Here's a guide to making Hainanese Chicken Rice Crispies, which you can easily change the seasoning to any flavour that you like. Hainanese chicken rice is a famous dish in Singapore and I thought it would be great to convert it into a snack that captures the essence of the dish. Rice crispies make for easily packaged gifts for friends overseas and has a very long shelf life to boot.
I've done a fair amount of research and experiments and the secret to making it crispy (and stay crispy) is ensuring the glutinous rice has a hard shell on the outside while cooked and dry on the inside. The hard outer shell creates enough pressure when the rice is fried to make it "pop" and transform into a crunchy snack - this is similar to how popcorn is made as corn has a natural outer casing with a dry composition. The trick is in how the rice is cooked - read on to find out more!
Step 1: Ingredients and Prep
1) 3-4 cups of glutinous short-grained rice. Note: basmati, jasmine or other longer-grain and non-sticky rice will not work!
2) 1 packet of Hainan Chicken Rice seasoning - you can find it in most Asian grocers or easily make it from scratch using garlic, ginger, onion, sugar, oil and chicken stock cubes)
Wash and rinse the rice in a metal bowl until the water inside the bowl is clear
Fill up the rice cooker with water, about 300 ml or so. Put a little more to be on the safe side if you're unsure what is the right amount.
Step 2: Steam the Rice
1) Place the metal bowl of rice inside the rice cooker, ensure the rice itself isn't immersed in water, cover the lid and let it cook for 25 mins.
Normally, rice is cooked by pouring water into the rice and letting it boil. However, this will make the rice too wet even after extensive drying, leading to uneven clumps of fried and not-so-fried crispies as you can see in the latter picture.
2) After 25 mins, open the lid and thoroughly mix in the full packet of Hainan Chicken Rice seasoning into the bowl of rice. Close the lid and let it steam for another 25 mins. The rice should be sticky and slightly hard.
Step 3: Drying Time
There are 3 methods to dry the rice, via mother nature, an oven or using a dehydrator.
If you live in a climate with dry and hot temperatures, drying rice in the sun is fast, effective and easy. Layout circular clumps of rice on a tray and let it sit in a full day or two of sun and it will turn into hard and dense clumps. Just beware that freshly cooked rice is decently attractive prey for all forms of wildlife including birds, ants, cats, dogs, hungry family members, you name it and it will pose a threat. A mesh screen and water moat will help keep away hungry intruders.
For every other type of climate, a cheap dehydrator or oven works just as well. Put the oven on low to low-medium heat for at least 4-6 hours. I used a dehydrator as it lets me control the exact temperature of 60-65 Deg Celsius and I leave it on overnight for 12 hours.
Feel free to experiment with shapes and sizes but note that the bigger or thicker the shape, the longer and more uneven the drying will be. Here are a couple of close-ups of pre and post dried rice crispies.
Step 4: Fry, Dry and Serve
1) Fill a pot with some vegetable oil and turn on high heat to bring the oil to a boil
2) Fry one or two crispies at a time for about 15 seconds, it should puff up and turn golden brown pretty quickly. Take care to avoid frying crispies to touch each other as they stick to each other very easily and transform into mega crispies. Smaller shaped crispies or a wider pot helps.
3) Place the fried crispies on paper towels to soak up excess oil and let the crispies cool down to room temperature. They should get more crispy as it cools down and let it dry thoroughly before serving or storing in an air-tight container.
4) When serving, it's great to pair the rice crispies with Hainan Chicken Rice chili, which is easily found at Asian grocers, online or make your own recipe. Bonus points if you serve it with sweet dark soy sauce (a mixture of water, thick dark soy sauce and rock sugar) and minced garlic/ginger for the complete chicken rice condiment combo.
If the crispies are well prepared - it can keep for at least a month in a container. I currently have 2 containers with crispies made 6 weeks ago and they are still in good shape. Enjoy making and eating a new Singapore-style snack!