I made Hainanese chicken rice last week thanks to a desperate craving. The dish is a stalwart and staple of the average food centre or hawker’s market in Singapore or West Malaysia, but practically impossible to find in North America.

Although I have discovered Penang, a restaurant chain that serves up authentic Southeast Asian Peranakan Malay and Chinese cuisine, there’s still a ten-mile gap between the place and I, via a horrendous highway. It’s only so often that I risk life and limb for a culinary yearning.

From my experience making it recently, I say with confidence that despite the simplicity of its appearance, Hainanese chicken rice is not the quickest of things to prepare in its entirety – comprising a voluptuous chicken soup, stock-infused rice, boiled yet flavoursome and tender chicken and accompanied by a gingery-chilli sauce. May not sound like much but the children and I regularly get a hankering for the stuff. Mr Diva Indoors enjoys the dish a tad less enthusiastically, as the chicken (necessarily) includes its bones.

This entry, unfortunately, isn’t about the chicken rice itself – a testament to how quickly the dish disappeared once I’d made it (greedy me and the kids!). With the relatively early dusks of late winter/early spring, it’s also been tricky photographing food in general in natural light as I am a determined low-tech photographer.

So, for now, here’s the yummy condiment. The rice will have to wait for another time!

  • long, red chillies, fresh, about 8-10 (see photo)
  • ginger, 1 1/2 inches worth
  • garlic, about 5 cloves
  • rice vinegar, as needed, approx. 1/4 cup
  • sesame oil, 1 tsp
  • lime juice, about 1 tbsp
  • salt, 2 tsp
  • sugar, 1 tsp
  • chicken soup, boiling – a few tbsp

  1. Prepare the chillies, de-stem and chop roughly
  2. Skin the ginger and chop, same as the garlic
  3. Place chillies, ginger, garlic, lime juice, salt, sugar, vinegar in small food processor and blitz to a vivid, red sauce, with no chunky bits
  4. Add sesame oil and whizz again. Add a bit of the chicken soup (boiling hot)
  5. As Gordon Ramsay commands, ‘Taste, and taste again!’ The final result should be hot but not overpowering, tangy and gingery
  6. Steam a clean jam jar to sterilize it and bottle the sauce
  7. Should keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. I use it as a condiment to pep up dishes, including turkey sandwiches 😀

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