When I first discovered the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California, I was amazed at the number of Asian restaurants. Driving down the streets, I would spot at least 5 Vietnamese restaurants in one block followed by at least 4 Chinese cafes on the next and numerous desserts spots in the same area. It was difficult to choose which location to try first unless you have an expert guide like I did. I was taken to the best of the best eateries, including one restaurant that specialized in a dish called Hainan chicken. Hainan chicken is originally a Chinese dish but has been adapted in other cuisines, such as Singaporean, Hainanese and Malaysian. After trying the chicken I knew I had to recreate it myself. Much easier to prepare than I had anticipated and the flavors are incredible!

hainan chicken
hainan chicken

Serves 4


Hainan chicken

1 hr, 30 Total Time

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  • 1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs)
  • kosher salt
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 inch ginger, skin on
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 green onion stalks
  • 1/2 onion, whole
  • 1 carrot, peeled and chopped
  • Rice
  • 2 cups long grain uncooked rice
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 5 slices ginger, minced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cups reserved chicken broth
  • Ginger garlic sauce
  • 1/4 cup ginger, finely minced
  • 1 garlic clove, finely minced
  • 1 tbsp chicken stock
  • 1 tsp oil
  • pinch of salt
  • Chili sauce
  • 2 Thai chili, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp ginger, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chicken broth
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • dark soy sauce to serve on side
  • cilantro for garnish


  1. Wash the chicken and drain well. Rub a generous amount of kosher salt on the skin and gently massage to soften. Rinse off the salt.
  2. Rub the cavity of the chicken with the soy sauce. Stuff with ginger, garlic and green onion stalks. Place the chicken breast side down in a large pot. Place the onion and carrot in the pot and fill with enough water to completely submerge the chicken. Cover and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce to low heat and continue to cook for 45 minutes - 1 hour or until the internal temperature reads 160 degrees F. The water should barely be bubbling while the chicken is cooking. Once the chicken is cooked, remove from broth and let cool. Strain the chicken broth and reserve.
  3. Rinse the rice in cold water 3 times to remove impurities and excess starch. Let sit in water for 10 minutes.
  4. Heat oil in wok or saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and ginger and saute until aromatic, about 1-2 minutes. Add the rice and salt and toast for 2 minutes. Pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is done.
  5. To prepare the ginger garlic sauce, pound all of the ingredients together using a mortar and pestle until paste forms. You can also use a food processor. Do the same for the chili sauce.
  6. Carve the chicken and serve on a bed of rice with chili sauce, ginger garlic sauce and soy sauce on the side.

**Helpful tips and common mistakes

There are two stars in this dish, the rice, and the chicken. This recipe is more based on the Singaporean style, using the broth made from cooking the chicken to cook the rice.

The first step is preparing the chicken. Hainan chicken is cooked with the skin on; however, in this particular dish, the skin is oh so soft and buttery. To accomplish this, you want to massage the outside with a liberal amount of salt. Within minutes, I could see a difference in the texture of the skin.

hainan chicken

Cooking the chicken is as easy as poaching it. You want the fire to remain low to slowly cook the chicken and preventing it from drying out. Because you already cleaned the chicken with salt, there should only be a small amount of foam that arises while cooking.

hainan chicken

Now that you’ve produced a lovely chicken broth, you want to use that liquid to cook your rice. If you are able to locate Pandan leaves, add one to the pot with the rice. I was unable to locate the ingredient and had to omit it from my version. Personally, the rice is my favorite part of the dish. It’s incredibly simple but the result is outstanding.

Serve with the chili sauce and ginger sauce and you have created the traditional Hainan chicken! I drizzle the soy sauce over the rice and dip the chicken in a generous amount of the ginger and chili sauce to add even more flavor to the meal. If you’ve never had Hainan chicken before, I highly recommend it!

hainan chicken



Looking for someone to come to your house and prepare these dishes for you? It is possible! If you are in Los Angeles and looking for a private chef, please feel free to contact me. For more information, visit Private Kitchen Los Angeles




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