Hainanese Chicken

Hainanese Chicken is one of the dishes that I love to make but for the last couple of years, I’ve had some hits and misses that I didn’t document before. But after tons of practice and patience, I finally came up with my best fool-proof version of this dish. This dish is usually great for groups, especially on special occasions!  I am yet to perfect the chicken rice version that can be served to individuals.

The key to making really good succulent Hainanese Chicken is to cook the chicken whole. I’ve tried different ways of cooking just chicken legs and thighs or cut chicken parts in general, but I find that cooking the chicken whole makes it easier for the chicken to retain moisture thus making the chicken juicier and more delicious! I also find that it’s easier to control the saltiness of the chicken this way, without making too bland.

Another important step that I don’t skip for this one is to rub a lot of coarse salt on the chicken. Usually I use sea salt or Kosher salt and doing this three times (washing the salt off the first and the second times). Rubbing the salt on the chicken exfoliates the skin and it makes it really smooth, allowing the chicken skin to be beautiful and even glistening at the end of the cooking process.

I also like to make a couple of condiments to go with the chicken—a spicy sauce, some really good ginger sauce, and a soy based sauce (although some use hoisin sauce, which adds a bit of sweetness). And for more cases, you can reserve some of the stock used to cook the chicken in and make a soup on the side, or cook some rice with it. Unfortunately, my mother isn’t a fan of any flavored rice so this is something that I only do for friends or guests. So for this post, I won’t be sharing how to make the Hainanese flavored rice.

Instead, I made a couple of side dishes like steamed Bok Choy and some steamed tofu.

The version that I’ve done is a mix of techniques that I’ve researched online, and also things that I have tested on my own and worked the best. Hope you try this out and let me know what you think!

Hainanese Chicken

Prep time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 30-45 minutes

Serves 5-6


For the Chicken:

  • 1 whole chicken (about 1 kilogram)
  • 1-2 stalks of leeks (cleaned, and with roots removed)
  • 6-8 thumb-sized slices of ginger
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic (each individual clove detached and peeled)
  •  1 ½ cups of coarse salt (Kosher or Sea Salt)
  • 1 teaspoon of whole peppercorns
  • Sesame oil

For the Ginger Sauce:

  • ¼ cup of grater ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of minced scallions
  • 2 teaspoons of sesame oil
  • 2 tablespoons of chicken stock
  • Fish sauce or salt to taste

For the Chili Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons of chicken stock (from cooking the hainanese chicken in)
  • 3-4 bird’s eye chili (or any red chili that has the same amount of heat), chopped. You can choose to de-seed it so that the sauce won’t be too spicy
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of Sriracha sauce (if available)
  • If Sriracha sauce isn’t available, add 1 tablespoon of vinegar and a pinch of salt

For the Dark Soy Sauce:

  • 1/8 cup of regular soy sauce
  • 1/8 cup of dark soy sauce (this is a bit thicker in consistency usually)
  • 1/3 cup of water
  • 2 tablespoons of sugar or your chosen sugar subtstitute
  • 1 tablespoon of minced scallions


For the Chicken:

  1. Clean the chicken with water and trim off any unwanted parts without breaking the chicken open.
  2. Get about 2-3 tablespoons of salt and rub this all around the chicken, including the chicken cavities. Then wash all the salt off the chicken. Do this 1 more time.
  3.  Pat the chicken skin dry with a paper towel and rub the chicken skin and cavities again with salt one last time but do not wash it off this time.
  4. Stuff the chicken with 1 full stalk of leeks, then about 4 slices of ginger and about 4 or 5 cloves of garlic. You can choose to tie the legs of the chicken together, or just tuck the chicken skin in so that it’s tight.
  5. Fill an entire pot with water, enough to cover the entire chicken, and bring it to a boil.
  6. Put the chicken in, removing all the scum in the process.
  7. Once all the scum is removed, add the rest of the ginger slices, garlic cloves, and leeks. Add the pepper. Cover and let it simmer in medium heat for about 30-45 minutes, depending on how big the chicken is.
  8. Once the chicken is cook, remove the entire chicken from the pot and place it in an ice bath to cool.
  9. You can use the stock to make soup and the rest of the sauces.
  10. Once the chicken is thoroughly cooled, chop the chicken into pieces and drizzle some sesame oil onto it generously.
  11. Serve with side sauces, some soup and rice.

For the Ginger Sauce:

  1. Heat some vegetable oil saute the garlic and ginger together.
  2. Saute this together until the ginger is soft and a bit less spicy.
  3. Add the chicken stock and season with salt or fish sauce, according to taste.
  4. Add the scallions and saute for another minute.
  5. Remove from heat and drizzle some sesame oil on top.

For the Chili Sauce:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and adjust the seasoning according to taste.
  2. Remember that this sauce is not meant to be very savory/salty.

For the Dark Soy Sauce:

  1. Mix all the ingredients together and adjust the seasoning according to taste.
  2. Add the scallions.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. wheretomabe says:

    I miss having this in Singapore. I’ll add this to my list to try to make.


    1. Please do! Let me know how it turns out

      Liked by 1 person

      1. wheretomabe says:

        Will do! 😁


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