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Hainanese Chicken Rice | Cơm Gà Hải Nam

When the inhabitants of China's Hainan Province migrated to Southeast Asia, they brought with them one of the province’s most notable culinary exports, Hainanese chicken rice. The eponymous dish made a mark on essentially all cuisines in this region. In Vietnamese cuisine, this delectable chicken and rice dish is known as cơm gà hải nam. It’s such a simple dish composed of few ingredients, yet tastes exquisitely delicious.
Servings 4 people
Prep Time 20 mins
Cook Time 1 hr



  • 1.3 kg whole chicken
  • 3 L water
  • 2 pieces ginger peeled, 6 cm long
  • 1 onion, peeled
  • 8-10 black peppercorns
  • 4-5 tsp salt

Nước mắm gừng dipping sauce

  • 1/4 cup lime juice
  • 3 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (+/- according to taste)
  • 2-3 tbsp ginger, finely minced
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 bird's eye chili, finely minced


  • 2 cups uncooked jasmine rice
  • 2 tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 tbsp garlic, finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • Stock from poaching chicken
  • cooking oil


Prepare chicken

  • Clean the chicken inside and out and thoroughly pat it dry with paper towels before seasoning it with salt and pepper. I usually clean my chickens by rinsing them with water, but I recently read that chickens should be cleaned by rubbing them with lemon juice or vinegar. Since the FDA advises against the method I use, I’ll have to test the citric method the next time I cook chicken. Once the chicken has been cleaned and seasoned, you can cook it immediately or allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight.
    Seasoning chicken for poaching | Hainanese Chicken Rice | Vietnamese Gà Hai Nam Recipe
  • Cut each of the pieces of ginger in half, and place 2 of them in the chicken’s cavity. Then, place the chicken, salt, black peppercorns, onion, remaining 2 pieces of ginger and water in a sauce pan. I usually pour hot water boiled beforehand over the chicken. Allow the water to come a gentle boil. Cover and continue cooking the chicken for about 40 minutes. Occasionally check on the chicken to make sure that the water never heats up to more than a gentle boil, otherwise the broth will become cloudy. To check if the chicken is done, insert a chopstick into the drumstick and if the liquid coming out of the chicken is clear, then it’s done. Or, you can insert a cooking thermometer to verifyy that the internal temperature of the chicken has reached 165°F. Remove the chicken from the stock and allow to cool.

Nước mắm gừng

  • While the chicken is cooking, prepare the dipping sauce. Mix lime juice with sugar until it becomes a syrup like mixutre. Add the fish sauce and taste to make sure that the mix is well balanced. If it’s too salty, add some sugar, or if it’s not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce. Mix in the minced garlic, ginger and chili pepper, which will give the sauce a thick, dense consistency. The dipping sauce should not be runny like regular nước mắm sauce, so add more minced ginger if it’s not thick enough.

Cook rice

  • Rinse the rice clean with water. Steam the rice with the poaching stock and a dash of black pepper in a rice cooker*. I have never measured out the amount of water I add when cooking rice. My mom taught me to insert my index finger until it touches the surface of the rice and add enough water until reaches the first line on my finger. That has always worked for me, but I’m well aware that everyone’s finger length differs. So, a good ratio to use is 1:2 rice to water, or in this case, broth.
  • After steaming the rice, fluff it up in the pot with chopsticks. Heat up about a tablespoon or so of cooking oil in a sauté pan. Add the minced garlic and ginger and sauté until fragrant. Add the fluffed rice to the pan and sauté until the garlic and ginger have flavored the rice (about 4-5 minutes). Add a dash of freshly ground black pepper and give it a final stir.
    Ginger Garlic Rice | Plated Palate | Food Photography


  • Once cooled, chop the chicken into serving size pieces. Pack a rice bowl with the sautéed rice and invert it over a plate. Assemble the chicken around the rice with sliced cucumbers. Serve with the nước mắm gừng dipping sauce and a small bowl of the chicken broth garnished with chopped cilantro.


*If you don’t have a rice cooker, the rice can also be steamed over the stove. Add the rice and stock to a pot and bring to a boil over medium high heat. Once bubbles start forming at the surface, turn the heat down to low, give the rice a stir and continue cooking for another 15 minutes covered. Once the rice has absorbed all of the poaching broth, remove from heat and allow to sit covered for about 3-5 minutes. Then, fluff the rice with chopsticks as you would after steaming it in a rice cooker.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Vietnamese
Keyword: chicken, ginger, rice