How to Make Khao Man Gai ข้าวมันไก่: Thai Version of Hainanese Chicken and Rice

khao man gai recipe

Cleaver-flattened pieces of chicken come with your KMG in Thailand.
No reason why you can’t have big, juicy pieces of chicken like this!

Khao Man Gai, one of the most common street foods in Thailand, is, in short, a mutation, albeit controlled, of Hainanese chicken and rice. Overshadowed by the original dish and rarely included on the menus of most Thai restaurants in the West, Khao Man Gai (RTGS: khao man kai ข้าวมันไก่) is not widely known outside of Thailand. For us, however, this is a national favorite. In fact, just the mere mention of the name could cause collective panting in greedy anticipation.

And the reason is simple — it tastes good. How can you say no to slices of juicy and tender capon meat served with fragrant rice cooked in rich broth and a unique piquant sauce of ginger, garlic, chillies, and soy? As much as I adore the Hainanese version, it just so happens that I had already fallen in love with the Thai version before I discovered the original. I like the more spicy sauce offered by the Thai version as it balances out the richness of the chicken and the rice better, in my opinion.

From my description of this dish as a mutation, you can probably tell that it is not exactly identical to Hainanese chicken and rice. Then again, it should be noted that Khao Man Gai should not be regarded as a failed attempt to replicate the original and, therefore, inferior. The dish has become an almost entirely new entity — a delicacy in its own right. In fact, although most Thai people intellectually know that the dish is inspired by a Hainanese dish, I think we have come to think of this version as our own.

What amuses me about Khao Man Gai is how its appearance is the same regardless of where you find it in Thailand. It’s as if there’s a universal code governing the manner in which the dish is to be presented which all Khao Man Gai vendors nationwide abide by. Slices of steamed or boiled capon meat are placed over a mound of rice. Cucumber slices and fresh cilantro leaves serve as a quintessential garnish. Sometimes, a few slices of cooked congealed chicken blood (it’s not that bad …) is also added to the mix. The chicken-rice plate is then accompanied by a bowl of piping hot chicken consommé with a few pieces of Chinese winter gourd (whose Thai name is pronounced exactly like the way this little girl pronounces “frog“) swimming in it. The broth, to be slurped between bites, helps move the chicken and rice along your esophagus more smoothly.

I was actually salivating like a hyena while typing the previous paragraph. Dignity is overrated.



Khao Man Gai (or Khao Mun Gai) Recipe
(Serves 6)
Printable Version

[Check out vegan Khao Man Gai Tofu by Neven Mrgan of Panic Blog]

[Added 5-8-12: Hey, whaddayaknow, Neven is at it again. Check out how he’s incorporated Khao Man Gai sauce into a Khao Man Gai burger.]

Khao man gai recipe
First prepare the chicken: Place one large capon or roaster in a big stockpot and add water just until it barely covers the bird. Add a tablespoon of salt to the water and bring the whole thing to a boil. Once the water starts boiling, lower the heat and let it simmer on low, covered, until the chicken thighs move easily — a sign that the entire bird is thoroughly cooked. (You don’t want to cook the chicken beyond this point. The meat should have firm, bouncy texture, not be falling-off-the-bone tender like stewed chicken.)

Khao man gai recipe
Place a large bowl in the kitchen sink and fill it with iced water. This is to keep the residual heat from further cooking the chicken as it cools down. The iced water bath helps keep the chicken meat moist, firm, and juicy. Gently remove the chicken from the pot, shake off the liquid inside the cavity, and dunk the chicken into the iced water. Leave the chicken in the iced water until the entire bird has cooled down to room temperature. Remove the chicken from the water, pat it dry with paper towel, carve it, and set it aside. Keep the chicken on a covered platter.

Khao man gai recipe
Then make the rice: Rinse 2 cups long grain rice until the water runs clear and drain. Skim the fat off the surface of the liquid in which the chicken is cooked into a measuring cup; add enough water to the measuring cup to make a total of 3 3/4 cups of liquid. Make sure the water is very cold so that when it’s added to the fatty broth, the mixture is at room temperature which is ideal for making rice.

Khao man gai recipe
Stir in a teaspoon of salt (or a couple of teaspoons of soy sauce if you like your rice darker in color) Add the chicken fat-water mixture to the rice. (Don’t be scared of the fat; this is, in fact, the “man” in Khao Man Gai and what gives the rice such great flavor.) A piece of fresh ginger, a smashed clove of garlic, a bruised cilantro root, or a few white peppercorns can be added for extra flavor, but if you don’t have these things, don’t worry about it.

Cook the rice however you’d like: on the stove top, in the microwave, or — the best and the easiest way — in an electric rice cooker.

khao man gai recipe
Make the sauce: In the meantime, put about 1/3 cup of roughly chopped fresh ginger (the more fibrous, the better, in this case!) into a food processor along with 4 medium cloves garlic (peeled), 5-8 red or green bird’s eye chillies (the number depends on your heat tolerance), and 1/2 cup fermented soybean sauce, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/4 cup dark sweet soy sauce, 1/4 “white” of thin soy sauce (information about dark sweet soy sauce and “white” (thin) soy sauce can be found in my post on soy sauces used in modern Thai cooking), and 1/3 cup white vinegar (not rice — oh gawd, not rice vinegar); pulse everything into a coarse puree. Pour the sauce mixture into a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and remove from heat after 30-40 seconds. Let the sauce cool down and adjust the seasonings as needed. In my opinion, the sauce should be primarily salty and sweet with a bit of sour taste from the vinegar. (You can make 3-4 times the amount of sauce and freeze it to use later. The sauce freezes beautifully and thaws easily.)

Khao man gai recipe
For the winter gourd soup: Peel and deseed approximately 2 pounds’ worth of Chinese winter gourd (daikon or chayote can also be used). Cut the gourd into 2″ x 2″ pieces. Place the gourd pieces in the liquid in which the chicken is cooked. (After the fat has been skimmed off, the remaining liquid should be quite clear.) Bring it all to a boil, lower the heat, cover the pot, and simmer for 7-8 minutes, or until the gourd is tender but not mushy. Season the broth with salt or fish sauce (soy sauce will darken the broth too much.)

Khao man gai recipe
To serve: Put a mound of rice on a plate and top with chicken pieces. The rice should be warm and the chicken at room temperature. The sauce can go in a small dipping sauce bowl on the side or be drizzled on top of the chicken. The necessary garnish includes fresh cucumber slices and cilantro leaves. (You can be creative with the way you plate your Khao Man Gai, but the Khao Man Gai police may be knocking on your door.)

khao man gai recipe
Serve the gourd soup piping hot in a separate small serving bowl. A light sprinkle of ground white pepper is not mandatory but highly recommended.

N.B. – This is not traditional, but several Khao Man Gai vendors have offered the option of substituting boiled/steamed chicken with fried chicken. If you’re interested, here’s a recipe for Thai-style fried chicken. You can use the same dipping sauce for the fried chicken version, or you can use it in addition to Thai sweet chilli sauce.

  1. Braised chicken like this is a family favourite. My better half’s mom makes her chicken exactly like you do.

    The chicken, while flavorful, is a great canvass on which to add intensely aromatic or savory flavours via a dipping sauce. Both my mom and my better half’s just pour plenty of oil into a hot wok and sautee finely chopped ginger and garlic in it. Once coloured, everything is taken off the heat and chopped green onion (scallions) are added to finish. The oil and chopped aromatics are served with the chicken and rice.

    I’m really excited to try your accompanying sauce.

    Thanks for yet another enlightening blog entry! Cheers :)

  2. I love the way you write about food. It always makes me hungry! I am going to the Asian Market this weekend so I will have to get some yellow soy bean paste and sweet soy sauce so I can try this.

  3. KennyT – You’ll have to fight me for it. :)

    Don – Thanks for the tips! I’ll include those in the main text.

    Kelly – Thanks.

    DB – That was SO gooey and mushy … :)

  4. you beat me to it, i’m writing up the post for my own version of khao man gai! :) actually, i looked to your blog first to find a recipe and finally broke down and emailed an old thai friend for her mom’s recipe .

    i adore this dish, this sauce totally makes it for me. i could NOT find yellow bean paste at the market, despite walking up and down the aisle for a good 15 minutes.

    jeez, i only just had this last week and i’m craving it again! <3!

  5. Angry Asian – Hey, I look forward to your blog post! Khao Man Gai is addicting, isn’t it. When I was in grade school, the principal would sometimes override the lunch schedule and added Khao Man Gai on days when we celebrated our school winning a basketball game or a national science competition, etc. When she announced on the intercom that Khao Man Gai would be on the menu instead of whatever it was on the original schedule, the whole school erupted in cheer. Pretty pathetic but funny in retrospect.

    Tao Jiew can be hard to find. Every big Thai or SEA grocery should have it, though. Try online, if you really can’t find it. A bottle lasts an eternity and a week. It’s salty; a little goes a long way.

  6. I should have waited to read your post after lunch. Now I’m really really hungry. I love street food. So simple and so delicious. That chicken looks so good right now. I hope you have leftovers.

  7. The rice is similar to hainan rice I guess? but the sauce is different… It very interesteng how every parts of asia have almost the same dishes with different names… btw I’m just super hungry now :)

  8. Just curious, Leela, how do you say Chinese winter gourd in Thai? Also, is Thai sweet sauce the same as spring roll sauce?

    By the way, my handsome cousin, a gainfully employed physicist, wants to know if most Thai women look like you. If so, he wants to move to Thailand.

  9. Jason – I *so* knew someone was going to ask. The Thai word for Chinese winter gourd rhymes with “luck” but begins with a different letter. I’ll leave it at that.

    Thai sweet chilli sauce is very similar to the spring roll sauce, but I wouldn’t say they’re completely interchangeable. The spring roll sauce is generally thinner and sometimes has shredded daikon (and sometimes carrots) added to it. You can make it yourself at home using the recipe link in the post or you can buy it from the store. Pantainorasingh is a pretty good brand.

  10. Mmmmm Hainese chicken rice is one of my favourite simple meals. I’ve never had the Thai version, but I have to say the sauce sounds better. I always end up adding tons of chili to the ginger sauce.

  11. I love the sound of your spicy sauce instead of the mild ones you usually get. It’s interesting that the garnish is always the same – it’s funny how some things are so traditional, but others vary a lot.

  12. Are these condiments available in our little neighborhood Thai grocery? I have a compulsive need to stuff my pantry with bottles the writing on which I cannot read.

  13. Jude – Yes, our little neighborhood Thai grocery definitely carries these two things. The sweet soy sauce ( is different from dark soy sauce; it’s sweeter and has a smoky taste. Ask for see-EEW-waan (rising tone for the last syllable – kind of like at the end of a question), just to make sure. This is the sauce that is used to make Pad Khee Mao noodles, Pad See Eew, etc. Very versatile.

    The other one is fermented yellow soybean paste which is a little harder to find. I’m sure that little store has it. Ask for tao-jiao-dam (last syllable rhymes with “rum”). If you can’t find it, you might be able to get away with any fermented soy bean product that looks good to you.

    Easiest way – print the group picture and take the printout to the store. :)

  14. lovely. the moistness (??word – LOL) is so evident even in the picture. i could see how an americanized version of this would be slathered in sauce, but i love how simple it looks on the plate. sometimes you just don’t need sprigs of green crud to make a plate shine.

  15. I absolutely love your blog! You’re naturally gifted with food creativity and your writing shows this so well!

    LOVE LOVE LOVE this dish! It is also my family all-time favorite dish to make! I definitely need to try out your direction!

    Thanks for sharing and for posting these wonderful recipes!

  16. Ever since I discovered this dish in Bangkok, I seek it out on every trip to Thailand. I prefer the chicken to be breaded, though. I asked Thai people what sauce I should ask for in the supermarket for this dish, and everyone said ‘Chicken Sauce’! That seemed too simple to me, but nobody had a different name for it. I finally found something like it in my local Thai grocery, but not as good as in Thailand. Thanks for the sauce recipe, I will be making it very soon!

  17. Anonymous – The dish you’ve referred to is a variation of Khao Man Gai called Khao Man Gai Tod (ข้าวมันไก่ทอด) which is a somewhat recent (20 years??) development. A lot of KMG stalls or shops offer this popular variation, but the very few old-fashioned, ultra-conservative ones regard KMGT as a bit of a blasphemy (against what god, I don’t know). A Bangkokian friend of mine made a mistake of ordering KMGT at one of these KMG shops that have been around for 3-4 generations and asked for KMGT. It was a gruesome scene. No blood. But a combination of an evil eye and a clenched grip on a big cleaver was quite scary.

    KMGT is made up of the same rice mentioned here, topped with cut up, bone-in, batter-fried chicken. You can have that with the ginger-garlic sauce in this post or the Thai sweet chilli sauce (or both).

  18. Thanks for the clarification. I first came across it in Pantip Plaza, and make sure to eat it whenever I am shopping there. I could eat that, or its plain cousin, every day without complaint. I’ll make sure I don’t offend the culinary gods, though :-)


  19. The sauce is marvellous. Now I can make it by myself to my family. My Thai wife and my my three sons. They also like the little hot sauce.
    Thx for the recipe, must invent the rest in the blog.
    Robban in Sweden

  20. Made this last night. Sauce was moreish to say the least. Still need to do a little more research on how to poach chicken perfectly, but I guess there’s always room for improvement…thanks for the recipe and beautiful pictures that spurred me to move my lazy butt to make this comfort food. Made some tweaks to suit my tastes (added pandan leaves to the rice and a touch of fish sauce), but the base recipe is sound.

    Going to try the Tom Kha Kai/Gai next…;)

  21. anh – Yes! Bruised and knotted pandan leaves would certainly make the rice special. I love that gentle fragrance. Thanks for mentioning it. In recent years, some vendors have also added fried garlic and soy sauce to the rice as well, but the best and most traditional KMG shops don’t do that.

  22. Hi,

    Love this recipe, came out perfect… My other favorite street dish is Moo dang, any chance of help on that dish?

    Thank you for your site!

  23. hi Leela,
    thank you very much for your fantastic recipes. I appreciate your sense of humor as well.
    I lived in Thailand for 4 years and had KMG hundreds of times so I was looking for a genuine recipe, and I found it here. so glad as KMG is one of my favorite thai dish. I am a fan of the traditional KMG, not Tod definitely.
    I had to make do with korean soy bean sauce as my local store didn’t have a thai brand, and was much relieved to find it was great.
    I entered dreamworld the minute I smelled the sauce made with all the perfect ingredients that you listed ! bliss…
    The broth I made with cucumber and a little bit of turnip cos I could get the veggies you recommended. It was very good. I added some chicken bones for extra flavor.
    Will come back to your blog to try out other recipes, that’s for sure !
    choke dee ka
    Lily from France – in love with thailand

  24. Hi Leela, thank you for sharing all those yummy recipes. I am from Indonesia, and I love Thai food. I even attempted to learn Thai maybe 10 years ago, but it is a very difficult language and I gave up. Anyway, I just discovered you blog yesterday and I am so glad I found it. I would like to make this dish, and I wonder how long approximately before I check whether it is time to take the chicken out? 30 minutes?
    Thanks again for your blog.

  25. tantefrancine – Thanks!

    Hard to specify the cooking time as it depends on a lot of things, including the size of the chicken and the thickness of its meat. But a good indicator would be when the meat around the bottom parts of the drumsticks start to split and shrink (exposing the bones). That’s when you want to watch the bird more closely to make sure it’s thoroughly cooked, but not stewed to death.

  26. Good recipe and comments. Have lived in Thailand since 1994, and now can only spend 6 months of the year here due to Canadian Government pension regulations. There is a restaurant on Wippawadee Rangsit Soi 64 and I know the owner. She gave me the following recipe for a sauce for Khao Man Gai and I have posted it here as an alternative.

    Nam Tim Man Gai

    No measurements have been provided as the person who gave me the recipe makes about two litres at a time. For the coconut sugar, go to a Thai store. Taste and adjust ingredients. The result should be a tangy sauce.


    garlic, ginger, coconut sugar, white sugar, chilli peppers, salt, coriander root


    Put everything into a processor/blender and process/blend to medium-fine consistency. Use with Thai style cold, poached chicken.

  27. Hi Leela! Reading this post reminds me of how good kao mon gai was in Thailand. When I last visited and stayed with family we went to a street cart right by our house every other day for a good month! That lady I forgot her name still asks for me to this day and that was 4 years ago. Anyway whenever I try to make kao mon gai, my soup always ends up being way too bland even though I added fauk and fish sauce. Is there any specific brand fish sauce you use in the soup or maybe coriander roots? Thanks!

    • Assuming you make the soup the way I’ve described in this post, you should have a pretty good chicken broth, albeit a little bland, already. Then it’s just a matter of adding enough fish sauce to make it not bland. Street vendors, usually inferior ones, often use lots of MSG or a flavor enhancer, so to mimic that at home would require a very concentrated reduction of homemade chicken stock. You can also add some crushed cilantro roots, garlic, and white peppercorns to the broth to make it more flavorful.

  28. This is possibly my favorite childhood dish. I personally find the garlic to be key for the rice, followed by the coriander and pepper but the ginger was always overpowering and left out. Growing up, I always had Khao Mun Gai with just sweet soy sauce (ซีอิ๊วหวาน), although we’d also make the regular sauce on the side. I guess I have a sweet tooth, but the regular sauce never worked for me. The vinegar, peppers, and ginger detract from the flavor too much for my tastes. I do like the palette cleansing effect of them though, so I was thinking of maybe combining those elements into something like a spicy mixed drink pairing for it. I also tend to associate the yellow bean paste flavor with a ground pork dip for cabbage(I think it’s called เต้าหู้ยี้หลน)

    In addition to fried chicken, the other dish I often find at the same stands is Khao Mok Gai, which goes better with the fried chicken in my opinion. I don’t see it as often though, maybe because Khao Mun Gai isn’t Southern(except maybe when it has fried chicken) while Khao Mok Gai is?
    Do you have a recipe for that?

  29. I think that KHAO MUN GAI of Thaniland is very delicious and popular , can find to eat everywhere

  30. My goodness gracious.. I am salvating.. this is the definition of food porn for me..

    I love Kao Mun Gai.. my favorite is the Bpa Pon vendor in BKK (near Chatuchak market)

  31. This is what I call a good breakfast!! Why did I just find this, Leela? Thanks for the link from today’s post. So the sauce was cooked!! — that’s where I had gone wrong. I was in the dark about cooking the chicken until I found a “secret” recipe from the internet a few years back that required me to dunk the chicken 3 times. It came out just right (well, not pretty trying to lift the thing out without tearing the skin) so I was happy, but it took so long to make. I had huge respect for the ข้าวมันไก่ establishment because of the long process involved. Now, I can’t wait to try it your way, I am sure it will be ver nice. My non-cooked sauce came out ok but I felt something was missing. It lacked certain aroma like the one found at the tiny hole in the wall place we have been going to for, forever. I had the taste, aroma, texture memorize, living half the world away, but could never replicate — and it is frustrating.

    Ahh… Cold morning, Khao man kai, thai hot coffee (with condense milk). That’s the life! Thank you again. Good luck with the cookbook, you know I want my hands on them as soon as possible. Yes, ‘them’ not ‘it’. I told everybody about shesimmers when they asked for recipe of my thai dishes. Before I found you, my recipes to friends looked like a novel. I couldn’t give them just the ingredients. Anyway, thank goodness, now we have you.

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  34. Leela, thanks for this great recipe. It’s my Thai husband’s favorite dish and he ADORED it (of course, I did too!) Now I can even impress my mother in law, haha. 😉

  35. You are so right! The mention of the name made me crave for some! I just went back to Bangkok this summer and ohhh man! Khao Man Gai is as good as ever!! We ate on the streets as always. Rustic and authentic as heck! Thanks so much for this recipe! Now I can make my favorite childhood dish at home in California! :))

  36. Khao man gai is the only thai food I can have for breakfast and I just love it !
    … in fact I love it all day long :-)
    I’ve been looking for a long time for a good recipe of the sauce … and I finally found THE recipe. It tastes incredibly good… even better than the one from the khao man gai shop. I prepared it 3 times already.
    Thank you.

    • Arkadiy – That’s my handy-dandy Chinese cleaver that I bought from Chinatown years ago. Best knife for chopping those things into small bits and for carving and slicing the chicken too.

      • Thanks! Your seems to be fancier than mine, which just has a plain finish and cast metal handle.

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  39. Thanks for the great recipe and instructions. My son was in Thailand for a couple of years and loved this dish and ate it often when he was there — I made it tonight and he loved it and said it turned out just the way it’s supposed to be.

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