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Angkor Wat in Cambodia
the world's largest religious monument built in the 12th century
now a world heritage site
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 Bai Moann
Chicken Rice

 

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This is a very popular dish in the urban areas of Cambodia where there are large concentrations of ethnic Chinese. These are descendents of Chinese settlers who came to Cambodia during the 13th century. This dish is of Chinese origin adopted by the Khmers, and is known all over Southeast Asia as ‘Hainanese chicken’. It is not difficult to imagine why this is very popular – not only is the dish simply delicious, it is also very healthy.  Do not be put off by the long list of ingredients. Try it once and I am sure you will agree that this simple dish is very easy to prepare. 

For the Khmers in the rural areas of Cambodia, where people keep chickens for their eggs, this particular recipe is good for the old chicken when their egg laying time is finished. This recipe enables tough chickens to be boiled for a length of time to tenderise the flesh. Once tenderised, this old chicken has much more flavour than the young one. 

Did you know that ginger is the most important spice in the East? It is said to have been cultivated in Southeast Asia and in China for over 3000 years. The health benefits of ginger are endless. This is because, not only does it contain a whole range of vitamins and essential minerals, it also has powerful medicinal properties. For example, it is excellent for digestive disorders and for relieving morning sickness and motion sickness. 

 

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Chicken Rice Sauce
(available at Asian grocery stores)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serves 4-6 

Ingredients
Chicken
(preferably organic or free range) approx. 1½ kg (3.5 lb)
Sea salt 2 tsp
Fresh ginger 5 cm (2 inch), peeled and sliced
Spring onions (scallions) 3, each chopped into 3 pieces

 Rice:
Jasmine rice (new crop) 2 cups
Vegetable oil 2 Tbsp
Garlic 3 cloves, finely chopped
Sesame oil 1 tsp
Sea salt ½ tsp

Sweet soy sauce (use a ready made sauce, if prefer - see photo below)
Fresh ginger 2.5cm (1 inch), peeled and roughly chopped
Garlic 2 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped
Sea salt ½ tsp
Sugar 1Tbsp
Soy sauce 4 Tbsp
Rice Vinegar or cider vinegar 1 Tbsp
Salted Soy beans 1Tbsp, washed, drained and finely chopped (optional)
Water 2 Tbsp
Long red chilli ½, deseeded and sliced into rings (for a spicier taste, do not deseed)

Vegetables:
Cucumber, washed and thinly sliced (as much as desired)
Coriander (cilantro) 6 sprigs for garnish
Long red chilli ½, deseeded sliced into juliennes (matchsticks) for garnish

Method

  • 1 - To prepare the chicken – use half the salt and rub into the chicken skin and cavity. Then rinse well, under cold running water and pat dried. Take the remaining salt and rub chicken inside and outside again. Stuff the cavity with half of the sliced ginger and half of spring onions.
  • 2 - To poach the chicken – place the chicken, breast-side-down, in a (large enough but not too large) cooking pot, add the remaining sliced ginger and spring onions, and fill with cold water enough to cover the whole chicken. Over a very high heat, bring to the boil and then immediately lower the heat to simmer for 50-60 minutes with the lid on. It is cooked when a skewer, inserted into the thickest part of the thigh, releases a clear juice. If a pink juice is seen instead, continue cooking for a further 5 minutes and test again. Note: whilst ensuring that the chicken is cooked through, care should be taken not to overcook it – this will avoid too much of the flavour being diluted into the broth.
  • 3 - Once cooked, turn out the heat, leave to rest in the broth for 30 minutes, then transfer the chicken to a plate, drain the liquid from the cavity and remove the ginger and spring onions. Then cut the chicken into bite sized pieces. Cover with tin foil and keep warm.  Remove the ginger and spring onions from the poaching broth and reserve the broth for later use1.
  • 4 - Meanwhile, wash the rice in water and use a sieve to drain it. Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat until hot, add the garlic and fry until you obtain a light golden brown colour (be careful that it doesn’t burn) then add the drained rice. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes or until the rice is fully coated with the garlic aromatic oil then add thesesame oil and mix well. Remove from heat. At this stage the rice is not yet cooked.
  • 5 - To cook the rice - transfer the aromatic rice to an electric rice cooker or, if not available, to a medium saucepan and then add 2 cups + 3 Tbsp2 of the poaching broth and stir in the salt. If:

    a – Using an electric rice cooker, once cooked, leave to rest for 5 minutes before fluffing using a fork or a pair of chopsticks.

    b – Cooking rice on a stove – partly cover the pan with a lid, bring to the boil taking care that it doesn’t boil over. Once it reaches boiling point, immediately turn the heat to low and cook, still partly covered, for about 8-10 minutes or until all the broth has been absorbed by the rice. Then cover the pan tightly, turn the heat to its lowest setting and continue cooking for 5-8 minutes. Remove from heat and leave to rest for another 5 minutes before fluffing using a fork or a pair of chopsticks.
  • 6 - To make the sauce3 – in a pestle and mortar add the salt, ginger and garlic and pound until you obtain a smooth paste. Then add the sugar, soy sauce, vinegar and water; stir until the sugar has dissolved and add the sliced red chilli. Alternatively, add all the sauce ingredients (except the red chilli) into a small food blender for 10 seconds or until smooth and then garnish with the sliced red chilli.
  • 7 - Spoon the rice on to a plate, top with chicken pieces, arrange cucumber slices on the side and garnish with red chilli juliennes and a sprig of coriander (cilantro). Serve with the sweet soy sauce – and, if desired, accompany the dish with a bowl of hot soup (see ‘Tips’ below). 

Tips
1. Some of the poaching broth will be used to cook the aromatic rice. The rest of the broth can be used to make a clear soup, if preferred, to accompany this rice dish. First bring the broth to a rolling boil for 5 minutes or until it reduces by half. Then add 1 cup of thinly sliced mooli / daikon or spinach. Continue boiling until the vegetable is tender, remove from heat and sprinkle it with a tablespoon of thinly sliced spring onion (scallion) – and a pinch of salt if needed.

2. If cooking old crop rice such as Basmati rice, use one cup of rice to 1.5 cups of liquid.

3. The sauce can be prepared a few days beforehand and kept in the fridge ready to serve when needed.