Tuesday, March 17, 2009

chicken rice ambitions

i hated junior college. i did make some lifelong friends from my two years in that pressure cooker of a school and i have memories that will always make me smile, but being in the daily company of painfully overachieving 17 year olds definitely wasn't exactly a whole bag of fun. it was made worse when we were asked with regularity to state our goals in life and give detail as to what our college and career choices were. everyone seemed to know what they wanted - most wanted to go to NUS, oxbridge or ivy league colleges and be doctors, lawyers, psychologists, aeronautical engineers or other highbrow jobs. they told us the world was our oyster. aim high. make us proud. they wanted us to conform to their plan to produce a nation of clone overachievers.

when asked - i said tongue in cheek that i wanted to sell chicken rice. i thought it was a noble profession - selling chicken rice - peddling one of the nation's most favoured and famous national dishes. i was going to set up Chia Ann-May chicken rice. the adults, needless to say, were not impressed. of course in the end it seemed easier to give them the answer they wanted - yes, i wanted, more than anything in my life, to join the ranks of overworked doctors in the singapore medical health service. i suppose i trotted out that answer with such regularity and mock conviction that I started believing it myself. Let's just say i'm so glad God has much better plans. I'd be a terrible doctor.

i suppose i might not have been that good a chicken rice seller after all either - i thought to myself as i chopped up the chicken i had just made for dinner - it was a bit of a mess. jase had come over for dinner after church and was watching me massacre the chicken. he also had to help me forklift the chicken out of the pot. i normally would have cheated and used chicken pieces rather than a whole bird which would have been heaps easier. i suppose i was trying to do things properly for once. mrs fei-lo had given me a running commentary on how she made chicken rice, and after reading a few more housewife-esque online forums, i reckoned i could make a go at it. plus i hadn't properly caught up with jase since he returned from chile an age ago, and what better way to celebrate a friendship than with a whole chicken.

cooking the chicken wasn't rocket science - a whole free range organic bird, stuffed with half an onion and about two inches worth of ginger, covered with water and brought to the boil and then left to simmer for about 25 minutes depending on the size of the bird. it would have been a breeze if i had the right sized pot. which of course i didn't. my pot was just that tiny bit too small to have the entire chicken covered in water. so as the water boiled away, i looked on worriedly at its exposed breast, mocking me as it sat above the waterline, taunting me with potential salmonella scares. I did have the pot covered though, so i was hoping that some of the steam would steam the breasts to completion. there was some chicken-in-pot manouevering involved, and it was fine in the end, but not without a little bit of that unnecessary drama. jase was a little hungry and suggested that it'd probably be alright with a little bit of pink. i quoted SALMONELLA back at him. i didn't go through all that food safety training for nothing.

chicken broth from the pot was then used to cook the rice - studded with a couple of cloves of garlic and slices of ginger to give that fragrant edge. and a pinch of sea salt. i should have added a couple tablespoons of chopped onion too but i forgot. it was fine nonetheless. mrs fei-lo adds butter to her rice, but i didn't. i was saving my butter to make cake.

the highlight of the meal for me was the ginger scallion oil dipping sauce - minced ginger and scallion warmed through in vegetable oil. such simplicity but it really made a difference to the whole meal. heaped tablespoons of this stuff brings the bland boiled chicken out of its boring depths. i love it and i made the full fat version which is definitely the yummiest way. mrs alien had stopped by earlier that day with mr alien and alien junior while out on their sunday walk and gave me tips on how to make a low fat version – she uses just a touch of oil, and thins the sauce with chicken stock and a touch of soya sauce – it sounds delicious too and perhaps in my more virtuous moments I might try that one day.

i had a couple of side dishes to go with the chicken rice - blanched tenderstem broccoli in oyster sauce with garlic oil and garlic chips, tofu soup with the chicken broth and spicy prawn and pork wantons. nothing says welcome-back like wantons.


Anonymous Kang at londoneater dot com said...

You pretty much nailed it on the head about pressure kids in asia get about their supposed future - or lack of one - if they didnt choose aspire to a profession high up in the social pecking order, I've always wanted to be a writer of some sort (blurb artist) but had to settle with being an engineer.

Thank god for the blogging platform and food!

Great post by the by.

4:27 AM  

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