Perfect Khao Mun Gai (Singapore Chicken Rice)

Khao mun gai literally translates to “chicken-fat rice” in English, and cooking the rice in chicken fat and stock is what makes it so delicious. The dish, also called Hainanese chicken rice, originated in Hainan, an island off China’s south coast. But it is one of the most popular dishes in Malaysian — particularly in Singapore — and is a staple at food stalls and halls in Thailand and beyond. Like many Southeast Asian dishes, the key is a well-balanced spicy-sweet-salty sauce. My Mama’s method includes two options for cooking the rice: with a rice cooker or on the stove.

This recipe is particularly dear to me because it is one of the first my Mama typed up on her own using her iPad. She has been handwriting the others, which I also love so much, but seeing her voice (and usage of emojis) in print makes me smile. I edited the recipe she sent (with her approval), but you can see the wonderful original here.

Khao Mun Gai (Singapore Chicken Rice)

Chicken:
1 whole chicken or 1 lb. of bone-in chicken thighs
3 tbsp. salt
1-inch piece of Chinese rock candy (available at Asian supermarkets) or 1 tbsp. sugar
1 chicken bouillon cube
1 big pot of water (just enough to cover the chicken)
1 tbsp. vegetable oil
Sliced cucumbers
Fresh chopped cilantro

Put the chicken, salt, rock candy, chicken bouillon cube and water into the pot and bring to a boil (about five to 10 minutes). Lower the heat, cover and simmer the chicken for about 45 minutes to one hour. Let the pot cool for 15 minutes, then remove the chicken. Pat it dry and brush the surface with vegetable oil. Let the stock cool, skim the fat from the top and set aside.

Rice:
10 cilantro stems
2 cups Thai jasmine rice (my Mama insists that fresh jasmine rice has a starchier and more fragrant taste — don’t use old rice)
1 cup chicken stock
10 garlic cloves, chopped or smashed
2 tsp. salt
3 tbsp. chicken grease or vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. sugar

In a deep skillet, heat the chicken grease or vegetable oil, garlic and rice over medium-high heat and stir until fragrant. Then add the salt, sugar and cilantro. Keep stirring until the rice turns completely white (it look translucent at first) and is covered evenly with oil. Lower the heat to medium-low, and pour in the chicken stock. Stir until the stock is completely absorbed into the rice. Turn the heat to low and put a lid on the skillet. Let it sit and steam for about 10 to 15 minutes until the rice is done.

Option Two: Use Your Rice Cooker
Let the rice you sauteed with the chicken grease and garlic cool (if you don’t let it cool, it will cook unevenly), then put it in your rice cooker with the chicken stock. Follow the instructions that come with your rice cooker (this is the easiest method).

Sauce:
5 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 tbsp. brown soybean paste
2 tbsp. hoisin sauce
1 tbsp. sugar
10 cilantro stems
2 tbsp. black soy sauce
2 tbsp. rice vinegar
2 Thai chilis

Blend all of the ingredients in food processor or blender until smooth.

Assembly:
Slice the chicken and serve it with the rice, fresh cilantro and sliced cucumbers — along with the sauce and a small bowl of the broth the chicken was cooked in.

Feature photo credit: iStock/Anothai Thiansawang

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