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hainanchicken

Perfecting Sous Vide Hainan Chicken Rice

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Since purchasing Modernist Cuisine at Home, I've been trying really hard to apply sous vide and other techniques to making a good Hainan Chicken Rice (aka Khao Mun Gai) recipe for weeks, but I haven't gotten the success I was expecting. I'm wondering if you all would have any tips.

 
Traditionally, the chicken is gently poached in a water bath with a few aromatics, like ginger, garlic, pandan leaf. After the chicken is cooked, the water (now broth) is used to make chicken-flavored rice, along with some rendered chicken fat.
 
I've been trying many techniques to get the chicken to have enough chicken flavor, but I haven't yet gotten it right.
 
Here's some of what I've tried:

 

Seal a whole chicken with water and aromatics in a bag and sous vide at 165F for 90 minutes. The texture wasn't great for the chicken breast but the flavor was not bad. Not super strong, but passable. The broth wasn't too strong either.

 

I wanted to get more chicken flavor, so I tried doing the same thing in a chicken broth instead. Not really any flavor change.

 

Then, I wanted to cook just the breast to get the texture better. I sous vide just the breast in a bag with water at 149F for 1 hour. Chicken was tender, but it had almost no chicken flavor.

 

Since there was no flavor, I tried rubbing salt on the breast (no water) for long enough for equilibrium brining, as you say it helps retain moisture (and ostensibly "chicken flavor"). I then sous vide at 149F for 1 hour. I purposely didn't put any water in the bag because I didn't want the chicken breast to draw in pure tap water and dilute the chicken taste. Is this science right? Anyways, the chicken had no flavor again.

 

What gives? I assumed that brining the chicken in broth with salt would bring in chicken flavors from the stock, but it doesn't seem like that did anything. At the same time, I'm worried that brining the chicken breast and then putting it in tap water would just draw in all the water and dilute the chicken taste. How can I increase the chicken taste?
 
Any tips?

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1,5% Salt, 1,0% MSG (and if required up to 1,0% sugar). 140 oF for 3h. Rapid cooling in ice water.

This will give you a very flavourful chicken breast (unless you start with poor chicken in the first place) and a soft, juicy, bordering to undercooked texture.

For usage in HCR you might consider adding mircroplaned blanched ginger.

BTW: it's a urban myth that the blanching liquid is water with ginger and solely is used for the rice. Plenty of scraps and carcasses go into the broth, as well as old & dried out ginger and smashed spring onion stalks.

And they are extracted far longer than the chicken needs to poach...

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When I do chicken rice, I use a master stock that I made years ago using a few silkys, garlic, ginger, etc.  I'll put the chicken breast into a ziplock with a bunch of the master stock and cook at 145F until pasteurized.  Bring the stock to a boil to coagulate the impurities, strain, then some is used to make the rice, while the rest is added back to the master and refrozen.  Every once in a while I need to top up the master, and I'll then defrost the whole thing, add more garlic/ginger etc. and simmer for a while then refreeze.

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@hainanchicken: Soooo ... it seems you moved on to soy sauce chicken. Have you managed to perfect your chicken rice ? Care to share the results ?

 

Thanks !

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I suspect you might be buying flavorless chicken. Do you get better tasting results using traditional methods for Hainan chicken?

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flavorless chicken is very common.

 

right now in my area its $ 1.49 / skinless/boneless    Breast or Thigh  3 lbs min each package.

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I too believe it's the quality of the chicken.  There's a big difference, in my area, between what I can get at the grocery store(Perdue) vs.when I go buy a fresh killed bird at La Pera Poultry.

 

But barring that drive, I can usually get a good Bell & Evans product closer to home, and if I'm desperate, a kosher bird will suffice.

 

 

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Hmm ...

 

I can get very nice Hainanese chicken rice (texture- and flavour wise) here in HK. At very low prices. I very much doubt that these places source high quality chickens to begin with.

I agree that starting with the best possible raw material vastly enhances your chances to end up with a great dish, but I also believe that technique and experience can compensate for that. 

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Duvel, correct me if i'm wrong but i'm guessing the regular quality HK chicken available to restaurants is a freshly killed chicken. Wearas here in the states the generally available chicken is a factory farmed bird -my experience is that they cook differently. Freshly killed chicken have a bit more assertive flavor and a firmer texture to the meat. 

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another way to look at it :  how old do you think  the HK chickens are when sent to the restaurant.

 

and are they over-fed for plump breast meat ?

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8 hours ago, AAQuesada said:

Duvel, correct me if i'm wrong but i'm guessing the regular quality HK chicken available to restaurants is a freshly killed chicken. Wearas here in the states the generally available chicken is a factory farmed bird -my experience is that they cook differently. Freshly killed chicken have a bit more assertive flavor and a firmer texture to the meat. 

Freshly killed, locally raised chickens are principally available and very much appreciated by the local customers.

Whether they are used in an average (or cheap local) restaurant is a different story. Again, it's a matter of price. A "local" chicken on a wet market goes for 25-30 HKD or more per pound (not in HK island, of course). A frozen Sadia chicken from Brazil is available for less than 15 HKD/pound.

A plate of HCR goes for 40 HKD and up, featuring breast of leg. I think economics  render it tricky to use fresh chickens. Let me investigate ...

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8 hours ago, rotuts said:

another way to look at it :  how old do you think  the HK chickens are when sent to the restaurant.

 

and are they over-fed for plump breast meat ?

For the meat I wouldn't be sure, but the stock is probably very "grandmother chicken" rich ...

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@Duvel I kind of gave up for a while because I had so many failures. But I'm fairly confident now that the main problem was that I was cooking to too high of a temperature. Anything higher than 140F for the breast seems to result in the wrong texture. I haven't studied the dark meat too closely yet.

 

Here in SF I have been buying poultry from a variety of sources. There is obviously some difference in supermarket frozen vs fresh, but it seems that the temperature has a bigger effect. In particular, I'm looking at the difference between 黄毛鸡 and supermarket frozen chicken.

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