Cantonese poached chicken Hainan Chicken

How can this simple and easy-to-make Cantonese poached chicken 白切鸡 / Hainan chicken rice be so popular now? "Bak cham kai" literally translates to white cut chicken.  This dish originates from Southern China.  This very basic Cantonese dish which, when executed well, results in tender, smooth moist pieces of poached chicken.  This is usually served with a ginger, scallion sauce which is absolutely delicious!  The Hainan chicken rice is made with the chicken stock which makes it tasty and delicious.  Chef Anthony Bourdain's trip to Singapore changed the status of this simple homestyle dish. 

I started cooking this Cantonese poached chicken 白切鸡 / Hainan chicken rice when I was very young, because both my parents worked and I was responsible for making the family dinners. This was one of my favorite dishes to cook for the family because it was so easy. However, if I was not attentive and allowed the chicken to overcook, the meat would be tough and dry and could barely be washed down with a drink! Needless to say, my family had many dinners that were "tough to swallow" because I was distracted with something else!

Tips to make Cantonese poached chicken 白切鸡 / Hainan chicken rice


Use chicken with bones. The bones add extra flavor into the broth which when used to cook the rice, makes the rice tasty and delicious.  Usually, a whole chicken is poached and then chopped which is the literal translation of "bak cham kai" (white cut chicken).   When cleaning the chicken, remove the fatty piece and save this to render (melt) the fat when making the Hainan chicken rice.  

Chickens less than 5 lbs are better than larger ones.  (Not sure how the USA grows them so big).  Larger chickens take longer to poach and cook which results in less tender meat.

Poaching the chicken.

Simmer / poach the chicken for twenty minutes in a saucepan with enough water that just submerges the chicken. Turn off the heat and allow the chicken to poach in the water for an additional hour until the internal temperature of the chicken measures 160-165° F or (71-74° C).  (This is for a 5 lb chicken.) If an instant read thermometer is not available, pierce the chicken in the thickest part and the juices should run clear rather than red.  If the chicken is undercooked, allow it to poach for another five to ten minutes until the chicken is done.

Simmer chicken for 20 minutes

Poach chicken for 20 minutes before allowing it to steep until cooked.

When the chicken is cooked, place the chicken in an ice bath to stop the chicken from continuing to cook to keep it tender, 

Ice bath for chicken

Place cooked chicken in ice bath to stop cooking.


Season the chicken overnight with salt to allow the salt to penetrate the meat.

A generous amount of salt is needed when seasoning and poaching the chicken.  The salt permeates the meat of the chicken and gives it taste.  If you don't add sufficient salt, the chicken will be somewhat bland. Traditionally, salt, slices of ginger and stalks of scallion are used to flavor the broth while the chicken is poaching.  This creates a flavorful broth for the rice.

Accompaniments for Cantonese poached chicken 白切鸡 / Hainan chicken rice

This chicken is accompanied by a ginger, scallion sauce.  I usually bring out my aromatics which makes an easy and wonderful accompaniment.  A mixture of salt and white pepper or soy sauce also make delicious accompaniments.

Accompaniments for Chinese poached chicken

Accompaniments for Chinese poached chicken


Hainan chicken rice is deliciously flavorful.  It is initially fried in chicken rendering and aromatics, then cooked in the chicken broth.  This can easily be done directly in the rice cooker, just make sure the rice is cleaned in a different container before adding it to rice cooker.

Cantonese poached chicken Hainan Chicken


Michelle Sam
This hainan chicke rice recipe uses the whole chicken that is then cut into pieces, Chinese style. Whole chicken can be substituted for bone-in chicken legs.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Main Course
Cuisine Chinese
Servings 6 people
Calories 143 kcal


  • 2 cups water
  • 4 slices fresh ginger
  • 3 stalks fresh scallions
  • 1 whole chicken Less than 4 lbs.
  • 2 Tbsp coarse sea salt for marinade
  • 4 tsp sea salt for poaching broth
  • 4 cups iced water in a bowl to stop chicken from continuing to cook.


  • Wash and clean whole chicken.
    1 whole chicken
  • Find a saucepan that is just large enough to fit the entire chicken.
  • Fill the saucepan with water so that the entire chicken is submerged under the surface of the water.
    2 cups water
  • Remove the chicken.
  • Pour the water into a measuring container.
  • For every 2 cups of water, add 1 tsp of salt into the container.
  • Add the salt solution back into the saucepan.
    4 tsp sea salt
  • Add the rest of the sauce ingredients into a saucepan.
    4 slices fresh ginger, 3 stalks fresh scallions
  • Bring the water to a boil.
  • Add the chicken, breast side down and bring to a full boil.
  • Cover, reduce to a simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
  • DO NOT OPEN LID. Turn off heat and allow to poach for 1 hour until internal temperature measures 160° F or 71° C or juices run clear when a knife is inserted into the thickest flesh.
  • Remove chicken and place in a bowl of iced water to stop cooking.
  • Remove from iced water bath and allow to cool.
  • Cut into pieces. Serve with garlic, scallion, ginger sauce


Serving: 6gCalories: 143kcalCarbohydrates: 35gProtein: 1gFat: 1gSaturated Fat: 1gPolyunsaturated Fat: 1gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gCholesterol: 1mgSodium: 508mgPotassium: 52mgFiber: 1gSugar: 33gVitamin A: 7IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 21mgIron: 1mgNet Carbohydrates: 35g
Keyword chicken, Healthy, healthy diet, healthy food recipes, poached chicken
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