Wednesday 10 October 2018

I tried the controversial angmoh 'Hainanese chicken rice' recipe... and it surprisingly works

So last week, The Guardian newspaper in UK published an advertorial sponsored by UK supermarket chain Waitrose & Partners featuring an interview with English actress-turned-celebrity chef Lisa Faulkner and a recipe for "Beautifully Simple Hainanese chicken rice".

Singaporeans who saw the recipe were triggered because it doesn't resemble the Hainanese chicken rice we all know and love.

“Blasphemy” someone called it. It’s not the kuey png that S-Hook Lady would hook on her top.

“Fuck off, Lisa” someone else commented.

It didn't help that Faulkner’s boyfriend is John Torode, the MasterChef UK judge of "crispy rendang" infamy.

Being Hainanese, I feel I have a stake in this, but instead of piling on, I decided to at least try the recipe before trashing it.

So I first gathered the ingredients, which are all stuff you can get from Waitrose:
  • 125g pack trimmed salad onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal keeping the green ends separate
  • ½ Cooks’ Ingredients Red Chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • Finely grated zest and juice of 1 unwaxed lime,
  • 2 tbsp essential Pure Clear Honey
  • 1 pack 2 chicken breast fillets fed on an omega 3 enriched diet
  • 150g hom mali jasmine rice, rinsed
  • 40g Cooks’ Ingredients Hainanese Paste

But I'm in Singapore. So I went to NTUC FairPrice instead and got the closest equivalent.

I think I might have overbought.

The Woh Hup Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice Paste I got is made up mostly of garlic, ginger and shallot.

I'm not much of a cook, but I tried to follow the instructions as closely as I could within my non-ability:
Combine 1 tbsp of the green salad onions in a small bowl with the chilli, lime zest, juice and honey, then set aside.

Place about one third of the remaining salad onions in a medium saucepan, thinly slice the chicken breasts and add to the pan. Pour over 350ml water and season with a little salt. Bring to a simmer, cover and cook for 6-8 minutes until the chicken is thoroughly cooked and there is no pink meat.

Remove the chicken from the pan, keep warm and set aside. Stir the rice into the pan of chicken cooking liquid. Cook gently, covered, for about 10 minutes until the rice is tender and the stock absorbed. Add a dash of water if the rice is still firm and cook a little longer.

This was where I got into some trouble.

The recipe said to "add a dash of water if the rice is still firm". I tried the rice and it felt a little grainy so I added more water. Too much it seems as the rice turned mushy.

Sorry. I had never cooked rice in a pan before.

But committed, I followed the recipe to the not-so-bitter end:
Stir the remaining onions and rice paste into the rice and heat gently, stirring for a couple of minutes to heat through. Pile on to serving plates and top with the chicken fillets. Serve drizzled with the reserved chilli and lime sauce.
And here it is:

This is what it's meant to look like:

Sure, it doesn't look anything like traditional Hainanese chicken rice, but it actually tastes like a pretty close approximation despite me ruining it with my mushy rice.

I suspect the Woh Hup Singapore Hainanese Chicken Rice Paste did most of the heavy lifting.

At least the end result tastes more like Hainanese chicken rice than the terrible Hainanese chicken burger from Burger King.

I even managed to finish the whole plate of rice by myself even though the recipe says it's supposed to serve two.

Granted, my standards are low.

And maybe they shouldn't call it "Hainanese chicken rice" when it's Angmoh chicken rice. (I’m feeling generous enough to consider it an homage rather than cultural appropriation.)

But I'm giving the "Beautifully Simple Hainanese chicken rice" my Hainanese stamp of approval.

I mean, if a non-cook like me can produce something edible from the recipe, imagine what a real cook can do.

So maybe we shouldn’t too hard on John Torode’s girlfriend.

UPDATE: The Straits Times also did what I did (minus the mushy rice) and pretty much came to the same conclusion.