During our chat, we learned about the 31-year-old’s Hainanese chicken rice preferences. He only eats the poached (not roast) variety — his favourite parts are the thigh and breast — and offal like liver or gizzard are no-nos. And while a succulent chicken is the key component of the dish, the garlicky chilli and aromatic, fluffy rice are the “main draws” for him. “I think plain rice is a bit boring, so I love the flavourful rice [that is cooked with chicken stock]. My favourite part of chicken rice is mixing the chilli with the rice and eating it together. It would be great if I could have chicken rice every day, but it’s so fattening,” he laments.
When he wants a quick fix in Singapore, he goes to Boon Tong Kee, where he can not only indulge in chicken rice, but also local dishes like sambal cuttlefish with kang kong and steamed egg. But don’t expect his “simplified” version to taste like those from restaurants.
“It's too difficult to replicate the [restaurant-style] taste [but] the texture of my chicken is quite smooth. The flavour of the rice is also not as strong, but you can definitely smell the fragrance of the chicken and the garlic, so I am pretty happy with it,” he shares, before admitting that his chilli sauce needs some improvement. “Perhaps I'll put some lime juice in the chilli next time.” The trick to getting juicy and tender chicken is to massage and marinate the chook with salt, says Lawrence. And when it’s cooked, immediately run it under cold water so it doesn’t overcook. This also gives the skin a firm texture.
Putting it to the test… here’s our verdict
Inspired, we decided to give Lawrence’s recipe a try, following it to a T. To be honest, his recipe was a lot more involved than what we’re typically used to, but still definitely simpler compared to many of the other chicken rice recipes we found online. His instructions for cooking the bird, for example, require far fewer steps than in most other recipes. So to our surprise — the results exceeded our expectations. Our family was surprised by how tender the chicken turned out — even the breast meat was juicy. The chilli sauce, on the other hand, had nothing going for it; it was all heat and no nuance. Also, the rice was not as aromatic and flavourful as we’d have liked (perhaps because it didn’t require pre-frying in chicken fat or adding pandan leaves). Still, the tender, tasty chook definitely satisfied most of our craving. And Lawrence did say that his was a simplified version of a traditional Hainanese chicken rice recipe.