Khao Mun Gai was my go-to dish when ordering food for friends traveling with me in Thailand, or my younger siblings when they were very small. It’s tender chicken served over fragrant jasmine rice richly cooked in chicken broth and served with a pop of flavor in the form of a soy-based sauce. Often this dish was served with cool cucumbers. Easy on the travel-weary stomach and very comforting, the subtle flavors of this dish always hit the spot.
Growing up, my parents used to steam the chicken and use the resulting chicken drippings to cook the rice. I’ve taken this dish and added quite a few cooking twists of my own so this may have evolved a bit from the traditional street food you might find in Thailand today.
Recommendation: I make a lot of the components to this dish in parallel. Read through the entire set of instructions before trying to make this or you might find yourself in the kitchen far longer than necessary.
1 whole chicken, raw and defrosted if it was frozen
chicken boullion, for 2 cups broth
1 oz fresh ginger root, washed and sliced
2 to 4 spring onions, washed
4 to 6 cloves garlic, peeled
Salt (to taste)
3 measuring cups Thai Jasmine Rice, uncooked
- a standard Japanese rice cooker measuring cup is 3/4 cup of a English standard measuring cup, so this is actually 2 1/4 standard cups of rice
3 3/4 cups stock from cooking chicken, give or take a few tablespoons
1 to 2 oz fresh ginger root
4 to 6 cloves garlic
reserved skin from chicken or 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup stock from cooking chicken
¼ cup light soy sauce
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp sesame oil
Remaining stock from cooking chicken
2 to 3 cups winter melon, peeled and cut in 1″ pieces
- Can substitute chayote or firm cucumber, if desired
Salt or fish sauce, to taste
Pepper, to taste
a sprinkle of sugar, to taste
fresh bunch of coriander
Place 2 cups chicken broth (or boullion with 2 cps water) in a large soup pot and bring to a simmer. Add an additional 4 cups water and bring to a boil.
While the stock is coming to a boil, prepare the chicken:
- Remove the giblets, wash them, and add them to the soup pot to enhance the stock.
- Rinse the whole chicken inside and out in cool water.
- Trim off excess fat from the chicken neck and lower cavity, setting the skin aside for later use.
- Sprinkle salt (I use sea salt) both in the cavity of the chicken and over the outside, gently patting into the skin.
- Stuff ginger slices and spring onions into the cavity and close with toothpicks.
Twist the wings back to ensure they don’t flop around or overcook.
Once the stock is boiling, dip the chicken into the broth gently and ladle stock over the sides of the chicken until the skin tightens. Then gently lower the chicken into the soup pot until completely covered.
Bring to a boil and boil uncovered for 10 minutes.
Remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 45 minutes to finish cooking.
While chicken is finishing cooking, place reserved chicken skin in a wok or large skillet over medium high heat. Cook until oil forms from the chicken fat and skin, approximately 2 Tbsp.
- Note: Using chicken fat oil here is a major aspect of the flavor in the rice but you can substitute vegetable oil if desired.
Once the oil is hot, add ginger slices and garlic, sauté lightly until fragrant to infuse the oil with flavor, then quickly add the uncooked rice before the aromatics burn.
Stir fry the uncooked rice until fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer the contents of the wok to a rice cooker. Add the 3 3/4 cups stock from the cooking chicken. Start the rice cooker.
- Note: Cooking rice is a bit of a science. Older rice could take more liquid. Newer rice could require less. Pre-soaking rice before cooking will help the rice cook faster but requires less liquid when actually cooking. In general, the ratio would be for every standard cup of rice, use 1 3/4 cups of liquid.
- Once rice cooker signals the rice is done, open and fluff the rice. Remove the slices of ginger and discard.
Carefully take chicken out of soup pot and place in an ice water bath to cool (or place on a plate to cool).
In a small bowl, combine ¼ cup stock from cooking chicken, ¼ cup light soy sauce, 1 tbsp sugar and 1 tbsp sesame oil. Set aside to serve with main dish. A little of this goes a long way.
Bring broth in soup pot to a boil, skimming off any scum and some excess oil.
Add winter melon and boil for 10 to 15 minutes or until winter melon is cooked and tender. Season soup to taste with fish sauce, a sprinkle of sugar, and pepper. Soup should be mild, subtle and a gentle accompaniment to the chicken and rice.
Serving Khao Mun Gai
Plate the rice first, then arrange slices of the chicken on top or next to the rice. Have a small dish of the sauce next to the plate to be used as desired. Serve a bowl of the light chicken soup on the side.