I’m really proud to announce my new Asian food and culture column for The Wall Street Journal’s Scene Asia – Around the Table.

Here’s my first post, Chicken Rice for the Soul, about my favourite dish and how it shaped my first cookbook. And if that’s left you with a taste for Hainanese Chicken Rice. Here’s my grandma’s recipe for you as it appears in Two Asian Kitchens.

Photograph by Steve Brown

Hainanese Chicken Rice

Serves 4
Preparation: 1 hour
Cooking: 50 minutes plus 30 minutes resting


  • 1 whole chicken (about 1.5kg), at room temperature
  • 5 whole cloves garlic, plus 2 cloves, chopped
  • 7 thick slices ginger, unpeeled
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 675g jasmine rice
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  •  1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • coriander, sliced cucumber and spring onion, to serve

Chilli Sauce

  • 6 red birds-eye chillies
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 1 tsp lemon juice

Spring onion and ginger oil

  • 4 spring onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
  • 3 tbsp peanut oil


  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce

Trim any visible fat from the chicken. Roughly chop the fat and put in a small saucepan. Cook over very low heat for about 1 hour until the liquid fat renders away. Pour off and keep the liquid fat as it pools. (You do not need the crispy pieces of fried fat for this dish, but they are excellent served over cooked noodles.)

Meanwhile, put the whole garlic cloves and 5 slices of ginger in the cavity of the chicken and place breast-side down in a large pot. Cover with water and bring to just below a simmer. The water should be steaming well, but not bubbling. Keep the heat at this stage for 20 minutes, then cover the pot and turn off the heat. Leave for 30 minutes, then lift out the chicken, keeping the poaching stock. Brush the chicken skin with sesame oil and wrap with plastic wrap. The chicken should be cooked very lightly, pink inside the bones and with a gelatinous skin.

Heat 1 tbsp of the chicken fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and remaining 2 slices of ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the rice and toss until well coated and turning opaque. Add 1.25 litres of the reserved chicken stock, the salt and soy sauce. You can also add a few pandan leaves, tied in a knot (if you have them). Cook in a rice cooker or by your preferred method of cooking rice.

To make the chilli sauce, combine chillies, ginger, garlic, sugar and salt in a mortar and pound to a paste. Add the lemon juice and 1-2 tablespoons of hot chicken stock and pound again. Set aside.

To make the spring onion and ginger oil, add the spring onion, ginger and salt to a heatproof mortar and pound lightly with the pestle. Heat the oil in a small frying pan until smoking and pour onto the mixture. Once the sizzling stops, combine lightly with the pestle and leave to infuse for a few minutes.

To make the dressing, mix the sesame oil and soy sauce with 60ml of the chicken stock. If you have any remaining chicken stock after that, you can season it and add a few onion slices. This can be served as a light broth to accompany the meal.

Slice the chicken Chinese-style and pour the dressing over it. Scatter with a little coriander and serve with the rice, condiments, broth and garnishes.