Food from Sabah, Malaysia: Hainanese chicken rice

Hainanese Chicken Rice from Sabah, Malaysia
Hainanese Chicken Rice from Sabah, Malaysia ... if only they didn't have pink plates!

Hainanese / Chinese / Cantonese / Chicken a la Sabah, Malaysia

Originally brought to Malaysia by the people of Hainan province in China, Hainanese Chicken has spread throughout Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore.

Speaking to Sabahan’s in Borneo, one would swear it came from Sabah alone. It’s roots in Malaysia are both Hainanese and Cantonese, with a sprinkle of Sabah’s own traditional take on it.

How is Hainanese Chicken Rice made?

Using the broth from Chicken and or Pork bones, plump chicken meat is cooked until tender and juicy. The key here apparently is to reuse the stock as much as possible. I’m not sure how long this goes on for, but some people said the older the better.

Hainanese chicken rice with bone
Another version of Hainanese chicken rice this time, on the bone

In Sabah, Hainanese Chicken is served boneless. On a bed of cucumber and onion, covered in a dark slightly sweet, meaty soy sauce. An essential side dish is a bowl of said stock for soup, white rice, and hot spicy chili sauce.

I believe there are subtle and not so subtle variations of Hainanese Chicken throughout West Malaysia, Sarawak, and even in Sabah.

Is Hainanese Chicken good?

From a meat lovers point of view, yes. It’s a boneless solid fillet in good eateries. I don’t know whether I was unlucky or it’s normally served cold, but mine was only mildly warm on many an occasion. I would have preferred it hot like the soup and rice. But for well under USD$2.00 it’s a good meal in Sabah, Borneo.

This is an additional post featuring food from Sabah, Malaysia

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19 Replies to “Food from Sabah, Malaysia: Hainanese chicken rice”

  1. Love Hainanese Chicken rice, and it’s interesting how many permutations there are. Amusingly, when I was actually IN Hainan, I had a really hard time finding Hainanese Chicken rice, and then had no problem in Malaysia and Singapore. Go figure.

    1. Interesting you should say that about the difficulties in getting it in Hainan. I’ve found in other places famous for certain dishes, things can be hard to get too! And, with this dish, the Chinese man serving it only called it Chicken Rice. All mention of Hainanese anything meant nothing to him. I guess this is what happens when a dish moves beyond its borders!

  2. yup! blanch it thru hot water to cook first then COLD water.. that’s what makes the meat so smooth! LOL :) You’re really becoming a streetfood connoisseur Dave you are :P

    1. Got them both in small restaurants! Is this the same as Malaysian street food? I thought street food was open places on the street? At least that my definition of it. :)

  3. Hi ! Well it depends on your preference. In fact when it comes to food or drinks, one man’s choice is not another’s. But the general impression is Hainanese chicken rice is tasty. There are other tasty chicken rice too. Some homemade.

  4. Ah I see you have found your chicken rice here. :) Isn’t it just so smooth and tender and juicy? They say the best chicken is in Ipoh, so you’ll have to fly over and judge it for yourself! Love that first picture of those smooth chicken!

  5. Looks and sounds good. I have heard of using stock but how long can they reuse it. I am sure the longer the more flavor it adds.

  6. I have to say that it looks yummy! but i trust you, and as my father says “everything is tasty when it’s hot!” :D
    have a nice week end!

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