Chicken rice-style glass noodles
When I lived in Singapore, my most ordered dish at the hawker centre was chicken rice. The main draw, apart from its sheer deliciousness, was that so many of its components were served at room temperature. The chicken, juicy tomatoes, cooling slices of cucumber, and the occasional mound of beansprouts dressed in a savoury soy concoction - in Singapore’s sweltering heat, it was all I wanted to eat.
My favourite chicken rice experiences were never about the rice - they were all about the chicken. Silkiness aside, the hallmarks of good chicken rice chicken to me are -
High skin to meat ratio: This is why scrawny kampung chickens work so well. The chickens I used to buy in Australia were far too plump for my liking.
Oily-skinned, preferably yellow-tinged: Chicken rice is all about the schmaltz that goes into the rice, but oily skin makes a difference to the chicken itself. It’s hard to explain, but not all chicken skin is the same. If you were to cook some skin-on chicken and shred the meat, I always consider it a good thing when my hands glisten with oil by the end of it. I’ll never understand people who request for skinless chicken with their chicken rice.
Jelly under the skin: When the chicken is plunged into an icebath, it immediately arrests the cooking and turns the gelatine-rich juices under the skin into jelly. The result is almost like eating pork trotter jelly - very refreshing, plus none of that flavour is lost. Very few hawkers manage to achieve this; if you have a favourite stall that is able to do this, cherish it!
When I moved to Australia at 28, chicken rice was the hawker dish that I cooked the most, mainly because it calls for ingredients that I could easily source without having to make a trip to the Asian grocer. Sure, the pandan is pretty important, but really it is all about the marriage between chicken, rice, garlic, and ginger.
On an old Instagram post about my aunt’s chicken essence, @domesticated.denise suggested making what she calls ‘chicken rice style salad’ with the spent meat. “Shredded chicken, lots of chopped coriander and some spring onions, cucumber, and a simple light soy and sesame oil dressing. It’s really delicious.” She added that it’s great cold, warm, on rice, on cold noodles, udon etc.
It made sense because the ‘chicken’ component of chicken rice, with the vegetables and dressing, is almost a salad in itself! It sounded truly delicious, and the perfect thing to make now that we’re approaching summer here in the Netherlands.
To make this salad, the best chicken part to be using if you want to approximate the textures in chicken rice is chicken wings. I’m not into stringy shredded chicken - chicken wings give you lots of skin (the best part of chicken rice!) and because the meat is so close to the bone, you get nice succulent shreds. Simply place the wings in a pot with just enough water to cover, and some salt to season. I’ve been in the Netherlands for a month so far and I’m still blown away by how great the chicken is - you can see how yellow fat dapples the liquid just in the 15 minutes that this takes to cook:
Remove the wings from the pot; the liquid is now almost like chicken stock. Blanch your beansprouts. As you can see, I’ve not plucked off the base of the beansprouts, which might make me a terrible Asian in the eyes of more meticulous cooks. But honestly, apart from making the sprouts look more presentable, removing the straggly bits makes very little difference to gustatory pleasure. Plus, this is home cooking. I’m practical that way, but feel free to pluck the roots if it bothers you:
Once the beansprouts are out, in go glass noodles. Glass noodles turn this salad into a complete meal (we were having this for dinner). They are a must-have in my pantry for lazy cooking days because you don’t need to get a separate pot involved. And they cook in two minutes:
Drain the noodles (save the stock for other dishes) and set aside. Now you’ve got your cooled chicken wings which you shred, the cooked beansprouts, and the drained glass noodles. Seed and cut your tomatoes and cucumber - I go for matchsticks:
Now for the dressing. Because you are preparing this salad without the gingery, garlicky rice, I add ginger and garlic to my dressing for that unmistakeable chicken rice flavour. Fry minced garlic and ginger gently until soft and fragrant. Turn off the heat, then add oyster sauce, soy sauce, sesame oil, and a touch of sugar for balance:
Add the glass noodles and toss it in the dressing. You can do this in a separate bowl if your pan’s small, but it is far easier to do everything in a wok if you have one:
Add the rest of the ingredients, plus some coriander, and toss:
I was in total bliss eating this salad. It was the flavours of chicken rice on a plate for me and I didn’t have to spend the whole afternoon poaching a whole chicken, making rempah, and cooking rice. I’m sad that we have no leftovers because the glass noodles would be so good cold. On the other hand, Wex thought that the salad reminded him *too much* of actual chicken rice, and he felt cheated because there’s glass noodles instead of the rice. Unlike me, he eats chicken rice for the rice, and can accept mediocre chicken if the rice is spot on - something I will never understand. This led to a heated discussion-verging-on-argument about what makes chicken rice chicken rice at dinner - lol what can I say? We are both born-and-bred Singaporeans who are passionate about our chicken rice. (If you’re a passionate chicken rice lover too, feel free to do the poll on @sgpnoodles.)
One thing we can agree on, though, was that dinner was delicious and that I’ll be making this again in summer regardless of how blasphemous Wex thinks it is 😛
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Chicken rice-style glass noodle salad