Jamie Oliver Cooks Hainanese Chicken Rice

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

This is how the Naked Chef makes Singapore's iconic dish, Hainanese Chicken Rice:

The recipe is from Jamie Oliver's column in the Daily Mail, 2 March 2012. The headline reads, 'Cook with Jamie: East is best! These Far Eastern broths are (blah blah blah) good for you'.

Hmm, broths? I have no idea why chicken rice is in an article about broths but I'm sure the recipe is, as Jamie Oliver says, good for you. It has to be with 305 g of ginger! If you're suffering from excessive wind, the humongous amount of spicy ginger will cure you in a jiffy. (Not that I'm speaking from personal experience, of course; I'm just telling you what my mother told me.) Or maybe you just gave birth and your mother, if she's Chinese, has told you to eat truckloads of ginger – every day, every single meal, for a whole month. What could be better than ginger rice with ginger chicken, ginger soup and ginger sauce?

You'll love the Naked Chef's Hainanese Chicken Rice because . . . . Oh hang on, it's not rice. You don't get rice when you cook 450 g with 2 litres of chicken stock, as specified in the ingredient list. Or is it 1.2 litres as per the instructions? Whichever it is, you'll have a pot of porridge, not rice. Maybe Mr Oliver thinks porridge is more in keeping with the broth theme?

There may not be any rice in JO's chicken rice but at least there's chicken. Here's how the celebrity chef poaches it: boil 4 chicken breasts for 5 minutes in 4 litres of water flavoured with ginger, garlic, shallots and lemongrass; turn off the heat; let the chicken steep 40 minutes; then place the chicken in ice water for 30 minutes. If you follow his method, I promise you'll have chicken that's way overcooked and dry as dust. But at least it IS chicken. It'd a disaster if there's neither chicken nor rice in chicken rice, wouldn't it?

Instead of a thick mound of grated ginger, Mr Oliver's ginger sauce is ginger JUICE, diluted with a lot of chicken stock. This watery thing, he says, has 'a flavour wallop'. Well, I guess folks in Singapore prefer a flavour nuclear bomb!

I can see that the Brits may prefer to be walloped rather than bombed but why is there GARLIC JUICE in the chickeny ginger juice? Perhaps because there isn't any garlic chilli sauce although there is chilli sauce, of unspecified nature. I suspect Mr Oliver has no idea how important the garlicky chilli sauce is. If you ask a Singaporean 'How's the chicken rice?', he'll probably say 'Walau, de chilli sauce damn shiok ah!' (which means the chilli sauce is pukka). A chicken rice recipe that doesn't say how the garlic chilli sauce is made would be useless in the motherland of chicken rice.

Singapore's iconic dish wouldn't be complete without thick, dark soya sauce. But the recipe doesn't specify what type of soya sauce it should be, so people who aren't familiar with Hainanese chicken rice may use light soya sauce instead. In fact, the sauce in the photo looks brown, not black, so it is light soya sauce. Fail!

Finally, we come to the soup. There's a lot of it, and it's tasteless because there's way too much water used to cook the chicken. 2 litres would have been ample, not 4 litres. You notice there's a lot of water/stock in everything, from the broth to the rice and ginger sauce? Fortunately, the soup doesn't make or break the chicken rice. It's as incidental as the slices of cucumber that sit beside the chicken, and that's why it's odd to put chicken rice in an article about broths. Hmm, I think Jamie Oliver seriously needs a better ghostwriter.

I have only two words for the soggy gingery porridge and dry gingery chicken served with watery ginger juice, light soya sauce and god-knows-what chilli sauce: NOT PUKKA! It's good for a laugh though. I think the watered and dumbed down ginger juice is especially funny!


Anonymous said...

that's precisely why i NEVER buy any recipes on asian foods authored by some angmoh writers no matter how famous or celebrated they might be.Just imagine recipe for Apam Balik from Donna Hay or Robuchon teaching you how to make Babi Pongteh... unthinkable if you ask me.

btw, loved your post on Babi Pongteh and your take on Shermay Lee's cookbooks. Wicked!!!

Shu Han said...

you get a lot of bastardised asian recipes by chefs here. i love jamie oliver, but i don't trust him for authentic asian food. good hearty british/italian fare he's actually pretty good though!

Fresh Fry aka 福星 said...

so glad to see the tigress back! *ROARRRRR*

KT said...

Hi TF, SH & FF

I'm sure JO knows how to poach chicken without destroying it, and also how to cook rice. He just needs to hire a better ghost writer.


Maybe you should think about staying in the UK to teach Chinese cooking after you graduate? Ken Hom is sort of retired, and that Ching-something-other isn't very successful (is she?). Gok Wan is gonna try; can't wait to see how good he is.

When you're rich and famous, please remember I gave you the idea.

Shu Han said...

thanks for the compliment but I'm FAR from being qualified to teach Chinese cooking.

Ken Hom is cute haha. Hmm, I'm not sure about Ching (He Huang), her recipes sound like they came from an angmoh chef. Go watch some youtube videos of her cookign and you'll know what I mean!

haha let's place our hopes on Gok then.

Kay @ Chopstix2Steaknives said...

This is hilarious and I really hope people do realise as watery ginger chicken is not tasty!

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