Beggar’s Chicken 叫花童雞

Beggar's Chicken

I was reading my blog’s comments and Michael, the alienheartbeat, told me that he was looking forward to my doing a post on Beggar’s Chicken and so here it is 🙂

Beggar’s Chicken (叫花童雞)

The story began in Hangzhou during the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911): A starving beggar stole a chicken and was hotly pursued by its owner. In his haste, he wrapped the bird with lotus leaves grabbed from the street’s vegetable vendor and later buried the chicken in mud near a riverbank to hide it. Later that night, he returned to retrieve the mud covered chicken.

He started a fire to roast the chicken. He placed the entire lotus wrapped and mud covered chicken directly into the fire. Clay crust was formed as the bird cooked, and when it was cracked open, the feathers came right off the chicken, exposing juicy tender meat and emitting an incredible aroma.

The roasted chicken was so delicious, he decided to start selling his creation. Unbeknownst to him, he had just invented one of China’s greatest culinary traditions when one day, the Qing Dynasty Emperor (乾隆皇帝) passed by and got attracted by the aroma of the baked chicken. The Emperor stopped and dined with the beggar… He loved the “Beggar’s Chicken” so much that it was added to the list of Imperial Court’s menu. Beggar’s Chicken was later renamed to “富贵雞” (literally “rich and noble chicken”) in Beijing – a dish fit for the Son of Dragon.

In any case, when ordering or after cooking the dish, make sure you get to crack the crust with a mallet… it’s therapeutic, lol…!

Preparation time: Best one day in advance.
Cooking time: 2 – 2½ hours

Ingredients A:
1.5-1.8kg Whole Chicken (brine chicken in a tub of cold water with 2 tablespoons Salt for an hour. Rinse well and pat dry thouroughly including the cavity).
enough Pig’s Caul Fat to wrap chicken.
5 large dried Lotus Leaves (click to check out TCM value of lotus leaves).
4kg. of non-toxic Pottery Clay (or use the dough recipe below as substitute).
1 tablespoon Sesame Oil (to be drizzled over the stuffing after chicken is cooked).
Cilantro Leaves for garnishing when serving, optional.
Butcher’s twine for tying.

Ingredients B (Marinade):
3 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce.
2 tablespoons Shaoxing Cooking Wine (紹興料酒), if not available use cooking Sherry.
3-5 Star Anise (depending on size).
1 tablespoon Cloves (whole spice not ground).

1 tablespoon *Ginger Juice (extracted from grated fresh ginger – do not boil with the above)

Put all the ingredients B except for the *ginger juice, in a small saucepan, and heat over low heat for about 5-10 minutes until the spices are infused into the liquid. Let this marinade cool before adding the ginger juice. Pour over the patted dry brined bird and into the cavity too. Marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or better yet overnight.

Ingredients C (Stuffing):
50g Pork Belly (ask for the leanest belly or you can trim off the extra fats but I use belly meat for extra flavour – you may use tenderloin or lean meat).
50g small Prawns, shelled and devein (or 25g Dried Shrimps, reconstituted with warm water).
25g Chinese Ham, cut into julienne (use any salty but not strong flavoured deli ham, if Yunan Ham is not available or omit totally).
10 medium Dried Shitake Mushrooms, reconstituted in hot water, rinse, squeeze dry and dice coarsely.
¼ cup frozen cubed Carrots (or dice fresh carrot, parboiled first).
2 teaspoon Ginger, grated or julienne very fine.
2 tablespoons Scallion, chopped finely.
2 tablespoons Groundnut Oil.
2 tablespoons Light Soy Sauce.
1 tablespoon Shaoxing Cooking Wine [(紹興酒) (if you can’t get this use cooking Sherry].
½ teaspoon ground White Pepper.
3 Star Anise.
5 Red Dates, pitted
2 teaspoons Goji Berries.
A few pieces of canned Whole Chestnuts, optional (if using, rinse well).
Scald the pork belly in boiling hot water then cut into ½ inch cubes.
Clean, remove shells and devein the prawns, keep whole.
Reconstitute the dried shitake mushroom with enough boiling hot water to immerse the caps. When soften, rinse the mushrooms, squeeze dry and dice into ½ inch cubes.
Julienne the ham.
The first 6 ingredients in Ingredients C (Stuffing) can be prepared in advance and kept in fridge for stuffing the next day if you are marinating the chicken overnight.

1. Reconstitute the lotus leaves in hot water. When soften, rinse well to rid mud and set aside.

2. Heat groundnut oil in wok until just beginning to smoke. Add the chopped ginger and scallion into the wok and stir-fry for about a minute. Add the pork and mushroom (also the dried shrimps if using) and stir-fry for about 3 minutes or until the meat is just about ¾ done. Add the prawns and the rest of the Ingredients C and stir-fry until the meat is completely done. Place the stuffing in a bowl and let cool.

3. When the stuffing is cool enough to handle remove the chicken from the marinade and brush off the spices. Stuff the chicken and tie the legs together with butcher’s twine.

4. Tightly wrap the entire chicken in the cleaned and patted dry pig’s caul fat.

5. Place the chicken on a piece of lotus leaf breast side up. Fold the leaf over the sides and wings of the chicken onto the breast. Fold the other sides of the leaf to cover the head and tail of the chicken. Flip the wrapped chicken over and place it on another lotus leaf and repeat the folding. Flip the chicken again and wrap a third leaf around it. The chicken should now be completely covered. Tie the wrapped chicken tightly with butcher’s twine. Cover the entire package with a layer of clay about ¼ inch thick.

6. Bake in pre-heated oven at 200°C/400°F or in covered BBQ grill for about 2-2½ hours.

7. When ready to serve crack the clay and unwrap the lotus leaves. Remove the stuffing and place in a serving dish. Drizzle the reserved 1 tablespoon sesame oil over the stuffing. Serve hot.

Lotus Leaves1©BondingToolLotus Leaves2©BondingToolLotus Leaves3©BondingToolLotus Leaves4©BondingToolLotus Leaves5©BondingToolLotus Leaves6©BondingToolLotus Leaves7©BondingTool

Below are pictures of some of the ingredients used:
I recommend using the canned Chinese Ham if available as they are easier to slice. Some Chinese grocers in Hong Kong and Singapore sell the original ham in smaller bricks, vacuum-packed, which I like very much.

Beggar's Chicken Ingredients


Oh I almost forgot! The dough recipe:
Salted Dough:
1kg plain flour
10g salt
550-600ml water
Knead into a dough and use as substitute for the clay.
Wrap chicken in lotus leaves, aluminum foil, and finally the salted dough.
Bake at 200°C for 1 hour, then reduce to 190°C and bake until the dough is dark brown, roughly another hour.

Photos Credit: Google Images
Last photo Red Cook

Stories found online.

Tip: You can omit and change the stuffing ingredients (i.e. glutinous rice with Chinese waxed sausages or tweak with different Chinese root herbs like tongsum or ginseng).

Happy cooking 🙂

4 Responses to “Beggar’s Chicken 叫花童雞”
  1. One of the world’s great dishes. The chicken falls apart in your mouth. I *think* (but am not sure) when I have had it the case was salt-based.

    • bondingtool says:

      Could that be Salt Baked Chicken? I hope my recipe is not too daunting to put you off. I know it takes a lot of preparation but the praise and taste… 🙂

  2. Triple like!!!

    Great back story too!

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