I love the Singapore hawker style roast chicken! In fact, I think I’d go so far to say that if given a choice, ipso facto, I’d choose roast over white. A good roast chicken is juicy and tender and draped with a beautiful bronzed crinkly skin. It is complemented with cilantro, cucumber and green onions and accentuated with fragrant sesame oil and soy sauce dressing. I especially love sucking on the bones in the cavity where the marinade lies. It’s simply heavenly!
With this recipe, I have managed to reproduce the roast chicken that I always enjoy at the hawker stall. The first thing you need to know is that “roast” chicken is a misnomer as the chicken is actually deep fried! At the hawker stall, they will dunk the whole chicken into a vat of hot oil to cook it. That is how to achieve that beautiful skin color. Of course, this is not practical for the home kitchen, so what I have done is to modify the recipe by roasting the chicken in a oven first and then just bathing it with hot oil at the end. The results are excellent and it is very doable.
In this recipe, I show you how to prepare a whole chicken, but you can apply the same technique to just the whole chicken legs. This is actually easier to do and most people prefer the thigh meat anyway. (Although with my recipe, the breast remains juicy). The only problem with doing this dish with just chicken thigh is that the skin sometimes doesn’t cover the whole leg properly due to shrinkage. When you prepare this dish with a whole chicken, the presentation is much better.
or Whole legs 5
A. Poaching liquid
Water 3 litres
Malt sugar 2 Tbsp
Vinegar 2 Tbsp
B. Spice Rub
Chicken powder 1 Tbsp
Salt 2 tsp
Five spice powder 2 tsp
White Pepper 1 tsp
Ginger powder 2 tsp
Cilantro 1 cup
Green onions 1 cup
D. Drizzing sauce
Light Soy Sauce 3 Tbsp
Sesame oil 1 Tbsp
Rock sugar 2 tsp
1. Add malt sugar and vinegar to the water in a pot and bring to boil
2. Gently lower the chicken into the water and simmer for 5 mins
3. Leave the chicken to cool on a rack
4. Divide the chicken into two halves. One part is the whole breast and wings and the other just the legs
5. Mix the ingredients in B together and rub on the inside of the chicken (There will be some excess spice rub. Just make sure you cover the insides evenly)
6. Leave the chicken in an airy place for 2 hours to dry and then cover loosely with baking paper and leave in the fridge for 4 hours or overnight.
7. Place the chicken on a rack in a baking tray. Add one cup of water to the tray and bake at 140°C. At 40mins remove the breast portion and bake the thigh portion for a further 10 mins. (see below for explaination)
8. Dab the chicken with paper and leave it to dry out a bit
9. Heat up some oil in a pot and pour the hot oil over the skin side. (You can also just deep fry the whole thing but it might splatter)
10. Prepare the sauce by heating up the leftover water in the roasting tray, soy sauce and rock sugar in a pot. Adjust to taste. Once it is ready, add sesame oil.
11. Chop up the chicken, drizzle with sauce, top with garnish and enjoy! A squeeze of calamansi lime will also help add a little zing to the dish!
The rationale for poaching the chicken whole is so that when the skin shrinks, it still covers the whole chicken properly. The malt sugar and vinegar in the water will coat the chicken to give it that beautiful bronze color. You can buy malt sugar from bakery supply stalls or online. Alternatively, you may use honey.
Allow the chicken to air dry and cool before cutting so that the skin develops some resilience. By poaching the chicken, you have already killed the surface bacteria, so it is safe to leave it out for a few hours.
This is an unconventional way of dividing the chicken. Breast meat cooks at a lower temperature than thigh meat, so by doing it this way, you will not overcook the breasy meat. It also makes it easier to handle.
Spread the rub evenly on the inside of the chicken. Leave it on the rack to air dry or in the fridge overnight. This process will help dry the skin and allow the spices to penetrate into the flesh.
Lay on a rack and pour enough water to cover the bottom of the tray. Baking at 140°C. The gentler heat will result in a juicer chicken and the longer cooking time allows the skin to further dry out.
The breast is ready when the temperature reaches 65°C while thigh meat is only ready when it hits 75°C. If you have a thermometer, you can check and adjust the timing more precisely. On my home oven, it takes 40 mins at 140°C for the breast to be ready and 50mins for the thigh.
This is the part which will turn some of you off because it is a hassle to deep fry. I bath the chicken in oil because you don’t have to use as much oil and it doesn’t splatter as much. Make sure you use some paper to get rid of any water to reduce the splattering.
The results are totally worth the trouble!
Here, I only use chicken thigh meat. Notice the shrinkage of the skin in some pieces. It’s still delicious and won’t matter too much after you chop it up!
The chicken goes really well with noodles! All you need to do is to add a tablespoon of deep frying oil to a plate and some drizzling sauce to some noodles. (I like to use dried kolo mee but instant noodles or fresh wanton noodles will work too)