Singapore-style Poached Chicken and Chicken Rice

This recipe is inspired by the delicious chicken rice we had at Loy Kee Restaurant in Singapore recently. It seemed to me that it couldn’t be that difficult to replicate the tender and delicious poached chicken at home so I did a bit of reading and compared a number of recipes to come up with this easy to make version. Whist there are few different components involved if you want to have an authentic chicken rice meal with sauces and bok choy, none of it is difficult or complicated.

I also found that the leftover chicken was delicious for a shredded spicy chicken salad like the one we made at Spirit House Cooking School when we visited Yandina, Queensland about  a year ago. You can find my version here Simple shredded chicken salad

In fact, I would now use this method to make delicious poached chicken just on it’s own to use in chicken salads and/or sandwiches. You could vary the poaching ingredients, if you didn’t want the Asian ginger, garlic and spring onion flavour, but I love it.  Try it and I’m sure you’ll agree.

I have listed the recipes for each component separately below so you can see how easy just the poached chicken is to make.

For Chicken Rice and all accompaniments
Prep time: 25 minutes  Cooking time: 1.5-2 hours 

Poached Chicken
Prep time: 10 minutes Cooking time: 1 hour
1 whole organic chicken (about 1.5kg), at room temperature
7 whole cloves garlic
4 thick slices ginger
4 spring onions, green leafy tops reserved for stock
2.5 litres water or chicken stock

Chicken Dressing:
Asian: 1 tbspn sesame oil and 2 tbspns soy sauce
Or Western: 1 tbspn olive oil mixed with 2 tbspn chicken stock

Remove any fat from the cavity of the chicken and it’s extremities. Reserve the fat.
Pound 2 cloves of garlic with white part of spring onions and 1/2 tspn salt to form a paste.
Wipe the inside of the chicken dry with kitchen paper, then rub garlic and spring onion paste well all over the inside of the chicken
Put the chicken in a large stock pot, add rest of garlic, ginger, half reserved spring onion tops
Cover with water or stock and bring to slow rolling boil for 5 minutes, then reduce heat so water is steaming well, but not bubbling.
Keep the heat at this level for 20 minutes without covering the pot. During this stage lift the chicken carefully once or twice just out of the poaching liquid, and then back in, to allow the water inside the chicken to drain out and be replaced with warmer liquid to ensure the chicken cooks from inside out as well.

Chicken poaching in stock for delicious Hainanese style chicken rice
Chicken poaching in stock for delicious Hainanese style chicken rice

Then turn off the heat, cover the pot and allow the chicken to steep in the stock for 30 minutes, then lift out the chicken, reserving the rest of the stock.
Brush the chicken skin with your preferred dressing (see above) and wrap with plastic wrap until required for serving. The chicken should be cooked very lightly, and be beautifully pale and with a transparent looking skin. Best served warm rather than hot.

Poached chicken sliced chinese style
Poached chicken sliced chinese style

Chicken Fat Oil:
Rider: This is definitely an option and I was initially very suspicious of this step but I can now see after making it and using it in the chicken rice the value it adds. If you think this is too much like heart attack material then just use 1 tbspn of vegetable oil to the rice when you are cooking it.

Put the reserved chicken fat in a small saucepan. (You don’t need much.)Cook over very low heat for about 1 hour while the chicken is poaching until the liquid fat renders away. Strain the fat pieces from the “oil” or liquid fat keeping the oil for the rice.

Rendering chicken fat to make chicken “oil”

Chicken Rice
Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 20 minutes
1 tbsp chicken fat oil or vegetable oil
1.5 cups jasmine rice
2 cloves garlic and equal amount ginger chopped
1.25 litres of hot chicken stock
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tbsp light soy sauce
Heat 1 tbsp of the chicken fat in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped garlic and remaining 2 slices of ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. Add the rice and toss until well coated and turning translucent.  Add 1.25 litres of the reserved chicken stock, the salt and soy sauce. Cook in a rice cooker or simmer until rice is cooked and liquid is absorbed. You might need to add extra chicken stock if using latter method.

Garnish for chicken: coriander sprigs, thinly sliced cucumber and spring onions sliced diagonally

Chilli Sauce
6 red birds-eye chillies
2 tbsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp caster sugar
1/4 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tbspn hot chicken stock
To make the chilli sauce, combine chillies, ginger, garlic, sugar and salt in a mortar and pound to a paste. Add the lemon juice and 1-2 tablespoons of hot chicken stock and pound again.

Spring onion and ginger sauce
4 spring onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp grated ginger
1/2 tsp sea salt flakes
1 tspn sesame oil
1 tbspn hot chicken stock
Add the spring onion, ginger and salt to a heatproof mortar and pound until a paste forms. Add sesame oil and chicken stock and mix well.

Bok choy – chop 1 small bunch bok choy, steam bok choy or microwave on high for 3-4 minutes. Serve with light soy sauce drizzled over the top.

Sweet soy sauce – kecap manis or sweet sauce as an accompaniment is traditional to Singapore and Malaysia and Singapore delicious with the chicken rice.

Chicken Broth – strain remaining chicken stock through a fine sieve and reheat. Add spring onions and splash of soy sauce to enhance flavour.

Slice the chicken and garnish. Serve with the rice, condiments, broth and garnishes. Serves 4 or 2 with great leftovers.

Durban-style mince and pea Samosas with spring roll pastry

These crispy mince and pea pastry triangles are very different to the more commonly found “Indian” version which has a thick crusty pastry. I am not sure what the origin of this style of pastry is other than this is how they are made by the Indian community in Durban, South Africa and this is how I grew up eating them.

Back then in South Africa with larger households often with dedicated cooks,hours were spent making the crispy pastry from scratch and creating these delicious appetisers for special events or just afternoon tea. When we moved to Australia my mum, Tilly, found the ideal replacement pastry to be spring roll pastry initially found in Chinese and Asian specialty shops but now readily available in mainstream supermarkets.

Fillings can vary between fish, potato and peas, chicken mince curry…but my favouite remains the lamb mince and peas.

All my friends loved coming over to Tilly’s for her freshly made samosas and she has actually been called upon for lessons by some samosa addicts! Here’s the recipe with some hopefully helpful photos to help with the fiddliest part which is folding the triangles.

Prep Time: 1.5-2hours Cooking time: 15 minutes

400g lean lamb or beef mince
1 cup frozen peas
1 onion very finely diced
1.5 tsp ginger and garlic pounded into paste
1 tspn turmeric
1 tspn garam masala
1/2 tspn cummin powder
3/4 tspn chilli powder
1/2 tomato finely diced
Handful of coriander very finely chopped
1 piece cinnamon bark
1 tspn cummin seeds
Handful of fresh curry leaves
1.5 tbspn vegetable oil
1/2 cup water

1 pack spring roll pastry in square sheets
Pastry “glue: 2 tspns flour mixed with 3tspns water to make a thick flour glue in a seperate bowl.

Heat oil in a large saucepan, add cinnamon bark, cummin seeds and curry leaves and fry briefly until fragrant and curry leaves have spotte “spitting”
Add onions and fry until translucent
Add ginger and garlic, turmeric, garam masala, cummin powder, chilli powder and mix through onions and warm through
Add mince to brown and mix thoroughly with onions and spices, breaking up all lumps of mince using the back of a fork.
When mince is totally separated and browned, add tomato, salt and coriander.

Break up all lumps with the back of a fork as you mix through onion spice mixture, over medium heat.
Break up all lumps with the back of a fork as you mix through onion spice mixture, over medium heat.

Add water and Simmer over medium heat, stirring regularly for 35 minutes until mince is cooked and has absorbed the flavour of the spices…you are aiming quite a dry mixture with no “sauce” so limit the amount of water you add.

Add tomato, coriander and water to mince mixture and simmer for 35 minutes.
Add tomato, coriander and water to mince mixture and simmer for 35 minutes.

Add frozen peas and allow to defrost and par-cook for 3-4 minutes
Remove from heat and allow to cool totally,for at least an hour before using
At the same time remove spring roll pastry from freezer and bring to room temperature leaving sealed in packet

Allow lamb and pea filling to totally cool
Allow lamb and pea filling to totally cool

Making the pastry triangles

Make your pastry glue, remove the pastry from the packaging and place between slightly damp tea towels to the side of your board or preparation space
Take one sheet of pastry and cut into 3 equal strips

Cut spring roll pastry sheets into 3 equal strips
Cut spring roll pastry sheets into 3 equal strips

Place a teaspoon full of mixture within 4-5cm from the top edge, turn the top edge of the pastry turning the right corner over to the left edge, over the filling to create a triangular pocket where the newly created right corner is completely “closed so the filling can’t fall out.

Turn the right hand edge to the left edge, over the top of 1 tspn of filling, enclosing filling, pushing it all in if needed and creating a triangular pocket. Make sure your right corner here is enclosed hole for filling to escape from!
Turn the right hand edge to the left edge, over the top of 1 tspn of filling, enclosing filling, pushing it all in if needed and creating a triangular pocket. Make sure your right corner here is enclosed …no hole for filling to escape from!

This is the most important step to get right because you will then easily be able to turn the triangle over and over until you get to the end and can seal up the pastry with your glue.

Different stages of
Different stages of “turning” the pastry with filling to get to end of the strip, use glue along the way as required.

If you do find gaps or pastry overlaps along the way, use your glue to seal up the edges to craete a fully enclosed triangle. Spring roll pastry is quite “hardy” so don’t be afraid of it and as they say practice makes perfect so if might take a few attempts before you get the hang of it. Makes 24-36 small samosas.

Ready for fridge or freezer, fry before serving
Ready for fridge or freezer, fry before serving

You can freeze the samosas or Refrigerate for an hour or so to allow glue to seal before shallow frying in vegetable oil over medium heat until golden brown on each side. If frying directly from frozen, then you will want to lowe the heat slightly to allow the filling to defrost and heat through. One golden brown, place on kitchen paper towel to absorb oil. They really need to be served hot and crispy for best enjoyment. Delicious dipped in plain yoghurt or spicy chilli sauce for extra bite!

Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry
Durban-style mince and pea samosas with spring roll pastry

Taco Tuesday: Baja Fish Tacos

I’ve been using cornmeal to coat fish for shallow, light frying and/grilling more recently and find it gives the fish a nice crispy coating that is lighter than breadcrumbs. This fish taco recipe from (thank you) uses the same technique and makes for a quick, tasty and easy weekday dinner. We use flathead fillets, skip the cheese and ranch sauce, but add Old El Paso jalapeños.

The spirit of sharing: foodie adventures from far and wide

I started my blog in the spirit of sharing my foodie adventures with likeminded people. Free Spirit Food is inspired by my travels and (mainly) foodie adventures including reviews of cooking classes, markets and restaurants. Having spent my early childhood in South Africa I grew up surrounded by the smells and taste sensations of my extended family’s delicious Indian cooking. I also took for granted our weekly Sunday roast dinners or sampling traditional African food. Then when we moved to Australia my horizons expanded to Italian and of course Thai, Chinese and Vietnamese delights. My travels have also fanned the flames of my interest in cooking and exploring the tantalising flavours of the world. I hope my recipes, reviews, tips and tales will inspire you to try some new foodie adventures at home and afar. Shanthini

Icing on the cake - Easter in Sydney
Icing on the cake – Easter in Sydney


Herb and Mustard pork neck with roast beetroot

I always remember Aunty Mary’s delicious, tender pork neck roasts when she would have us over for weekend lunches when she was still entertaining at home.This version is a bit more herby and peppery and the vegetables probably have a more Contemporary feel to her traditional English accompaniments but the moist tender pork neck is a tribute to those hearty lunches we used to enjoy at her place. The beetroot cooked alongside the pork is a delicious sweet, crunchy alternative to apples. One of these days I’m going to return the favour and cook this for Aunty Mary!

Prep time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 1.5 hours
750g-1kg boneless pork neck
2 tspns Dijon mustard
Handful Rosemary leaves stripped off stalks
1 tspn dried oregano
3 cloves garlic
1 tspn Maldonado sea salt
2 tspns cracked black pepper
1 tbspn olive oil

1-2 fresh beetroots cut into wedges
1 small fennel bulb cut into wedges
2 carrots cut into medium size pieces
400g Pumpkin cut into pieces
2 parsnips cut into medium size pieces
Broccoli cut into florets
Olive oil spray

Pre heat oven to 180 Celsius
Crush garlic with rosemary leaves (stripped off stalk) and oregano in mortar and pestle until paste forms
Add mustard, olive oil salt and black pepper and mix well
Rub marinade all over pork
Place in roasting pan lined with baking paper
Roast for approximately 40 minutes
Remove from oven and add beetroot around pork and coat in pork juices/fat

Place all other vegetables except broccoli in a roasting pan lined with baking paper and lightly spray with olive oil spray

Return pork with beetroots and the tray of vegetables back in oven, pork on upper level and roast for a further 25-30 minutes
Use meat thermometer to check pork – either return to oven until cooked or rest covered in foil for 10-15 minutes – pork needs to be well done but juicy and tender
Add broccoli to pan of vegetables and toss gently to coat in juices and oil anad roast until broccoli starts to crisp and brown at edges

Slice pork and serve with roasted beetroot and pan juices and other vegetables on the side.

Leftovers great the next day too!

Serves 4