August is always a festive month. It is our nation’s independence day. It also coincides with the 8th month of Chinese calendar. Many weddings and business openings because it is considered an auspicious month. Since the Ramadhan fasting month is also in August this year, work has been quite slow and I am taking it easy by staying home most mornings. Mother has made us promised not to eat meat for the whole August, mainly for being grateful that we have passed the tough four months in our family business. Before the vegetarian month started, I managed to squeeze this dish right on the last day.
We love a good steamed chicken rice at home. A lot of work goes into the cooking, but what’s new? When you are cooking for people you love, I don’t think anybody would mind a bit of extra work. There are many version of soy sauce-based steamed chicken rice around and this is just one of them. Famously known as ‘Nasi Tim Ayam‘, it is sold at traditional Chinese eateries. The halal version is to omit the pork.
The rice is steamed and cooked with other ingredients in an individual serving size bowl. Serve with lots of fresh coriander leaves and pickled cucumber. I can have two bowls of these. The rice is so flavorful and gooey and rich. Three steps are involved in the preparation. Getting the rice ready, cooking the meat and steaming the rice and meat using chicken broth.
Soak rice for an hour or so to hydrate the grains.
Strain the water off and let the grains air out a little bit.
Hard boil some eggs and let cool. Peel shell off and set aside.
We used one whole chicken and some lean pork. Debone the chicken for broth.
Boil some water and add chicken bones into the pot. Cook for an hour or longer.
At the end of the boiling, the broth is ready and let cool slightly. This is going to be used to cook the rice.
Cut meat and chicken into cubes.
Combine all ingredients for marinade.
Let sit in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Chop garlic finely. Half is to be used for stir-frying the meat and half for the rice.
Heat half of cooking oil and add sugar into the wok.
Quickly stir-fry until the sugar melt and changes color to speckles of brown. I love observing the transformation of sugar crystal to this stage. It is like magic. It takes about 2 minutes, over medium heat.
Add half of chopped garlic into the caramelizing sugar. Cook quickly to avoid burning.
Cook until the garlic starts to brown, about 20 seconds.
Toss in chicken and pork. Continue cooking until the meat is half cooked, about 3 minutes.
Add hard-boiled egg into the wok.
Add water to help slow simmering.
Cover the wok with lid and let simmer for 15 minutes or longer.
Take off one cup of liquid from the meat stir-fry.
Heat cooking oil in the wok and stir-fry the rest of garlic till fragrant over high heat.
Add soy sauce broth from meat into the wok.
When it boils, add soaked rice and mix well.
Season rice with salt.
And dark soy sauce.
Stir-fry quickly by turning the rice bottom up to ensure all ingredients are distributed well. Cook till the rice grains fluff up and nicely aerated. It should feels lighter when you scoop up the rice. The whole thing takes about 5 minutes from the moment you add the rice into the wok.
When the rice, broth and meat are ready, it is time to assemble the whole thing. Prepare heat-proofed bowls or ramekins. Place halved egg in the middle, with cut-side facing down.
Arrange stir-fried meat on the bowl, about 2 tablespoons. Pour a spoonful of sauce into the bowl as well.
Be generous. The filling should cover 1/4 of the bowl.
Top egg and meat with rice, till about 3/4 of bowl.
Do this with the rest of the prepared bowls. The recipe should make about 10 servings.
Pour 1/2 cup of chicken broth into all bowls. The broth should hover above the rice, about 0.5 cm. Too much will result in soggy rice. If it is too little, the rice would be uncooked.
Arrange the bowls in a steamer. The water is boiled in advance. Our steamer is gigantic. It holds all 10 bowls, with a couple staked on top.
Steam for an hour. Test the doneness by pinching a couple of grains. If it is still hard in the middle, continue steaming for 10 more minutes.
To serve, flip the bowl into a plate. Lightly wiggle the rice off the bowl.
Perfect steamed chicken rice with soy. Serve warm with pickled cucumber and coriander leaves.
Click here for how to prepare pickled cucumber.
Steamed Chicken Rice, Nasi Tim Ayam
For chicken broth
2 litres water
200 g chicken bones (from whole chicken used)
For meat marinade
1 (600 g) whole chicken, about 400 g chicken meat, cut into cubes
150 g pork, lean and cut into cubes
1 tsp salt
1/2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
1/2 tbsp Shao Xiang wine
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp corn flour
For stir-frying meat
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 tbsp sugar
30 g garlic, minced (half a bulb)
1 cup water
For stir-frying rice
1/4 cup cooking oil
1 (70 g) bulb garlic
750 g rice, soaked for 1 hour
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp salt
5 eggs, hard-boiled
Marinade chicken and pork with marinade ingredients and leave in fridge for 30 minutes.
Boil water and chicken bones for 1 hour to prepare chicken broth.
For stir-frying meat, heat cooking oil in a wok and add sugar.
Cook sugar over high heat by constantly stirring till sugar caramelizes, about 2 minutes.
Add garlic and continue stir-frying for a bit longer.
Add marinaded chicken and pork. Cook for about 3 minutes.
Combine egg and water into the wok. Mix well and lower heat.
Cover the lid and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove a cup of liquid for stir-frying rice.
To prepare the rice, heat cooking oil in a wok and stir-fry the rest of chopped garlic over high heat.
Add soy sauce broth from meat into the wok. Cook till the sauce boils slightly.
Add rice into the wok and season the rice with salt and dark soy sauce. Mix everything well and let cook by stirring continuously for about 5 minutes.
The rice is done when the grains are fully aerated and soaked in all the juices and seasoning. It will feel lighter.
To ensemble, prepare heat-proofed bowl. Arrange halved egg and meat on the bottom of bowl.
Top with rice up to 3/4 of bowl. Pour chicken broth on top of everything.
Steam bowls of rice in a boiling steamer for an hour.
Remove from heat and flip bowl content into a flat plate.
Serve with coriander and pickled cucumber.