149. Chicken Long Rice p.247


The recipe

The Book is at it again. I’m beginning to understand that when the blurb before the recipe mentions comfort food, I’m in for a boring dinner. This time it’s comfort food, Hawaiian style.

I’ve just started to get to know Hawaiian food through a few of the recipes in The Book. I don’t have a good sense of it, I’m not clear on what they’re going for, or trying to be. They’re all a little bit odd, using unexpected ingredients, in initially strange combinations. I get the sense that there’s an underlying culinary theory that just hasn’t been explained to me, and if I could tune into it, all these dishes would just come together. I visited my aunt in Hawaii several years ago, but we mostly ate Korean barbecue, and Japanese soups. I missed out on the luau experience, without even trying the cheesy pupu platters and grass skirts kind. I’d dearly love to be invited to someone’s back yard for the real deal. Maybe thinking of this luau classic as fortification for a night of hard partying gets me a bit closer to groking it.

The recipe is really straightforward. You start by simmering chicken thighs with ginger and salt, then let it cool. You then remove the skin and bones, and shred the meat. The broth gets strained, and brought to a boil with water, bouillon cubes (not stock), onion, and dried shiitakes. You then add bean thread noodles, cook for a few minutes, then allow the dish to sit for half an hour while the noodles absorb the broth. You then add the chicken, reheat the soup, and stir in scallions just before serving.

The preparation went easily, except for cutting up the bean thread noodles into 3 inch lengths. Those things are incredibly tough. I’ve never used them before, and I was expecting that they’d break apart like rice noodles, but I practically had to get the power tools out to get the job done. Kitchen scissors were an abject failure, my chef’s knife just turned on the noodles and tried to cut me, and hitting them with a cast iron frying pan made me feel better, but inflicted very little damage. In the end my bread knife did the job, but sent little bits of adamantium noodle all over the kitchen. Next time I think I’ll get out the pruning sheers.

After all that noodle cutting effort, I was hoping for a tasty dish, unfortunately this was as bland as it gets. You’d think that ginger and mushrooms would bolster the chicken and make a satisfying soup, but all that flavour just disappeared. It tasted like a weak broth, with a hint of ginger, and some washed out watery chicken chunks. I liked the noodles quite a bit, they had a fun texture, and they seemed to concentrate what little flavour there was in this dish. This recipe makes a whole lot of very bland soup, so I had to get creative with the leftovers. Stirring in some sriracha chile sauce, and swirling in a beaten egg improved things considerably.

Another lesson I’m learning about Hawaiian food is that the name of a dish is a pretty poor clue as to what you’ll be served. Chicken long rice is indeed made with chicken, but the rest of the name is a mystery. Maybe I’m just missing the point of this dish, but as it stands the only way I’d make it again is if I was serving someone on their deathbed and even the slightest titillation or elevation of their heart rate could push them into the great beyond. Those of us with many good years ahead can spend our dinners more wisely.

8 March 2008 | Pasta, Noodles, and Dumplings, The Book | Comments

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8 Responses to “149. Chicken Long Rice p.247”

  1. 1 mvb 8 March 2008 @ 12:32 pm

    Ah yes, the soupy chicken pile o’noodles. Indeed, the dish was quite bland. I didn’t think it was all bad though, it started off with some promising ingredients, I think it just needed a kick in the can – maybe some hot sauce, more vegetables, a bit of spice on the chicken, etc. I did however, appreciate that this recipe was not gilded in butter, as is often the case with the book.

    P.S. I am also not a fan of unidentifiable chicken bits and the instructions for the chicken made for some questionable chicken parts. That is all.

  2. 2 michelle @ TNS 9 March 2008 @ 12:01 am

    man, that’s sad. but it had ginger and mushrooms! and it looked kinda comforting.

  3. 3 KC 12 March 2008 @ 9:50 am

    Yea, it made me sad too. But don’t give up, with a few additions it could taste pretty good. Bland is a much better problem to have than bad.

  4. 4 lee 24 May 2008 @ 8:19 pm

    I simmer bite sized pieces of boneless chicken in canned chicken broth (Swanson) with A LOT of ginger only until the chicken is just done and still tender, certainly not 40 minutes. Soak the bean threads in warm water until pliable (about 10 minutes)then cut into a manageable length with a knife (or scissors). Drain the bean threads well and add to the chicken and broth. Do not allow to boil after adding the bean threads; noodles will continue to absorb the broth; I let it sit for about 10 minutes. I add a good shot of soy sauce and more broth if you want, depends on how soupy you want it. Top with sliced scallions. Regular round onions and mushrooms are not traditional, I have never seen them in chicken long rice. I can eat a ton of this comfort food. To me the trick is to use a lot of ginger.

  5. 5 KC 25 May 2008 @ 11:47 am

    Thanks Lee, that sounds simple, and potentially very delicious.

  6. 6 Leiohu 27 July 2008 @ 11:59 am

    As a native Hawaiian, I can tell you that this recipe is pretty authentic. However, cutting of the noodles is absolutely unnecessary. The dish is more like a Hawaiian chicken noodle soup than pasta/noodle dish. It’s supposed to be brothy with a strong ginger flavor. Add more chicken broth and instead of chopping the ginger, we just slice it so that it’s easier to fish out, and we add more ginger than the recipe calls for. And also add Hawaiian salt to taste or sea salt.

  7. 7 KC 27 July 2008 @ 12:09 pm

    Thanks Leiohu, that sounds like a much better strategy. I don’t think I’ll ever try cutting up bean thread noodles again.

  8. 8 prell 4 April 2009 @ 12:28 pm

    i was looking for chicken long rice recipes and came across yours–the picture looks appealing so i’ll try this recipe :) i believe it’s called chicken “long rice” because of the type of noodle that was originally used, rice noodles. “long rice” = “rice noodle”. :)

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