Beggars Chicken

, from Issue #16. September, 2015
Photography by Aaron McLean.
Beggars Chicken

Serves: 6


1 free-range chicken
1 tablespoon kecap manis
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine (Shaoxing)
1 teaspoon sesame oil
3 lotus leaves

¼ cup long grain rice
½ cup chicken stock
3 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked in water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 strips streaky bacon, chopped
1 spring onion, thinly sliced
1 Chinese sausage (lup cheong), thinly sliced
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
1 tablespoon each soy sauce and Chinese rice wine
1 teaspoon each sesame oil and sugar
¼ teaspoon Chinese 5 spice
2 tablespoons chopped coriander

Salt dough
6 cups flour
1 kilogram coarse cooking salt water


Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Chicken: Combine the kecap manis, rice wine and sesame oil and rub over the chicken. Leave for at least 2 hours or preferably refrigerate overnight. Remove from the fridge 30 minutes before stuffing and cooking.

Soak the lotus leaves in hot water for 40 minutes, turning occasionally until saturated. Trim off hard edges and the stem.

Stuffing: Put the rice in a bowl and wash under cold running water until the water runs clear, then drain well. Put the rice, stock and a pinch of salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Turn to its lowest setting, cover and cook for 20 minutes. Remove from the heat and stand for 5 minutes. Gently fluff the rice with a fork.

Drain the mushrooms and slice finely. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and cook the bacon, spring onion, sausage and the mushrooms until tender. Stir in the remaining ingredients then fold in the rice. Leave to cool completely. Stuffing can be made and refrigerated overnight.

Salt dough: Combine the flour and salt in a bowl and add enough water to make a thick dough. Roll out on a lightly floured bench to form a piece large enough to encase the chicken.

To cook: Spoon the stuffing into the chicken and tie the legs. Wrap the chicken in the lotus leaves ensuring there are no gaps where the salt crust could touch the meat.

Wrap the chicken in the dough, wetting the edges to seal and smoothing the joints so there are no holes for the steam to escape. Place breast side up in a roasting tray and cook for 3.5 hours.

To serve: Put the chicken in a serving dish and crack the crust with the back of a cleaver or the pestle from a mortar and pestle. Pull off most of the crust and discard.

Pull open the leaves and serve the chicken with a spoonful of the stuffing. A bowl of stir fried Asian greens can be served as an accompaniment. 

Pantry Notes: Shaoxing is China’s most famous rice wine and is derived from glutinous rice. Top quality Shaoxing has a soft, rich flavour and is enjoyed like a fine sherry. Alternatively, dry sherry can be used. Available from good Asian food stores.

Lotus leaves are available in packets from good Asian food stores.