Posts Tagged ‘poached’
Posted May 15, 2012on:
A trip to Singapore will not be complete without a visit to the historic Raffles Hotel on Bras Basah Road. Raffles Hotel in Singapore is what Peninsula Hotel is to Hong Kong; an icon that has been part of the history of these places for many years. I can’t afford to stay there, even in their cheapest accommodation option but at least I went in and relived history by walking along its five foot walkway and marvelling at its beautiful architecture.
Well, actually we also came here for a purpose. After my first day in Singapore, my friend Huay Sean decided to bring us to the Royal China restaurant at the Raffles on her day off to savour their amazing dim sum. We walked to the main entrance and around the lobby towards the back of his huge hotel complex.Till today, I still asked myself why I didn’t go INTO the lobby to take a peek because I saw pictures and they looked amazing! The courtyards were no less impressive though. Walking along the corridors overlooking the courtyards decorated with palms, tropical plants and beautiful fountains in the middle, felt like going back in time; it reminded me of my family sitting on my grandmother’s old verandah on a lazy Southeast Asian rainy day.
Notice that the architecture is very colonial but what I like the most is the gorgeous contrast that wood provides when it is juxtaposed with colonial style. The intricate wood carvings somehow blended so nicely with the Italianate columns, the wrought iron signs and the beautiful lamps. In Kuala Lumpur, old misssionary schools, like the secondary school I attended, often have similar architectures. So this brought back lots of great memories.
Also look at those beautiful wooden windows in the buildings above, which are also quite typical in Singapore and Malaysia. I’d love to have those windows one day when I own my own house.
As we were walking, we saw Raffles Courtyard in front of us from the second floor. Like many courtyards at Raffles Hotel, this is also a beautiful space in the midst of palm trees. They not only have a cocktail bar but they also serve seafood and Singaporean inspired dishes to guests who want to dine outside. The amazing decor would certainly bring guests back to how colonial Singapore used to be.
When we arrived at Royal China at Raffles after a very long walk, we were disappointed to find that they were fully booked. We just didn’t thought of making a reservation on a weekday. Oh bummer! We then proceeded to head to the nearby Swee Kee Restaurant to have some Hainanese Chicken Rice. What else could be more appropriate in Singapore?
Hainanese chicken rice is a dish served with a beautifully poached (or roasted) chicken, aromatic rice, and the most important of all, the condiments. You cannot eat chicken rice without some vinegar chilli sauce and minced ginger. I think Swee Kee’s chicken was tender and I loved how succulent the roasted chicken is. The rice is very flavourful and I could taste the chicken stock that it was cooked with. I would prefer my rice cooked with a tad bit more chicken fat though, which gives it that sexy sheen.
And because we ordered a set meal, it also comes with other delicious items such as Hainanese pork chop. It is like a schnitzel served with tomato sauce and french fries. They are pretty good but it’s quite an odd selection which does not complement the chicken rice at all. I mean, french fries with a mostly Asian menu, seriously? How is it Hainanese anyways? Anyhow, we also had some braised shiitake mushrooms and greens and a silky soup with egg drizzle.
For less than S$40 (if I remembered correctly), we had a wonderful lunch for 4 people. Thanks to Huay Sean, we had a ball even though we didn’t manage to go to Royal China. In my next post, I will explore Singapore’s fantastic evening skyline and a Nyonya dinner at the Blue Ginger.
When I was growing up, if I had to choose between ‘white’ chicken (cooked by means of steaming, or boiling) or roasted chicken, I would always chosen the latter in a heart beat. Nothing beats the crispy golden brown skin and the succulent and tender meat underneath it, served with rice cooked with chicken broth with hints of ginger. OK, there’s also fried chicken but that’s a whole different category because Kentucky Fried Chicken was a luxury when I was little.
But the point is, why write about something that is seemingly so ordinary and plain-looking? Well, there’s more to Hainanese chicken rice than just boiling it. The preparation is quite intensive and time-consuming. It involves getting the best quality whole chicken, preferably free range and/or organic and slowly poaching it in chicken broth. When the chicken is done, the rice is then cooked with the broth and a little chicken fat/oil. The chicken is finally served with the rice and an assortment of sauces as well as a bowl of soup. The taste of the chicken is fresh and subtle but the sauces complement and bring out the flavor even more. Now that’s my kind of slow food.
Ingredients (serves 4):
- 1.5 – 2 lbs chicken bones or parts
- 1 carrot, cut into three sections
- 2 onions, peeled and halved if it’s large.
- 2 spring onions
- 1 thumb sized ginger, sliced
- salt to taste.
- one fresh 4lbs free range chicken, cleaned and gutted
- 3-4 spring onions, chopped into 4 inch sections
- 3 spring onions, cut into 4 inch sections, julliened and soak in cold water
- 1 thumb sized ginger, sliced
- 3 tbsp shaoxing cooking wine (optional)
- 2 cups jasmine rice
- chicken stock
- 1 thumb sized ginger, sliced.
- 2-3 tbsp rendered chicken fat/cooking oil
- 2 pandan leaves, tied into a knot (optional)
Chili Sauce (yields 1 jar)
- 20 – 25 red bird’s eye/Thai chili
- 6 limes, juiced
- 10 shallots
- 10 cloves garlic
- Find recipe here.
Ginger Sauce (yields 1/2 – 1 jar)
- 1/4 lb Ginger, pounded
- olive oil
- 2 tbsp regular soy sauce
- A few drops of sesame oil
Sweet Soy Sauce
- 2 tbsp ABC kicap manis
- Put all ingredients for the stock, except salt, in a large cast iron pot (mine’s 7 quart). Slowly simmer for about 2 hours.
- Salt to taste.
- Drizzle 3 tablespoons of shaoxing wine into the cavity of the chicken. Stuff spring onions (except the jullienned ones) and ginger into the cavity.
- Let the chicken sit and bring the pot of stock to a boil.
- Slowly put the chicken in the pot. The temperature of the stock should drop a little. Bring it to a boil again.
- Once it starts boiling, turn off the heat and close the pot with the lid. The idea is to gently poach the chicken with the boiling stock in a cast iron pot that retains heat very well.
- Wait for about 1.5 hours and remove the chicken from the pot. You may use a tong and stick it in the cavity to lift the chicken. It is not advisable to lift it by the drumsticks or the wings because you may break them.
- Let it cool.
- Wash jasmine rice under cold water and rinse.
- Put the rice in a rice cooker, level it using your fingers and measure the height by sticking one finger into the rice. Pour chicken stock of about the same height above the rice level. This unscientific method works most of the time for me. If you have to use cups, 1 cup of rice to 1.25 – 1.5 cups of water should give you the perfect rice.
- Add ginger and a pinch or two of salt. I learned that even if your stock is perfectly salted, you would need extra salt for the rice.
- Finally add the fat and pandan leaves to the rice.
- Cover the rice cooker and let it cook.
- In a small bowl, add pounded ginger and enough olive oil to make a wet paste. Add salt, pinch by pinch until the desired flavor. A good guideline for the right amount of salt is when you rid the ‘rawness’ of the ginger and you start to salivate a little when you taste it. Reserve in a sauce dish.
- Blend all ingredients for chili sauce in the blender, except salt and sugar, until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and enough sugar to your liking. It should be very spicy with a hint of sweetness. Reserve in a sauce dish.
- Mix soy sauce and sesame oil in a separate sauce dish.
- Together with the sweet soy sauce, you should have four different sauces.
Putting it together
- Cut the whole chicken into eight serving pieces as shown at Chow.com. Further chop it into smaller bite size pieces for thighs and breasts if preferred.
- Put chicken on a serving plate and drizzle with shallot oil and some fried shallots. Garnish with jullienned spring onions.
- Serve with rice, a bowl of hot chicken stock (we call that soup), and all the beautiful sauces.
- If you are not using a cast iron pot, you can heat up the pot on the 45-minute mark to boiling and then turn it off and continue to let it poach.
- The sweet soy sauce goes really well with the spicy chili sauce.
- You can also make the rice with the stock and a few tablespoons of the ginger sauce and a pinch of salt. It is equally lovely!