Hainan Chicken


Wenchang chicken is usually made in the baizhan (白斩, plain chopped-up) or baiqie (白切, plain and sliced) way, which involves first boiling and slicing the chicken, then dipping the pieces in cold sauce. This helps retain the chicken’s original taste while allowing the sauce to warm on the skin. Below we list three sauces you can use: the first is salty with a touch of ginger and garlic spice; the second is sweet and sour; and the third sauce is a fragrant mix of ginger and spring onion. Whichever option you choose, don’t let all the painstaking preparation go to waste by skimping on the presentation. All the ingredients for the dipping sauce must be organic and fresh. Local people also use leftover chicken oil and broth to cook their rice, making for the perfect side dish: Hainan chicken rice (海南鸡饭, Hǎinán jī fàn).

There’s a saying on Hainan Island that “if you don’t have Wenchang chicken, a feast is impossible” (无没有文昌鸡不成席, Wú méiyǒu wénchāng jī bùchéng xí) or more colloquially, “it’s just not a party without Wenchang Chicken!” Below, we do our best to help you recreate its special flavor so you can get your party started without a hitch.


1 whole chicken, about 1.5kg
整鸡 zhěngjī

2 tablespoons salt
盐 yán

80g ginger, crushed
姜末 jiāngmò

50g spring onions, cut in 5cm pieces
香葱 xiāng cōng

3 tablespoons sesame oil
芝麻油 zhīmayóu

1. Find a pot big enough for your chicken, then fill with water and boil. Add the crushed ginger and spring onions.

2. Place the chicken in the boiling water for 10 seconds and then remove. Bring the water to a boil again, and repeat three times.

3. The third time, leave the chicken in the pot. When the water has reached boiling point, reduce the heat and let simmer for a half hour, or less if using a smaller bird. To check if the chicken is done, stick a chopstick into the flesh under the leg. If the juice runs clear, the chicken is cooked. If you are not sure, test with a meat thermometer.

4. Make your sauce of choice: salty, sweet-and-sour or fragrant.

5. Transfer the chicken to a plate and drizzle with sesame oil. Leave it to cool before cutting into bite sized pieces. Serve together with sauces and Hainan chicken rice (optional).


Option 1 – Salty

4 tablespoons minced ginger

2 tablespoons minced garlic

6 tablespoons light soy sauce

Option 2 – Sweet-and-Sour

6 tablespoons vinegar

3 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons minced ginger

1 tablespoon minced garlic

Option 3 – Fragrant

100g sliced spring onions

3 tablespoons minced ginger

1 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon soy sauce

50ml hot oil

Combine the spring onions and ginger together and pour over the hot oil while mixing in the salt and soy sauce to taste.


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