A Confused Chicken Rice

A Confused Chicken Rice

Chicken rice featured header


I assume people meant my ethnicity, not the city I currently live in, but even that has no easy answer.  Three decades of my life so far are sort of evenly spent in three different locations.  The country I was born in but haven’t lived in for more than 2 decades.  The country I spent all my teens therefore granted me a citizenship of.  Then there’s the city I feel most at home, where it shaped me into an individual and till this day, still defines me.  So which one are they talking about?  Oh, and of course this shithole place where I’m currently residing in for the past 3 years, where I don’t even want my name to go anywhere near the close proximity of.  I think it’s safe to say that I’m a product of the environment of a shrinking globe.

 That I’m suffering from identity crisis.

So I guess it’s only biologically natural that this illness is inherited down to the offspring of such individual.  May I introduce you the very bizarre, very confused Chicken Rice Juuuuunior!  Wait… did I hear “fusion”?  I didn’t say “fusion”.  I said CONFUSED.  Those are two very different words.  Fusion is the clash of two completely different sets of taste coming from two cultural backgrounds.  Chicken Rice Jr. is still, well more or less, Southeast Asian.  Can’t exactly call the baby of a Malaysian and Indonesian “mixed”, can I? …… Can I…?

Anyways, talking about fusion.  I don’t have beef with fusion cuisine.  But in my mind, to perfect the marriage between two entirely different categories of tastes and ingredients, takes the collective wisdom of the entire culture plus decades of mending and tweaking.  The longer they’ve been married the happier they are (mm… only if it works the same for us human).  This is clearly evident in all the previously colonized cities and countries, such as Taiwan or Vietnam to name a few.  I for one, don’t possess such wisdom and life expectancy to pull THAT off.  So I’d rather NOT flatter myself, and keep a little distance from it.

So coming back to Chicken Rice Jr. who’s suffering from identity crisis.  Aaawwww look… it’s got all the herbs from its Singaporean mom, and scallion-ginger oil from its Cantonese dad.  Oh, and the chili sides from its uncle in Bali.  Cooked in a flat iron pan Spanish-style because its maker – that’s me – have just purchased it from Taobao and thought it would be a splendid idea…  OK OK!  I admit that it’s exceedingly weird and possibly deformed.  But it tastes awesome!  Really it does.  And it makes a dramatic presentation at the dinner table which is never a bad thing.

Servings: 4

Chicken Rice:

  • 1 free range chicken
  • 2 cups of Jasmine rice (standard measuring cup.  NOT the cup that comes with rice cooker)
  • 5 pandan leaves
  • 5 lemon grass
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 lemon leaves
  • 70 g of ginger sliced
  • 70 g of ginger grated
  • 70 g of galangal
  • 4 cups of chicken stock
  • white pepper

Scallion-Ginger Oil:

  • 15 stalks of baby spring scallions
  • 30 g of grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 2 tsp of hot oil

Chili and Fried Shallots:

  • 4 small red chili
  • 2 large red chili
  • 2 tbsp of oil
  • 3 tbsp of fried shallot
  • 1 1/2 tsp of fish sauce

In a mortar or with knife, beat the shit out of/chop 3 pandan leaves, 3 lemon grass stalks, 3 garlic cloves,  lemon leaves, ginger and galangal into rough pieces.  Put all of them into a stock pot with the chicken stock and simmer until the stock is reduced down to 3 cups.  Open the chicken up by cutting through its back bone.  Clean out any blood clogs or organs in its cavity.  Remove the 2 flappy pieces of fat that are attached to its thighs and reserve it for the rice.  Flatten the chicken out in a large, shallow pot and pour the reduced stock along with all the herbs on the chicken.  Heat it up on medium-high heat.  Put the lid on and let the chicken steam for 10 min.  The chicken may not be fully cooked but that’s fine.  It will be later on.

Now, the purpose for all this is to maximize whatever flavor this chicken has to offer, and transfer that into the rice.  Normally chickens are boiled in stock which is later used to cook the rice.  But that’s not fair!  Cuz obviously I don’t own a pot of stock embodying the souls-of-a-THOUSAND-chickens like any sneaky chicken rice vendors would, so I can’t afford to let the flavor of the chicken just boil away in water.  But by steaming in a minimum amount of stock, I get to keep every single drops of juice this chicken releases.  Because he’s worth it.

So while the chicken steams, heat up a flat iron pan or any wide-bottomed dutch oven.  Cut the reserved chicken fat into small pieces and render the fat out in the pan.  When the fat shrinks into crispy pieces, add in the rice (WASH THE RICE FIRST).  Toast the rice in the fat on low heat.  Turn off the heat when the rice starts to stick to the pan.

Take the chicken out of the pot and strain out all the herb pieces and reserve EVERY DROP of the cooking liquid.  If the stock and chicken used is of any quality, which of course they are, this liquid should carry a deep, shimmering-golden hue.  I like to de-bone the chicken the best I can, leaving only the neck, wings and feet untouched.  People will appreciate this step when it comes to the eating part.  Now turn the heat back on medium-high.  Skim the fat floating on top of the cooking liquid and add it to the rice, then measure 2 cups of the liquid and add to the rice as well.  Tie the remaining 2 pandan leaves into a knot, add to the pan along with 2 lemon grass stalks, 1 lemon leaf (torn up) and grated ginger.  Then arrange the chicken over the rice.  Cover the entire pan with foil as sealed as possible.

Cook for 15 to 20 min, then turn the heat off and leave it alone for 20 min.  I’ll admit that for me this is the hardest part.  I can never be fully assured if the rice is cooked properly so I periodically open a little pocket from the foil and test it with a tiny tiny spoon….  The rice should have a caramelized layer on the bottom.  That’s good.  I like that.  When the rice is cooking, make the sides.

Dice the scallions and put into a bowl.  Grate some ginger on top, and mix’em well with salt.  Heat up 2 tsp of vegetable oil until it JUST starts smoking and drizzle it over the scallions.  Sizzles, mix and let cool.

Dice the chili in little pieces and fry in oil over medium heat for 3 min.  Take off from the heat and add the fish sauce and fried shallots.  Mix and let cool.

Sprinkle with white pepper and serve everything on top of waxed brown paper, Balinese-style.  If feeling particularly local, eat with hands.


  • Lilian DiMarzio

    May 22, 2012 at 11:55 PM Reply

    Mandy, I read your blog periodically and think you are doing a wonderful job. I enjoy cooking very much myself. Cooking for me is therapeutic and entertaining at the same time so what not to like. I wish I’ve had met you sooner while you guys were living in the states, we could’ve exchanged different cooking ideas and tips, maybe, haha. Anyway, Jason is really a lucky guy to have home cooking everyday for him. Keep up with the good work, and looking forward to your next post.


    • Mandy L.

      May 23, 2012 at 1:00 AM Reply

      Thanks!! Oh believe me I wish I were back in New York, too! Please help me share this blog to fellow cooks. Maybe we can have a gathering next time we were back!

  • Lilian

    May 26, 2012 at 8:21 PM Reply

    Will do:)

  • Laura

    March 5, 2013 at 9:12 PM Reply

    When is your book coming out? Food is such a rich connection between people and place, the one thing you can recreate over and over, no matter where you are, to remind you of anywhere you once were… I am in a current state of identity crisis myself – having lived for ten years in one place, and in a new city for one year.

    • Mandy L.

      March 5, 2013 at 10:00 PM Reply

      Laura, from the bright side, I guess we are lucky that we get to see different faces of the world :)

  • tunie

    September 8, 2014 at 2:53 PM Reply

    You might relate to the TED talk by the great writer, Pico Iyer. He speaks about growing up all around the world and how that’s shaped his identity and also the identity of an entire generation of travelers. It’s great:

    I’m one of those who are reading through your archives…really enjoyable, thanks!

  • J

    December 2, 2017 at 3:38 AM Reply

    On my 3rd day leftovers and it still warms up for work-lunch beautifully and deliciously! Coworkers = jealous.

  • Leon

    June 26, 2020 at 7:25 PM Reply

    I’m a professional chef from SF and Taiwan. This is still an amazing recipe and visually astounding 8 years down the line. Well done.

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