December 1, 2014
Amuse-Bouche
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poulet riz
(chicken rice)
Good afternoon, folks. This plate of chicken rice from Maxwell Food Centre is pretty well known around the region after the SingTel Hawkers vs [Gordon] Ramsay competition. Of course, food lovers like me would definitely head down to try. Beware, the queue was long and the shop [Tian Tian, stall 1‑10] attracted tourists too. I waited for about 15 to 20 minutes for my turn to purchase one plate of chicken rice. The rice was aromatic and the chicken was succulent, very deliciously prepared by the chef. If you have not try this, you should when you are around Maxwell Food Centre!
Thus wrote a reviewer, earlier this year, using the name “melodyinthemist.” The review was referring to a hawker stall that many in Singapore consider the best place in the country to obtain Hainanese Chicken Rice. I tried the dish one evening about three months after the review was posted, and I only had to wait in line about five minutes.
It was good. The chicken wasn’t over cooked, and there was a fair amount of flavorful gelatin under the skin. The rice also had a subtle chicken flavor. At $3.50 Singapore dollars, or about $2.75 US dollars, it was a bargain.
Hainanese Chicken Rice is also the only dish I specifically recall eating during my six days in Singapore. It’s not that I was disappointed with the food in Singapore. Everything I ate was tasty, but the chicken rice was memorable.
I think there are two factors that contribute to making chicken rice taste as good as it does. First, the chicken is poached at a low enough temperature that it does not dry out. (It’s like sous vide cooking without the vacuum packaging.) Second, the chicken is quickly cooled so that the subcutaneous gelatin is solidified and not lost in the broth. I have read that the chicken is cooked in a pork‑based broth that is used repeatedly, day‑after‑day, with water added to top it off. I don’t know if that is the case with Tian‑Tian. Their small stall at Maxwell Food Centre is one of three locations the restaurant has, and I didn’t see much of a kitchen in it.
I also have read that the rice is cooked in slightly oily chicken broth. The rice was also very good.
In developing a chicken‑rice amuse‑bouche, I tried a number of different ways of stuffing chicken with rice. A number of them physically worked, but the rice and chicken flavors didn’t meld the way I wanted. So I tried the reverse, stuffing the chicken into the rice. On the second try, I achieved the flavor I was looking for.
240 g (1 c)
medium‑grain rice
475 ml (2 c)
water
2 t
instant chicken broth powder
75 g (258 oz)
ground chicken thigh meat (85% meat, 15% fat)
as needed
chicken demi‑glace
1. Place the rice, water, and broth powder in a rice cooker. Cook the rice until done.
2. Add the ground chicken to the hot rice, and mix until the chicken is cooked and evenly distributed. Pack the rice into a five‑cavity sushi mold to form neat portions of rice.
3. Set the rice portions aside on a plate to cool. Vacuum‑pack the cold portions, and freeze until needed.
4. To serve, thaw the rice portions, in their bag in your refrigerator.
5. Heat a saucepan of water to about 70 °C (160 °F). Add the bag of rice portions, and heat for 10 minutes.
6. In the meantime, heat the demi‑glace in a small saucepan.
7. When ready, cut open the bags. Drizzle a few drops of the demi‑glace over each rice portion, and place a portion on each serving dish. Serve while still warm.
Yield: about 16 portions.

© 2014 Peter Hertzmann. All rights reserved.