Like some popular dishes, there’s a story behind the origins of beggar's chicken. A starving, homeless beggar in rural China was said to have stolen a chicken from a yard and was about to cook it when a posse of emperor guards passed by. In his state of panic, he tried to hide the chicken by covering it with mud and threw it into the fire. He ended up with a chicken that was said to be the most tender and flavoursome he's ever eaten.
Here, this dish is recreated using a dough crust and baked in an electric oven. The dough is not meant to be eaten as it becomes rock hard when baked. But it does wonders in sealing in all the flavours and aromas. Once you split open the dough after 2.5 hours of baking, the scent is simply marvelous, while the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender and juicy.
1 bird free range chicken, about 1.3kg-1.5kg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
375ml (1 ½ cups) water
30g tong sum herb
20g yoke chuk
15g angelica root
12 red dates, pitted
2 tablespoon corn flour + 2 tablespoons water, for thickening
1 tablespoon rock sugar
1 tablespoon light soya sauce
1 teaspoon dark soya sauce
2 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or more
1 teaspoon sesame oil
10g dried scallops
1 teaspoon pepper
Salt to taste
2 sheets of greaseproof paper or aluminium foil (20 inch x 14 inch)
1kg plain flour
1. Wash chicken and pat dry with paper towels.
2. Marinate chicken with salt and pepper.
3. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
1. Bring water and the rest of the Chinese herbs to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes over low heat.
2. Remove from heat and mix in seasoning ingredients. Leave to cool.
1. Combine salt and half of the water in a mixing bowl. Stir to dissolve salt then pour flour over. Mix and add enough water to form a dough. Rest dough for 30 minutes covered with a tea towel.
To wrap up:
1. Place 2 sheets of greaseproof paper or aluminium foil over a deep bowl large enough to sit the chicken.
2. Place the Chinese herbs into the cavity of the chicken and place chicken in the bowl. Pour cooled herbal stock over. (note: may marinate chicken with herbal stock for 1 hour in the refrigerator before wrapping up)
3. Wrap up the greaseproof paper to make into a parcel.
4. Roll the dough out into a circle about of ½ cm thickness and wrap it over the chicken parcel.
5. Place the whole parcel onto a tray and bake in a pre-heated oven at 180°C for 2-2 ½ hours.
6. Break the crust with a pair of sturdy kitchen sheers and discard dough. Be careful of the hot steam. Quickly get a large bowl ready to place chicken into as the precious gravy would spill out.
7. Serve warm with steamed white rice or plain steamed dumplings.
With more than 10 years experience in the food industry, Debbie Is a true bred Nyonya who hails from Malacca. She is the author of numerous cookbooks such as “UNDERWRAPS” by Marshall Cavendish Cuisine, Penang Food guide & cookbook and “Nyonya Flavours” by Star Publications.