You can fry them or braise them, steam them or roast them and they are not past boiling or grilling either. All of these methods are appropriate to extract the delicious taste of this poultry, just for that kick of gastronomical bliss to the head and a full belly. All of these cooking methods can also be used to make one popular Malaysian dish. Which dish would that be other than one staring the chicken itself, the Malaysian Chicken Rice.
Let’s get down to the details. Typically, you can find this dish with yellow-tinted rice from a dash of turmeric powder or chicken-flavored white rice cooked in chicken stock. The white rice can be a threat to the heart as it can be rather oily. It’s much preferable for it to be more on the softer side instead and the colored rice is more to this texture. Ginger and garlic is also cooked with the rice so be sure to note the fragrant aroma of both in the air. It is usually presented in the shape of a dome on your plate. Beside it, a piece of marinated chicken that has either been roasted, fried, steamed or braised. Often the chicken is chopped up for easy eating. That’s not all though, the rice dish also comes with a small bowl of clear soup garnished with fresh coriander or spring onions and two condiments on the side (or sometimes dashed directly onto the rice) of dark or sweet soya sauce and a chili dip, either chili sambal or chili sauce - more on this bit later. Of course, to make it an all around balance meal, you’ll need your vegetables. The Chicken Rice is accompanied with lettuce, tomato and cucumber slices representing that important food group and adding a crunchy texture to the mix.
The ideal way to savor all the flavors of the Chicken Rice is to make sure you take a portion of everything in every bite. Some people prefer to douse their rice with the soup while others feel it is suffice to only add a few spoonfuls of soup onto the rice a little at a time. The condiments can be mixed with the rice as you go along with finishing the plate or you can take the dabbing approach by dipping a piece of chicken into the condiments with every spoonful of rice.
It is likely that the type of Chicken Rice found here in Malaysia has its roots from China inspired by or greatly influenced by the Hainanese Chicken Rice. However, since we’re Malaysians and have been spellbound by hot chili and our spices, it is fair to say that Malaysian Chicken Rice is much less bland than the model that it was based on. That said, the right kind of chili dip that should be served to you with your Chicken Rice should not come from a bottle nor should it be diluted. It should be made from fresh chilies with a pleasant fragrance that smells of something spicy and a bit acidic like vinegar. It’s ideal for the chili dip to be made with minced garlic and ginger mixed into it but sometimes minced garlic is served separately as an extra condiment with the Chicken Rice. The taste of the chili dip/sauce should be a balanced combination of hot, sweet and sour. Packs a punch but won’t send you flying.
Most vendors and restaurants won’t have any qualms if you’d like to choose the chicken part you want with your rice and if its roasted chicken, it would be served to you with its glorious brown skin on. Steamed chicken is usually without skin and is just white and tender, a much healthier option. Chicken should of course be tender but some people get it wrong by steaming it dry which is indeed a killjoy to the meal. But if you do find yourself in this unfortunate situation, be very generous with the soup, soya sauce and chili for they will be your savior. Nowadays you can also find the chicken flavored in many ways from the common variety. Some chicken rice specialty shops may offer honey roasted chicken, BBQ chicken, black pepper chicken and the likes. But nothing quite beats roasted or steamed chicken when it comes to chicken rice as that is what most locals seek and expect.
Speaking of variations, like many Malaysian dishes, there’s more than one uniform way that you can find this dish across the country. In Southern parts, Chicken Rice Balls are more popular among the locals. It is still very similar to the normal kind except the white rice is shaped into packed balls around the size of a ping pong ball or slightly bigger. Usually, a plate would consist of 3 to 5 balls. Some restaurants may also serve chicken innards with the rice as an add-on option and in a lot of Malaysian Chinese restaurants you can also mix your chicken with BBQ or roasted pork also known as Char Siew and Siew Yuk.
The flavorsome taste of chicken can make you mirror their behavior by pecking away at the meat down to the bone. And even then, some people have no issues with chewing on the bone to their heart’s content. Napkin or no napkin, this is likely the case when one is presented with the Malaysian Chicken Rice. You can smell it the moment you step into the restaurant. But if your nose is block, the sight of the steamed or roasted chicken hanging from the hook of the chicken rice cart would be no better substitute to get your appetite rolling. Malaysian Chicken Rice is capable of enticing you through all of your God-given senses.