I guess besides the well known Singapore chillie crabs, which is a "must try" for all tourist visiting this tiny island located near the equator, the other well-known national dish is probably the Hainanese Chicken Rice.
Come to think of it, I'm not sure how Hainanese Chicken Rice has become so closely linked with Singapore. Purely from it's name alone you would know that it's more associated with Hainan, a province in China. However when the Chinese migrated to South East Asia they not only brought along their culture and traditions, they also brought with them their culinary skills.
You can find Hainanese Chicken Rice not only in Singapore but also in Malaysia and Thailand. However each country's version of this dish has been tweaked somewhat to cater to local tastes. This dish can be found not only in expensive hotels, it is also in tiny cafes or food courts. Did you know that it is also one of the few local dishes even served on Singapore's national airline carrier, Singapore Airlines? It is also given a mention in Singapore's Tourism Board's website. Now that's what I call "nationalism".
Hainanese Chicken Rice is a very simple dish to make and can be prepared easily in no time at all. No messy frying and you just need 2 pots at the most. It's one full meal prepared in one-go!
Hainanese Chicken Rice
Ingredients for the Chicken:
1kg size (2-pound) chicken
1 small bunch of scallion, cut into 1 inch pieces
4 slices fresh, peeled ginger
4 - 5 cloves of garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
3 pandan leaves, tied together (pandan leave is also known as screwpine or pandanus)
2 pieces star anise
Salt and pepper to taste
Ingredients for the Rice:
4 cups long-grain uncooked rice, washed and drained
3 slices fresh, peeled ginger
3 cloves garlic, peeled and lightly smashed
3 pandan leaves (tied together)
1/2 tsp fine salt
Ingredients for the Chilli Sauce
2 to 3 tbsp freshly squeezed lime
5 tbsp finely chopped fresh red chilies,
5 cloves garlic
3 tbsp finely chopped ginger
1 tsp fine salt
Grind all the above ingredients in the blender and then add in 1/2 cup boiling hot chicken soup. Stir well and set aside.
1) Boil a large pot of water. When water in boiling add in the star anise and pandan leaves.
2) Stuff the cavity of the chicken with scallion, garlic and ginger.
3) Once the water is boiling, dip the chicken into the boiling water and dip it a few times until the skin is cooked. Once the skin is cooked, leave the chicken under the water to cook. This is to ensure that the skin does not break. The cooking time is about 20 minutes for a 1kg chicken.
4) Ensure that the water is kept just below the boiling point during the entire cooking process. Once chicken is cooked, put the chicken immediately into ice cold water for a few minutes. This will stop the cooking process and ensure that the meat will remain tender and the skin crunchy.
5) To make the rice, heat oil in frying pan. Add the ginger and garlic and stir fry till fragrant. Add the uncooked rice, stir fry for two minutes, then add in the salt. Transfer the uncooked rice into a rice cooker and add enough chicken soup (the soup from cooking the chicken) to cover 1/2 inch above the top of the rice. Add in the pandan leave and set the rice cooker to "cook" mode.
6) Chop the chicken into serving pieces and place onto plate. Garnish with thinly sliced cucumber and tomatoes. Separately dish out the rice into bowls. Serve the chicken rice with a bowl of hot soup and chillie sauce.
Note: There is no requirement to reheat the chicken again as it is served at room temperature. However your rice and soup should be steaming hot.