Khao Man Gai

I tried Khao Man Gai for the first time during my visit to Thailand in 2017. I traveled to Korat, Bangkok, Phuket, and Chiang Mai, and had family who live in Thailand, take me to various food markets to try some of the best Thai street food I had ever eaten. What was nice is that during my travels and throughout different regions of the country, I noticed that the same dishes had a slight nuance in flavor, but equally, still v delicious. It was in Bangkok where I explored the -carts, -booths, and food-stands of purveyors of Khao Man Gai—some of the most flavorful, comforting street food that I could not get enough of.

Khao Man Gai is a variation of Hainanese Chicken and Rice, a dish that is ubiquitous throughout Southeast Asia. In Thailand, specifically in Bangkok, you’ll find dozens of street food vendors touting their rendition of this dish as the-best-khao-man-gai-you-can-get and honestly, no matter which vendor you choose, you’ll be thoroughly pleased, as they are all so.damn.good.

Effortful Time: 1 hour Total Time: 2 hours Serves: 4

You Need

Poaching Chicken

  • 1 whole chicken (4.5lbs - 6lbs)
  • 16 cups of water
  • ¼ cup sea salt
  • 2 tbs sugar
  • 2 whole garlic
  • 6 oz ginger, thinly sliced
  • 7 pandan leaves

Chicken Carcass

  • 2 pandan leaves
  • 3 garlic, whole
  • 1 inch knob of ginger, peeled

Rice

  • 2 cups quality jasmine rice
  • 2 tablespoons rendered chicken fat
  • ½ cup shallots, diced
  • ¼ cup garlic, minced
  • 6 ounces ginger, thinly sliced
  • 1 ounces galangal, thinly sliced
  • 3 pandan leaves
  • 3 cups chicken stock (from pot with whole chicken)

Soup

  • 4 cups chicken stock (from pot with whole chicken)
  • 2 cups chinese winter squash/chayote, peeled, cut into cubes
  • 4 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon ground white pepper
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, lightly chopped
  • 3 tablespoons green onion, sliced

Garnish

  • cilantro
  • cucumber

You ready?

Do It

Exfoliate the chicken. You’ll be okay should you decide to skip this step, but exfoliating rids the chicken of residual feathers, loose outer membranes, bone fragments, and gives the chicken a smooth finish. Oh, and it’s great for presentation, too (once it’s time to serve). If you want to skip the exfoliating step, Skip to ‘MAKE IT’.

So you’re down to give your chicken a salt bath? - great, here’s how to do it:

  • whole chicken (be sure to clean the cavity; remove the neck, gizzards, etc.)
  • clean sink, dedicated to your chicken
  • ¼ cup of kosher or sea salt
  • kitchen latex gloves (no worries if you don’t have any)

Let’s begin.

After putting on your gloves, place chicken in the sink. Clean and trim excess chicken skin and fat off the chicken, and save excess fat for ‘Step 2’. Rinse the chicken. Take small amounts of salt onto the chicken and begin to exfoliate with your hands. You want to make sure you’re rubbing somewhat vigorously to rid the skin of any residual feathers, bones fragments, and outer membrane. Add more salt all over the chicken and continue exfoliating. Add a small amount of water to the chicken to help with distributing the salt to other parts of the carcass as you exfoliate. Don’t forget to get under the wings, wingtips, the cavity, and the neck

You’ll know when it’s time to rinse when you’ll see the skin has a nice smoothness to it. When you’re ready, rinse the chicken under lukewarm water, and make sure you rinse the salt completely off. Beautifully smooth, isn’t it? Great job, proceed to ‘Step 2’…

Do It:

  1. Rinse the chicken thoroughly. Be sure to clean the cavity; remove the neck gizzards, etc. and discard extra if you don’t want to keep. Clean and trim excess chicken skin and fat off the chicken, save excess fat for ‘Step 2'
  2. In a small pan, cook chicken skin over medium heat until the fat completely renders out. What you get is delicious, crispy chicken skin. Once they're cooked set aside to cool and eat 'em! They’re your reward for making it this far! Keep the rendered fat in the pan, you’ll need it later for the rice.
  3. Time to cook the bird! Place ingredients labeled under 'chicken carcass' inside the body of the chicken. Next, in a large pot, add water, salt, sugar, garlic, ginger, pandan leaves and bring it to a boil.  
  4. Once you get a rolling boil and can get that lovely smell of pandan permeating your kitchen, add the chicken and bring to a boil again. Reduce the heat to medium-high (you want a soft boil) and cook for 45 mins, covered. When it’s done, turn off heat and keep pot covered. Tip: Set a timer for 45 mins so will not you forget
  5. Once the chicken has been cooking for 30 mins, get started on the rice. Clean 2 cups of jasmine rice as instructed on the package. Drain well and place rice into rice cooker. 
  6. In the pan containing the rendered chicken fat, turn the heat to medium-high. Once the pan gets hot enough, add garlic, shallots, ginger, galangal and pandan leaves. Stir every 20 seconds, until you achieve a golden brown color and fragrant smell. 
  7. Add the mixture to the rice cooker and mix well until every grain of rice is coated. Add chicken stock from the pot of poached chicken that is still cooking (the stock has to be boiling hot when you add it to the rice cooker)to the rice cooker. Set rice cooker to 'COOK'.
  8. In a separate small pot, add chicken stock and chinese winter squash, and bring it to a boil. Cook for 15 minutes. Test the squash with a fork. If the fork can easily penetrate the squash, then it is done and turn off the burner. Add soy sauce, ground white pepper, cilantro, and green onion. Stir until mixed well. Soup is done.
  9. You’re done! Cut the chicken and get creative with presentation, or serve family-style and dig in! You and your guests will be thoroughly satisfied with this dish.

Take sips of soup in between bites of chicken + rice for maximum flavor.