Asian Food Network host and chef Sarah Huang Benjamin shares a cheat recipe that delivers all that’s good in Hainanese chicken rice in a Japanese donburi (rice bowl) format. This comfort dish combines crispy chicken thighs, fragrant pandan rice, and sweet-tangy Hainanese chicken-inspired sauce.
- 2 boneless chicken thighs, skin on
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 3 cloves garlic
- thumb-sized (40g) ginger, peeled
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 ½ rice cooker cups (360ml) Japanese short-grain rice
- 1 stalk lemongrass
- 2 pandan leaves
- 1 bulb spring onion
- 2 ½ cups (600ml) chicken stock
- ¼ teaspoon salt, to taste
- 8 calamansi, juiced
- ⅓ cup dark soy sauce
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 slices ginger
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- ½–2 birds’ eye chilies
Dry brine the chicken: Place chicken thighs on a baking tray. Salt chicken on both sides. Refrigerate uncovered, skin side up, for at least 2 hours up to overnight.
Make the rice: Grate the garlic and ginger to make a paste. Bruise the lemongrass stalk, trim the spring onion, and knot the pandan leaves together.
Heat the sesame oil in a wok or pan over medium heat. Cook the grated paste, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Add the rice and toss to coat. Transfer the rice and aromatics to a rice cooker and and add lemongrass, pandan leaves, spring onions, chicken stock, and salt. Set to cook.
Make the sauce: Combine sauce ingredients in the bowl of a food processor. Blitz until combined but not completely smooth. Add more or less chili, if using, based on how spicy you want the sauce to be.
Cook the chicken: Dab the chicken with a paper towel to remove any moisture. Pour the vegetable oil into a cold frying pan. Place the chicken thighs skin side down and set the heat to medium-low. Cook the chicken slowly, allowing the skin to crisp up evenly and turn golden brown, about 7 minutes. The chicken should be three-quarters cooked at this point, with a very even color on the skin side. Turn chicken over and cook through for another 3 minutes. Remove from pan and let rest for 1–2 minutes before slicing.
Assemble the bowls: Taste the rice and adjust seasoning with salt, if needed. Scoop rice into bowls and top with sliced chicken. Serve sauce on sauce dishes or drizzled over the chicken. You can also serve sliced cucumbers and a soft-boiled egg alongside this dish.