Mix together salt, five-spice powder, cinnamon and pepper; rub insides of chickens with spice mixture. Mix together onions, garlic, ginger and cilantro. Stuff chickens with onion mixture; truss or skewer to close cavities. In nonreactive pot, bring water, vinegar, soy sauce, maltose and baking soda to a boil. Submerge chickens in boiling liquid, one at a time, ladling liquid over exposed parts of chicken for 2 to 3 minutes or until skin firms up and begins to separate from flesh.
Hang chickens from refrigerator rack with sheet pan underneath to catch drips, or place on a rack over a sheet pan, for 8 to 12 hours. Hang chickens from top rack of 300 degree convection oven with low fan with sheet pan underneath to catch drips, or place rack and sheet pan in oven, for about 30 minutes or until juices run clear and skin is crisp and glossy. (In conventional oven, roast at 400 degrees for about 1 hour.) When cool enough to handle, cut each chicken into 16 pieces, discarding stuffing and backbone. For each serving, arrange 4 pieces of chicken over cooked white rice.
Recipe by Chef Andrew Simmons, University of Washington (Seattle, Washington)