Salsa Dancing and Singapore Chicken Rice
Updated: Aug 24
In 2010, I traveled to Singapore for the first time.
I quickly realized how clean, orderly, high-tech, and beautiful the country was. I was blown away by the interesting history and cultural diversity it had, yet it’s one of the most innovative countries in the world when it comes to technology.
Going to Singapore is like traveling to the future.
The small city-nation is a mix of four separate cultures, and has four separate national languages: English (because Singapore once was a British colony), Mandarin (from all the migrants from mainland China, Indian (mostly Tamil, from the South of India) and Malay (because Singapore was originally a part of Malaysia). But truly, they all speak “Singlish,” which is the blend of the aforementioned languages with mostly English structure. It’s a unique slang that people speak in the streets.
Singaporeans take pride in the fact that they converted a fishermen’s island into one of the most wonderful places on planet earth.
After traveling and living in Singapore for several years, I developed a familiarity with specific things in the nation. In fact, while most people would probably assume that with my Mexican-Venezuelan heritage, I prefer eating arepas or tacos when I am homesick, but I must confess that chicken rice is in my top three foods I crave when I feel homesick.
Chicken rice is by far my favorite dish from Singapore! It consists of delicious flavored rice, chicken, and a flavorful spicy sauce.
It is one of the most traditional dishes of the nation and it represents the country in a very unique way. Transforming common ingredients into a plate full of flavor and uniqueness that can be eaten in a food court in regular basis, or as a meal in an upscale setting, the dish is perfectly representative of the diversity, excellence and hard work of Singaporean people.
A few years ago, during a long visit home to Mexico, I connected and befriended Edmund, a Singaporean national who was in Mexico City for several months.
Edmund is what I call “a true Singaporean.” The first time I met him in person, we went to a mercado (local market), where we ate and hung out. I introduced him to some street foods -- nothing luxurious, just good authentic food. He blended in so well, joking with everybody in the market, being curious and trying different things, and asking deep questions about our culture.
Edmund is super smart and funny, and as humble as he may seem, he can salsa dance better than many Latinos I know! During his time in Mexico City, we planned to go salsa dancing with a group of friends and some of my cousins. Edmund stole the night!
After he learned about my connection with Singapore, he promised to make chicken rice for me. So, a few weeks later we invaded my mom’s kitchen, and Edmund cooked. Several friends came over, and we all had a really good time together, laughing, talking and introducing everyone to chicken rice and sambal. I appreciate Edmund’s cooking so much, and I always remember that day fondly.
Just last week, Singapore celebrated their 55th Birthday as a nation, and I began to reminisce about the day my friend Edmund cooked chicken rice for me while in Mexico City. So I decided to make some and share this recipe with all of you!
This is my version - adapted from several different recipes, as well as my observations during years of eating at all times of the day and night at hawker centers all across the beautiful island of Singapore.
To my Singaporean friends: I hope I don’t sound kiasu by writing this recipe! haha I truly love, admire and miss all of you and your amazing nation.
This is my humble way to honor your culture, your legacy, and your shiok gastronomy. I appreciate all the love you gave me, and I thank you for embracing and accepting me as one of your own … you stole my heart forever!
Singaporean Chicken rice
This plate contains four separate parts that come together beautifully in the end: Rice, Chicken, chicken broth and chili sauces.
Don’t feel overwhelmed when reading the processes and ingredients. Read it and read it again before making it.
INGREDIENTS (for all the recipe):
5 Tbsp cooking oil (vegetable, canola, etc.)
2 chicken breasts with bones and skin
1 stalk of green onion, chopped
6 inches of ginger (approx.)
1 cup of rice
2 cups of water
1 ¼ cup of water (approx.)
1 ½ Tbsp of sesame oil
2 Tbsp of kosher salt
4 Tbsp of sugar
7 cloves of garlic
1 lime, for juice
4 Tbsp of siracha chili sauce
1 tsp of rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
1 cucumber, sliced
A bunch of cilantro
¼ Dark soy sauce*
* Dark soy sauce is thicker than the commonly used “light soy sauce.” You can find it at your local international store.
Part 1 - Chicken
2 chicken breasts with bones and skin
1 stalk of green onion, chopped
3 inches ginger, cut in slices
1 Tbsp Kosher salt
1 Tbsp of Asian sesame oil
Rub the chicken with kosher salt, exfoliating the skin. This will help the chicken to cook better.
1b. Prepare a large bowl of ice water (to be used at step 4).
Rinse chicken and season with salt. Add the chicken to a pot with ginger and green onions (If cooking the entire chicken, stuff it with the ginger and green onions). Cover the chicken with hot water and heat it until it starts boiling, then turn the heat down and let it simmer on low heat for about 25 minutes, or until cooked.
Strain and keep all your chicken stock (it will be used for the rice, and the rest can be seasoned with more salt before serving as a part of the dish).
Submerge the cooked chicken in the already-prepared ice water as soon as you remove it from the heat. This process assures the meat is cooked, soft, firm and juicy.
Remove chicken from the ice water, pat it with some paper towels and rub sesame oil all over it. Set aside.
Part 2 - Rice
2 Tbsp of cooking oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 inch of ginger, minced (about same amount as garlic)
1 cup of rice
2 cups of chicken broth
1/2 tsp of sesame oil
1/2 tsp of kosher salt
Rinse the rice until the water is clear.
In a medium sized wok or pot, heat 2 tablespoons of cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the ginger and the garlic and sauté lightly. Add the cleaned, drained rice and sesame oil and stir for about a minute.
Turn up the heat to high and add 2 cups of chicken broth, and ½ tsp salt. When it starts boiling (it should be just a few seconds after you turned up the heat), put the lid on and turn it down to low heat.
Let it cook with the lid on for 15-17 minutes. Check carefully after 15 minutes, only opening the lid a little bit and checking the rice with a spoon. If it us soft and fluffy. Turn off the heat and set aside (with the lid on). (Check my video on how to make rice!)
Part 3 - Dipping sauces:
(Red) chili sauce
1 lime, only the juice
2 Tbsp of chicken broth
2 tsp sugar
4 Tbsp sriracha chili sauce
4 cloves garlic
1-inch section of ginger, peeled
Instructions: Blend all the ingredients until smooth. Serve in a sauce dish.
Ginger garlic sauce
4 Tbsp cooking oil canola, or vegetable (your preference)
2 Tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp rice vinegar (or white vinegar)
Instructions: Heat up the oil in a pan until hot (be careful not to burn it!), turn off the heat when the oil is very hot and sauté garlic, ginger for a few seconds. Add salt and vinegar. It will be fragrant and ready very quickly. Serve in a sauce dish.
Sweet dark soy sauce
You should look for “Kecap/Kejap Manis” in an international store. If you don’t have access to it, then you can make this:
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons of sugar
1/4 cup dark soy sauce*
Instructions: Mix and heat up in medium heat until the sugar has dissolved. It takes only a couple of minutes. Serve in a sauce dish.
* Dark soy sauce is thicker than the commonly used “light soy sauce.” You can find it in an international store.
If you can’t find all the ingredients for the sauces, don’t worry, you will enjoy the dish with what you’ve got!
Plate chicken next to the rice, the hot broth, cucumber slices, cilantro and sauces and now you are ready for makan, makan!
Make this recipe and share your experience with us using #johastable when sharing in social media