the north and the state of Johor to the south...

, the chicken rice is served as rice balls rather than a bowl of rice, commonly known as Chicken rice balls. Steamed rice
Steamed rice
Steamed rice refers to rice that has been cooked either by steaming or boiling.It is a staple in Japan, China, Korea, Thailand, Philippines, Brazil, India and numerous other Latin American and Asian countries. It is also used as a main ingredient in many dishes.-Preparation:Steamed rice is...

 is shaped into golf ball-sized orbs and served alongside the chopped chicken. This dish is eaten the same way as the regular version, making sure to get a portion of chicken, some rice and the soy and chili condiment into each mouthful. Older chefs argue that the rice was originally shaped into balls because it needed to be kept warm from the time it was cooked (often earlier in the day) until mealtime. The rice balls, when stored in wooden containers, apparently stayed warm for a longer time. The other theory is that the rice balls were more portable and were easier for labourers working on plantations to transport from home. Today, rice balls are appreciated more as a novelty than anything else.
The Ipoh bean sprout chicken rice (Ngah Choi Kai Fan) of Ipoh
Ipoh is the capital city of Perak state, Malaysia. It is approximately 200 km north of Kuala Lumpur on the North-South Expressway....

, Malaysia, is the Cantonese version with steamed chicken served with boiled bean sprouts but in white rice rather than the flavoured oil rice. This is a very popular version of the rice and many other chicken rice stall have slowly followed it by adding in bean sprouts along with the chicken. The chicken rice dish can also be further accompanied with a simple pork
Pork is the culinary name for meat from the domestic pig , which is eaten in many countries. It is one of the most commonly consumed meats worldwide, with evidence of pig husbandry dating back to 5000 BC....

A meatball is made from an amount of ground meat rolled into a small ball, sometimes along with other ingredients, such as breadcrumbs, minced onion, spices, and possibly eggs...

 soup. In addition to that, various hawkers also sell a variety of chicken innards - gizzard, liver, intestines - which are also equally popular for chicken rice lovers.

Chicken rice in Malaysia is available in many Chinese coffee shops or restaurants or street hawker stalls, but also chain restaurants such as The Chicken Rice Shop
The Chicken Rice Shop
The Chicken Rice Shop is a chicken rice fast-food restaurant and Halal family restaurant chain in Malaysia. The chain is operated by TCRS Restaurants Sdn Bhd, a company incorporated in Malaysia, which was established in June 2000....

KFC, founded and also known as Kentucky Fried Chicken, is a chain of fast food restaurants based in Louisville, Kentucky, in the United States. KFC has been a brand and operating segment, termed a concept of Yum! Brands since 1997 when that company was spun off from PepsiCo as Tricon Global...

's Rasamas and famous Malaysia Chinatown's Nam Heong. Most chicken rice vendors in the country also offer an alternative of roasted chicken instead of the regular, steamed one. Other variations include a BBQ version or also a honey
Honey is a sweet food made by bees using nectar from flowers. The variety produced by honey bees is the one most commonly referred to and is the type of honey collected by beekeepers and consumed by humans...

-roasted choice.

The Malaysian Malays (many of whom are Muslims) have learnt to make halal Hainan chicken rice. They have also modified the dish to suit the Malay liking for spicier and fried foods. The chicken is steamed and then fried or roasted to give a golden crispy chicken skin. However the frying of the chicken makes the meat drier. The chili condiment has also been modified. Less garlic and ginger are used, and tamarind juice is used to give the tang to the condiment. Chicken rice has become extremely popular among the Muslims in Malaysia such that certain food stalls can survive very well by serving only Chicken rice.


The prevalence of stalls selling Hainanese chicken rice as their primary specialty in Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

 underscores the dish's unrivalled popularity amongst Singaporeans and overseas visitors. Hainanese chicken rice is often considered as the "national dish
National dish
A national dish is a dish, food or a drink that is considered to represent a particular country, nation or region.A dish can become a national dish for a variety of reasons. It can be the national dish because it is a staple daily food for the majority of the population. It can also be the national...

" of Singapore
Singapore , officially the Republic of Singapore, is a Southeast Asian city-state off the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula, north of the equator. An island country made up of 63 islands, it is separated from Malaysia by the Straits of Johor to its north and from Indonesia's Riau Islands by the...

, and is often served at international expositions and global events abroad, and in Singaporean-run restaurants overseas. Hainanese chicken rice is also one of the few local dishes served on Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines
Singapore Airlines Limited is the flag carrier airline of Singapore. Singapore Airlines operates a hub at Changi Airport and has a strong presence in the Southeast Asia, East Asia, South Asia, and "Kangaroo Route" markets...

 flights. It is listed at number 45 on World's 50 most delicious foods complied by CNN Go in 2011.
In Singapore, Hainanese chicken rice is served at stalls and food court
Food court
A food court is generally an indoor plaza or common area within a facility that is contiguous with the counters of multiple food vendors and provides a common area for self-serve dining. Food courts may be found in shopping malls and airports, and in various regions may be a standalone development...

s. There are Hainanese chicken rice stalls that have established franchise or branch outlets, and these include Five Star Hainanese Chicken Rice, Boon Tong Kee, Loy Kee and others which have many outlets island wide. The price range is around S$
Singapore dollar
The Singapore dollar or Dollar is the official currency of Singapore. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively S$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

2-4 (the latter if the dish includes a drumstick). Some stalls serve extras such as a hard boiled egg, chicken liver, firm tofu
is a food made by coagulating soy milk and then pressing the resulting curds into soft white blocks. It is part of East Asian and Southeast Asian cuisine such as Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and others. There are many different varieties of tofu, including fresh tofu and tofu...

 and kailan as side dishes, each dish usually costing around S$
Singapore dollar
The Singapore dollar or Dollar is the official currency of Singapore. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively S$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

0.50 to S$
Singapore dollar
The Singapore dollar or Dollar is the official currency of Singapore. It is normally abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or alternatively S$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

1.50. Some may serve set meals which include these side dishes. Even canteen vendors in schools also sell chicken rice. However, this tends to be simpler in style, and comprises just sliced chicken with rice and soy sauce as a healthier choice.

Hainanese-owned coffee shops tend to serve a variety of Hainanese cuisine, with chicken rice being the main highlight. Other Hainanese dishes include pork chop
Pork chop
A pork chop is a cut of pork cut perpendicularly to the spine of the pig and usually containing a rib or part of a vertebra, served as an individual portion.-Variations:...

, vegetable
The noun vegetable usually means an edible plant or part of a plant other than a sweet fruit or seed. This typically means the leaf, stem, or root of a plant....

s, fish
Fish (food)
Fish is a food consumed by many species, including humans. The word "fish" refers to both the animal and to the food prepared from it. Fish has been an important source of protein for humans throughout recorded history.-Terminology:...

, egg
Egg (food)
Eggs are laid by females of many different species, including birds, reptiles, amphibians, and fish, and have probably been eaten by mankind for millennia. Bird and reptile eggs consist of a protective eggshell, albumen , and vitellus , contained within various thin membranes...

s and char siew. Most of these shops are air-conditioned, and are mainly concentrated at Purvis Street and Seah Street. The dish was popularised in Singapore in the 1950s by Moh Lee Twee, whose Swee Kee Chicken Rice Restaurant operated from 1947 to 1997.

Singapore, like Malaysia, offers other variations of this dish, which include the use of roasted instead of steamed chicken.


Hainanese chicken rice is a common dish in Thailand where it is called khao man kai , literally meaning 'oiled rice chicken'. The chickens used in Thailand for this dish can be free range chickens of local breeds, resulting in a leaner and tastier dish, but increasingly meat chickens from large scale poultry farms are being used. Khao man kai is served with a garnish of cucumbers and sometimes chicken blood tofu and fresh coriander
Coriander is an annual herb in the family Apiaceae. Coriander is native to southern Europe and North Africa to southwestern Asia. It is a soft, hairless plant growing to tall. The leaves are variable in shape, broadly lobed at the base of the plant, and slender and feathery higher on the...

, along with a bowl of clear chicken broth. The sauce accompanying this dish is made with tauchu
Tauchu , in Chinese cuisine, is a paste made from preserved soybeans, often used when steaming fish.The name comes from the pronunciation in the Min Nan dialect.-External links:*...

 (also known as yellow soybean paste
Yellow soybean paste
Yellow soybean paste is a fermented paste made from yellow soybeans, salt, and water; wheat flour, though not formerly used, is often used as an additional ingredient in the modern day, and potassium sorbate may also be used as a preservative...

), thick soy sauce, chilli, ginger, garlic and vinegar. In many of the more traditional khao man kai eateries, this dish will only be available until lunchtime.
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