Com Ga Hai Nam (Hainanese Chicken Rice)
Whenever I have chicken broth leftover from making bún măng gà, literally "bamboo and chicken rice noodle soup", I make chicken rice with it. The dish is called cơm gà Hải Nam; the yellow hue comes from the aromatic chicken broth (in place of water) made from Vietnamese chicken. What is a Vietnamese chicken, you ask? In Vietnam, the gà đi bộ chicken are considered "free-range"; the chickens are "trained" to run and as a result the meat has a totally different texture from the chicken found in American grocery stores. If you want to make a very authentic broth, the choice of chicken is crucial. You can find it at Asian markets; ask for a gà đi bộ, literally a walking chicken.
Traditionally, cơm gà Hải Nam is served with pieces of the boiled gà đi bộ chicken and rau thơm, which translates to fragrant herbs. The herb mixture is usually composed of rau răm (Vietnamese coriander), Vietnamese mint, Thai Basil, ngò (cilantro) and thinly sliced cabbage. Of course, the dish is seasoned with nước mắm (Vietnamese fish sauce), fresh red Thai chiles, pickled shallots and thinly shredded fresh ginger. The overall dish is light and absolutely delicious!
Yields: 8 servings1 quart leftover Vietnamese chicken broth
3 cups jasmine rice (see tips)
1 to 1-½ cups water
½ cup yellow onion, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
1 (1-inch) chunk fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
2-½ tablespoons butter or oil
2 teaspoons mushroom seasoning salt (or regular salt)
1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 drizzle toasted sesame oil (optional)
Wash and rinse the jasmine rice thoroughly in several water baths. Unlike basmati rice, no soaking time is needed. Drain as much water as possible.
Use a heavy-bottomed pot with its matching lid. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil. Once the oil is hot, add the minced garlic and cook until fragrant for 1-2 minutes. Transfer the garlic with the oil into a small bowl. Set aside.
In the same pot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Sauté the onions in the oil over low heat for about 8-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from burning, until the color is evenly golden brown and the onions are tender. Transfer to a platter, leaving the remaining oil in the pot. Set aside.
In the pot, add the rice. Do not stir. The oil should coat all the grains. Add the whole black peppercorns, sliced ginger, chicken broth and 1 cup of water. Cover with the lid. Bring to a boil. Wait for the water to come back to a boil for about 2-3 minutes, place 2 long chopsticks across the pot and place the lid on top (letting a little steam out keeps the rice from boiling over, without letting all the liquid evaporate too quickly) then lower the heat to a bubbly simmer for about 8 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons of butter (or oil), the caramelized onions and mushroom seasoning salt. I also added an additional ¼ cup of water. Seal the pot with an aluminum sheet and cover it. Cook on medium-low for another 10-12 minutes. Steam should escape from the pot. Turn off the heat and wait at least 5 minutes for the rice to set without removing the lid. Check doneness of the rice; the rice should be tender and all the liquid absorbed. If not, add another ¼ to ½ cup of water (I didn't) and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the reserved fragrant garlic and drizzle with the garlic oil.
Gently fluff the rice using chopsticks (or a fork) without breaking the grains of rice. Cover one more time and allow to rest for another 5 minutes. The rice is ready. Drizzle with sesame oil (if used).
Serve warm. You can garnish with sautéed green onions, shredded fresh ginger and cilantro. You can also serve nước mắm on the side.
Mushroom seasoning salt brings a very distinct, earthy flavor to the rice. If you don't have any, you can always substitute with regular salt. You can get mushroom seasoning salt at any gourmet specialty store or in most Korean stores. I find mine at the Marina -10122 Bandley Drive -Cupertino, CA 95014.
I buy the Ba Cô Gái (Three Ladies) brand of jasmine rice. I love the wonderful scent and texture of the rice. You can find it most Asian stores in the Bay Area. Try Dai Thanh Asian market on 420 S 2nd St, in San Jose.
If you don't use US measures, 3 cups of jasmine rice equal 4 lon gạo (Vietnamese standard rice cup measurement).
I usually gather all the black peppercorns and ginger in a large teabag (I buy these at Daiso, the Japanese version of a 99-cent store. They cost $1.50 for 40 tea bags) or a square of cheesecloth and tie it with some twine. When the rice is ready, remove and discard the bag.
To save time, I often have already-caramelized onions on hand in the freezer. So make them in advance and caramelize onions in large batches. Just place about 1 tablespoon of tightly packed fried onions per slot in an ice-cube tray and freeze them. Transfer the ice-cubes 3 by 3 into sealable plastic bags and place back in the freezer. I think it's the best way to keep the same flavor without getting freezer burn. I store them exactly the same as I would extra pesto or papaya (for marinating meat).
The jasmine rice cooking procedure is very different from the one for basmati rice. I've tried cooking jasmine rice with the basmati rice method and I found that the jasmine rice turns out a little too mushy.
My favorite part of this dish is the crisp (not really burnt) rice at the bottom of the pot. I add nước mắm and sautéed green onions. The crisp texture of the delicate rice with the saltiness of the fish sauce is divine. My little munchkin and I love this kind of seasoned rice!Published By: on January 30, 2010.