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How to Make Thai Chicken Rice

Susan Jung wrote . . . . . . . . .

Thai chicken rice, or khao man gai, is similar to Hainan chicken rice in that it’s a one-dish meal: chicken, rice and a clear broth made from the bones of the bird. The big difference is in the accompanying dipping sauce. Hainan chicken rice is served with a trio of sauces: ginger, chilli and sweetened soy sauce. Khao man gai comes with only one, which is tangy and on the edge of being too spicy.

In Thailand, khao man gai shops display a row of cooked chickens on hooks, all ready to be taken down and cut into pieces. Like Hainan chicken rice, the chicken is served at room temperature, not hot.

The quality of the chicken is of the utmost importance. Use a fresh chicken, because frozen birds have flabby, tasteless meat. And don’t buy a large chicken, or it will take too long to cook.

This recipe uses a different technique to the one used at restaurants, where the birds are cooked whole. Here, the chicken is cut up and the carcass and bony parts are simmered to make a broth that is used to cook the rice. The thighs, breasts and wings are placed on top of the rice in the rice cooker to add flavour to the grains.

Thai yellow bean sauce, also called soybean paste, comes in bottles – some with a lot of solids and others with most of the fermented soybeans strained out; either is fine. Kecap manis, or Indonesian sweetened soy sauce, can be substituted for the Thai sweet soy sauce.


350 grams long-grain rice
70 grams glutinous rice
2 pandan leaves
fine sea salt, as necessary
1 fresh chicken, about 1.2kg
40 gram chunk of peeled ginger
60 grams spring onions
2 garlic cloves, peeled
250 grams daikon (Japanese white radish), peeled
250 grams carrot, peeled
2 Asian cucumbers, sliced
fresh coriander sprigs

Nam Jim Khao Man Gai Dipping Sauce:

20 grams palm sugar
30 gram chunk of peeled ginger
1-2 garlic cloves, peeled
10 grams fresh coriander roots
15-20 grams red bird’s-eye chillies
70 grams yellow bean sauce
10 grams Thai sweet soy sauce or kecap manis
10 ml-15ml vinegar
5 ml fresh lime juice


  1. Put the long-grain and glutinous rice in a bowl and wash in several changes of water, until the water is almost clear. Drain through a fine-mesh colander shaking off as much water as possible. Leave to air-dry, occasionally stirring the rice, while preparing the other ingredients.
  2. Separate the chicken into parts. Pull out the lumps of fat from the cavity and put them in a small pan. Chop off the neck as close as possible to the body, then remove the legs (thigh and drumstick) and wings. Use kitchen shears to cut off the bone-in breasts in one piece. Cut off the tail and place in the pan with the fat. Cut off the wing tips.
  3. Make the broth. Put the bony pieces – neck (head discarded, if you like), carcass and wing tips – in a pan. Lightly crush the ginger with the side of a cleaver or a sturdy chef’s knife. Put the ginger, spring onions and garlic cloves in the pan and add 2.25 litres of water and 10 grams of salt. Bring to a boil over a high flame, partially cover the pan with the lid, then lower the flame and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Render the chicken fat. Add about 30ml of water to the pan holding the fat and tail. Place the pan over a medium-low flame. When the water starts to simmer, lower the flame and cook until the fat liquefies. Remove the solids from the pan.
  5. Make the sauce. Roughly chop the palm sugar, ginger, garlic, coriander roots and chillies then put them in a food processor or blender (or use an immersion blender). Chop the ingredients to a rough paste, then add the yellow bean sauce, sweet soy sauce, vinegar and lime juice. Blend to a rough purée then taste for seasonings and correct, if necessary. Add about 25ml of hot water (or some of the simmering chicken broth) to thin out the ingredients to a dipping sauce consistency.
  6. Pour 25 grams of the rendered chicken fat into a skillet and heat over a medium flame. Add the rice and 1½ tsp of salt. Stir constantly until the rice grains are coated with the fat, then transfer to a rice cooker. Cut the pandan leaves into 10cm lengths, tie them into a knot and add them to the rice. Add 520ml of the chicken broth to the rice cooker.
  7. Place the whole chicken legs, the whole bone-in breast and the wings into the rice cooker, on top of the rice. Turn it on and let the ingredients steam until done.
  8. Cut the daikon and carrot into two-bite chunks and add them to the remaining chicken broth. Simmer until tender.
  9. When the rice and chicken are done, remove the chicken from the cooker, then close the lid so the rice stays hot. Allow the chicken to cool for about 10 minutes. Separate the breast meat from the bone and slice against the grain. Separate the drumstick from the thigh, then remove the bones and slice the meat. Separate the drumette from the middle joint of the wing.
  10. Put some of the rice in a rice bowl, packing it in gently. Invert a dinner plate over the rice bowl then hold the two tightly together and flip them over. Lift off the rice bowl so there’s a mound of rice on the plate. Repeat with another three plates.
  11. Divide the chicken and sliced cucumber between the plates.
  12. Taste the chicken soup and add salt, if necessary. Stir several fresh coriander sprigs into the soup before ladling it into the bowls and serving with the chicken and rice.

Source: SCMP

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