Hainan chicken rice
Try this simple chicken and rice dish known as com ga Hai Nam for a family meal, or even a dinner party. Cook the rice in some of the chicken broth and add vegetables to the rest to make a soup.
For a simple dish, com ga, or chicken rice, is a beloved dish in our family. Although it originated from a small island of Hainan or Hai Nam in the South China Sea between Vietnam and China, it’s popularity can be seen on menus throughout Asia. There are numerous variations (uses of aromatics, spices, dipping sauces) and claims for the best or most “authentic” chicken rice, but frankly, we think this is the one time where the ingredients make the dish.Skip to next paragraph
A couple that cooks together stays together, says Hong and Kim Pham. They love to cook and believe good food not only brings people together, but also strengthens bonds and forges wonderful memories. Hong and Kim specialize in Asian, specifically Vietnamese cuisine, and love to share not only our food but also their culture.
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Since the chicken is the star, you absolutely have to have use the best chicken you can afford. At a minimum, your chicken should be free range. Organic free range would be even better, but that can be tough to find. If you have access to Vietnamese supermarkets, look for gà đi bộ, or Buddhist chickens, with the head and feet still attached. These chicken have less fat and water content then your typical Tyson or Foster Farms chicken and yields much more flavorful, tender, yet deliciously chewy meat. Even the fat on these chickens is prettier shade of yellow and full of flavor and never gets thrown out.
If the chicken is the star, the co-star is the rice. Normally white jasmine rice is used but we prefer brown rice. Whatever rice you use, it’s simply not enough to just cook the rice in chicken broth. You need chicken fat and plenty of aromatics to truly give the rice the depth of flavor it needs.
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After poaching the chicken, we use the fattiest portion of the broth and and combined with sauteed garlic, shallots, ginger, and lemongrass. Cook it any way you like, be it stove-top or rice cooker. Then take it a step further and sprinkle crispy shallots over top prior to serving. Finally, with the leftover broth that you haven’t used for the rice, you can create a soup with whatever seasonal vegetable you have on hand. Some restaurants just serve broth, while in Thailand cubes of winter melon is added. Adding fresh seasonal vegetables is quick and easy.
When it comes to accompaniments and dipping sauces, again there is wide variation. We prefer thinly sliced cucumbers and some sprigs of rau ram (Vietnamese coriander/cilantro). If we don’t have that, we use regular cilantro. Occasionally, when in season, we like finely mince keffir lime leaves. For sauces, we prefer ginger nuoc mam cham (ginger lime dipping sauce) and the Thai style soy sauce, soy beans, and ginger. While the rice is cooking in the broth and aromatics, let the chicken cool down enough to handle. Using poultry shears to break down the chicken makes it a snap!