Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Jun

Sesame Chicken and “Rice” with Fiery Ginger and Chile Sauce

This is the type of meal you’ll want to share with those you love. Not only because it’s nourishing and delicious, but also because you don’t want to be the only one in the house who’s breathing out fiery chile and garlic. The aromatic chile sauce that gives this dish its fiery kick is served on the side and can be used in moderation, but we guarantee you’ll find yourself generously spooning it over your plate, unable to resist its bold, addictive flavor.

This isn’t to say that Sesame Chicken with Cauliflower Rice is a recipe only for the brave hearted. This traditional dish, typically called Hainanese Chicken and served with regular rice, is a simple and mild combination of flavors. It was Peter Yong’s favorite dish at a local restaurant and we’re glad he “Primalized” it and shared the results with all of us for the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook Challenge.

The chicken and cauliflower that make up the heart of the meal are simmered in a soothing ginger and scallion-infused broth. After simmering, the chicken is plunged into an ice bath to halt the cooking process and seal in the moist, gelatinous texture. A post-bath massage with toasted sesame oil adds enough flavor to the chicken that you could simply dig in and eat at this point… but the real soul of the dish would be missing.

The exact ingredients that create the sauce served with Hainanese Chicken vary from cook to cook. We find Peter’s version, a bold blend of tart lime, spicy ginger and loads of garlic, irresistible. The real fire in the sauce comes from delicate-looking little peppers that are fiercer than they let on. A lot of heat and flavor is packed into a small Thai chile pepper. Removing the seeds from inside the pepper tones down the spiciness a little, but be careful – if you touch the seeds with your fingers then inadvertently wipe your eyes, you’re in for a world of hurt.

Even with the seeds removed, one Thai chile will add noticeable tongue-tingling spiciness to the sauce. Two chiles will make you sweat. If you can’t find Thai chiles, other types of hot peppers can be substituted. Habanero peppers will be a little spicier, and jalapenos a bit milder.

Regardless of how spicy you choose to make the sauce, it brings a welcome kick of flavor to the mild chicken and cauliflower and transforms the dish from simple to spectacular. If there happens to be any leftover sesame chicken, it’s fantastic in a salad the next day with, of course, just a little bit of Peter’s spicy chile sauce drizzled on top.

This dish can be served warm or cold and makes enough to feed four.



  • 1 whole chicken
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 cloves peeled garlic
  • 4 slices ginger
  • 4 whole scallions
  • 2 tablespoons dark sesame oil, or more to taste

Cauliflower rice

  • 2-3 cups cauliflower rice (cauliflower grated in the food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 5 peeled and minced shallots
  • 5 peeled and minced garlic cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Chile sauce

  • 2 fresh Thai chilies, with seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped ginger
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped shallot
  • 3 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped garlic
  • 3 to 4 teaspoons lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt


  • sliced tomatoes
  • sliced cucumbers
  • chopped parsley


To prepare the chicken, wash and remove innards. Rub the chicken with salt. Crush garlic and ginger slightly with the flat of a knife and stuff the inside of the chicken with garlic, ginger and scallions.

Bring 12 cups of water (or enough to just cover the chicken) to a boil in a large pot. Add the chicken with breast side down. Simmer covered for 15- 20 minutes then turn the chicken and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes until done.

Remove chicken, draining any liquid back into the pot and reserving the stock. Plunge the chicken into ice water.

After 5 minutes, remove and drain the chicken, then rub with sesame oil and let cool to room temperature.

Prepare the sauce by blending chiles, shallots, garlic and ginger in a food processor until a paste.

Transfer into a bowl and stir in 1/2 cup of the reserved chicken stock while it’s still boiling hot. Add lime juice, vinegar and salt. Stir to combine and let sit while preparing the rest of the meal.

To make the cauliflower rice, process about 1/2 of a medium sized head of cauliflower in a food processor until the texture is rice like. Heat coconut oil in a saucepan. Once hot, add shallots and garlic and stir-fry until fragrant and soft. Add cauliflower rice and stir-fry another 3 to 4 minutes. Add salt and 3 cups of the reserved chicken broth. Bring to a boil over high heat. Boil until the liquid evaporates to the level of the rice and steam holes appear. Turn heat to low and simmer for 30-40 minutes until liquid is absorbed.

Chop chicken into bite size pieces. If you have a sharp knife or cleaver you can just chop up the meat up with the bones. Add salt and more sesame oil if desired. Serve over the top of the cauliflower rice and garnish with tomatoes, cucumbers and parsley. Drizzle the chile sauce on top.

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. Mark… you put me in a predicament. My family was going to spatchcock a whole chicken last Sunday. But, it of course downpoured so we stuck it in the oven. My mother bought another whole chicken so we could spatchcock it this time.

    But, of course, you HAD to throw something like this at me. This looks to damn amazing to NOT make tomorrow…

    So, I ask you, or anyone else… Should I make this or should we spatchcock the whole chicken for tomorrow? Here is the link to help you decide:

    Primal Toad wrote on June 12th, 2010
  2. Wow, this recipe is wonderfully done! The end result definitely justifies all the work needed to make this :0)

    Thanks a bunch for sharing this!

    Rice Palette wrote on June 12th, 2010
  3. Oh, yum! Making this tonight. Done deal.

    slacker wrote on June 12th, 2010
  4. Everything seems to require a food processor nowadays … Any recommendations for this stubborn primal newbie? A grater?

    Alex wrote on June 12th, 2010
    • Buy a food processor. 😉

      Jamie wrote on June 13th, 2010
    • I didn’t feel like busting mine out for this so I used a grater for the cauliflower (worked fine and really didn’t take that long) and then used a blender for the chile sauce. I added about a tablespoon of broth to the chile, ginger, etc to blend it to a paste then continued the directions. It turned out just fine. Actually, it’s amazing.

      CrushinD wrote on August 6th, 2010
    • Small food processors are only about $20 now at target, and can take a lot of the prep work out of these recipes. I myself don’t have an ultra deluxe model. Just a smaller version, and it does a great job. It is worth the investment. Kitchen Aid is a good brand.

      Katie wrote on May 21st, 2011
    • I just use a grater for cauli, it is a tad messier but is quite easy…just remember to watch your fingers 😉

      Bel78 wrote on January 28th, 2014
  5. Oh, and that refering to that great sounding rice substitute … Not the chile paste.

    Alex wrote on June 12th, 2010
  6. Old fashioned food processor for “ricing” vegetables: a sieve and a spoon. Actually, you can find a hand operated kitchen implement called a “ricer” which has a hand crank you rotate. But a sieve with a spoon works fine. Just crumble the cauliflower and cook according to the directions. Then drain the cauliflower very thoroughly and place it into a large sieve. Use a big spoon to push the cauliflower through the sieve. Let drain some more before serving.

    slacker wrote on June 12th, 2010
  7. You can just grate the cauliflower with a hand or box grater – I often do this to save having to get the processor out (and clean it afterwards!)

    Recipe sounds delicious, I’ll be trying it soon!

    Nick wrote on June 13th, 2010
  8. Looks okay, but why do we need to bother with a “rice substitute”? I personally detest cauliflower (no lectures, please, I’ve tried it all kinds of ways, just can’t stand the stuff) and don’t see any reason why we should need to “dress up” or “fluff up” some perfectly good chicken with anything. Is it just that old impulse to put carbs on the plate being redirected into something more “healthy”? It would make just as much sense to put shredded green beans or mushrooms under it, but they wouldn’t look like “rice”. Do we have to fool ourselves into thinking we’re eating “rice”?? Seems silly to me.
    Anyway, the chicken sounds great just as it is without anything else.

    Kansas Grokette wrote on June 13th, 2010
    • Get over it? It does look like rice, and many people including myself think its a great accompaniment to dishes like these. If you don’t like it, don’t make it!

      I’ll be trying it soon, looks great.

      Chris wrote on June 14th, 2010
  9. Looks so yummy. I love the recipes on this site.

    Willow NyteEyes wrote on June 13th, 2010
  10. Ok, you had my husband until you used the word “gelatinous” to refer to the cooked chicken. Now he’s completely turned off. The only thing he likes to eat that is “gelatinous” is Jell-o. A little clarification, please? Or should those of us who are squeamish simmer the bird a bit longer, or finish it off in the oven?

    Julie John wrote on June 13th, 2010
    • I roasted Cornish hens and just set them on top of the “rice” and topped it with the sauce and garnish. Tasted much better in my opinion than boiling :-)

      Sara wrote on June 15th, 2010
  11. The tip about grating cauliflower is a good one – thank you!

    Kristin wrote on June 13th, 2010
  12. If you would appreciate someting starchy with the chicken, make the cauliflower “rice” and by all means use a grater if you are only making a little bit for a few servings!
    Gelatinous means that the marrow has started to cook out of the bones, uually imparting the finished dish (imho) with some “long simmered” flavor and body…a good thing, and NOTHING like Jello, If I have misunderstood, I apologize…
    In my house/family we would never use “just” 2 cloves of garlic on a WHOLE chicken…6 is more like it!
    Grok on!

    Julie Aguiar wrote on June 13th, 2010
  13. oops, typo!

    Julie Aguiar wrote on June 13th, 2010
  14. I’m drooling…I love heat..I will try this..

    rik wrote on June 14th, 2010
  15. I’d personally have this on a mixed leaf salad with plenty of strong fiery leaves like rocket, mizuna and watercress. Big and bold to stand up to the chilli.

    Jane wrote on June 16th, 2010
  16. I DO love the Hainanese version of this … I’ll be trying this recipe on my (Chinese) father! (I mean cooking it for him, not cooking him Hainan-style)

    Kitty wrote on June 17th, 2010
  17. Oh my God, Hainanese Chicken Rice is one of my favorite comfort foods in the whole world, and seeing this version made me drool big time. We’ll definitely be trying it at home! Thank you!

    Lea wrote on June 21st, 2010
  18. And now I know what to do with the peppers from the Thai hot chili plant in my garden. Thanks!

    i-geek wrote on June 21st, 2010
  19. I finally got around to making this dish last night, but with a few tweaks. I had pork tenderloins at home, so I used them instead. I marinated the pork in tamari, water, ginger, lemongrass, garlic and some Sriracha sauce. Then, I grilled it.

    I made the cauliflower rice exactly as described and the chile sauce too.

    When I served the dish, I replaced parsley with cilantro and tomatoes with mung bean sprouts (not really sure how primal they are compared to the tomatoes I skipped).

    The whole family loved it.

    Damon wrote on June 23rd, 2010
  20. Does anybody have any ideas on what to do with the leftover broth from this dish? I was thinking of making a soup…but I am not sure what to add. I just can’t throw away all that rich healthy goodness!

    Barefoot_explorer wrote on June 27th, 2010
    • Barefoot_explorer, if I have a huge amount of leftover, I put them in small containers and freeze them. It’s not a hassle at all to “defrost” later on.. in fact, on your next stir-fry, you can just break chunks off, as the heat from the stir-fry will just simply melt it.

      That’s what I would do :)

      Rice Palette wrote on June 28th, 2010
  21. What would happen to the cauliflower if I used a blender instead of a food processor? I don’t have a processor.. What are my options?

    Katie wrote on July 6th, 2010
    • Rice Palette,

      If you use a blender you’ll wind up with something resembling more mashed potatoes than rice.

      I used to use a potato ricer to, well… ‘rice’ cauliflower, but that was a huge pain. So instead I dump steamed cauliflower into a food processor on the ‘blend/chop’ setting with pastured butter, cream, salt, pepper, and a touch of garlic.

      I can’t tell from the above recipe if they’re using a grater or the blend/chopping blade, but if all you’ve got is a blender I’d say just blend a little – until the bigger chunks are broken up – but don’t overdo it or you’ll lose the rice effect.

      Kent Cowgill wrote on July 6th, 2010
      • Was this reply in response to Katie’s comment? :)

        Rice Palette wrote on July 7th, 2010
  22. Thank you – you have answered my prayers for something that resembles rice! I am going to try this very soon, and the chili sauce looks to die for!

    Sarah Schatz wrote on July 26th, 2010
  23. Wonderful points altogether, you just won a new reader. What would you recommend in regards to your put up that you simply made some days in the past? Any positive?

    crackers wrote on December 2nd, 2011
  24. This recipe was delicious. Cauliflower ‘rice’ has revolutionized my diet. It really does feel like eating rice but tastier and Ive never liked cauli but I love this and cauli mash too. Thanks so much for the recipes they are wonderful.. Totally love the egg and breakfast sausage on the go too, brilliant!!!

    Tracey wrote on November 19th, 2013
  25. Wow, this was awesome…I was not expecting the response this got from my non-primal family and godparents. There was none left, and they were all left gobsmacked! Everyone went back for seconds, and I’ve been asked for the recipe for this one from all who ate, and as a massive hit, my diet regulated diabetic godfather who reckons it’s much better to eat cauli “rice” than rice, and save his carb load for dessert :) I’ll win them over yet

    Bel78 wrote on January 30th, 2014

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

© 2016 Mark's Daily Apple

Subscribe to the Newsletter and Get a Free Copy
of Mark Sisson's Fitness eBook and more!