Where does it hail from? Hainan, Malaysia or Singapore? If Helen of Troy was the face that launched a thousand ships, then Hainanese Chicken Rice is the contentious bone that created an international food furore.
“It’s ours. The chicken rice balls were initially found in Jonker Street and Jalan Bunga Raya,” claim the Malaysians, referring to famous UNESCO street located in Meleka. “Rubbish! It is THE national dish of Singapore!” I imagined many Singaporeans would think in response to Malaysia’s claim.
But food politics do not interest me. I do not think that there is such a thing as a 100 percent original idea. Every product is a conglomeration of ideas drawn from the works of predeccessors, whether consciously or unconsciously.
The unpretentiously named Hainanese Chicken Rice is said to ultimately come from the Wenchang area of Hainan island, in China’s tropical south, and then later adapted and popularized by Hainan immigrants in Southeast Asia. Chicken rice is nothing more and nothing less than chicken, poached in a master elixir, thinly sliced and served with fragrant rice, various condiments and a bowl of broth. The multi-part dish is a distillation of chicken essence. Most would rate the quality of the dish base on the ginger chili sauce and sweet soy condiments alone – the bold and brazen use of sweet, spicy and savoury to that truly elevates the dish.
Although I have not had the dish for many years since turning mostly vegan, it does not mean I cannot recall its taste. Childhood trips to the once-famed-now-declining Loy Kee Chicken Rice, Boon Tong Kee Chicken Rice have forever etched sauciness the deep into the annals of my hippocampus. My “Jicken” Rice recipe is completely reverse-engineered and given a rawsome makeover. Replacing the rice is grated jicama and bean sprouts; both refreshingly crunchy and their slightly sweet taste pairs excellently with a spicy tahini ginger sauce. The trick to getting good jicama rice for salads or sushi is to squeeze it really dry with a nut milk bag or strainer. Save the milky juice which makes a refreshing pear or water chestnut-like drink that is full of nutrients. Smoky tempeh ‘facon (adapted from Kathy from lunchboxbunch) takes the place of chicken, but with the similar chewy texture, you wouldn’t miss the meat. Not with the abundance of flavours going on.
- 1 medium jicama, grated (about 2 cups)
- 4 stalks scallion, chopped (about ¼ cup)
- 2 cups raw mung bean sprouts
- 2 cups bok choy leaves, roughly chopped
- 150 g tempeh
- 1 tablespoon agave or maple syrup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons tahini
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 teaspoon tamari
- 1 teaspoon agave or maple syrup
- 1½ tablespoon minced ginger
- 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
- In a large salad bowl, toss together the ingredients for the salad.
- Slice the tempeh very thinly. Whisk together the ingredients for the marinade. Soak the tempeh slices in the marinade for 1-2 minutes.
- Heat a saute pan on high and add 1-2 teaspoons of olive oil. Saute the soaked tempeh for 1 minute per side or until just seared. Cool on parchment paper.
- For the sauce, add all the ingredients into a small bowl and whisk until very smooth.
- Serve salad with smoky tempeh bacon and tahini ginger dressing. Enjoy the meat-free jicken rice!