According to the story, a beggar is walking along a road when he sees a chicken. He kills it to eat it, but without a stove, he covers it in mud and bakes it in a fire. Enamoured by the aroma when he passes by, the emperor demands to know the recipe, so he can add it to the imperial court menu. These days a dough crust is used, sealing in the rich, flavoursome juices.
- 2 tbsp salt-reduced soy sauce
- 60 ml (¼ cup) Chinese rice wine (see Note)
- 1½ tsp five-spice powder
- 1.8 kg whole chicken
- 65 g (⅓ cup) glutinous rice (see Note)
- 2 dried lotus leaves (see Note)
- 4 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 60 ml (¼ cup) vegetable oil
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 4 cm piece ginger, grated
- 2 lap cheong (see Note) (Chinese red sausages), finely chopped
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- 1 kg table salt
- 600 g (4 cups) plain flour
- coriander sprigs and steamed Asian greens, to serve
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need to marinate the chicken and soak the glutinous rice overnight.
Soaking time 40 minutes
Drink 2010 Eldridge Estate Gamay, $35.
Combine soy, rice wine and five-spice in a bowl. Pat chicken dry with paper towel. Place in a bowl and rub skin and cavity with soy marinade. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Soak glutinous rice overnight in enough water to cover by 10 cm, then drain. Drain chicken, reserving 2 tbsp marinade.
Soften lotus leaves in hot water for 40 minutes and the mushrooms for 30 minutes. Drain. Discard mushroom stems and finely chop.
To make stuffing, heat 1 tbsp oil in a wok over medium–high heat. Cook garlic, ginger and lap cheong for 1 minute or until fragrant. Stir in mushrooms, onions, rice and reserved marinade until combined. Cool. Fill chicken cavity with stuffing, tie legs together with kitchen string and rub with remaining 2 tbsp oil. Place in the centre of 1 lotus leaf, fold up to enclose, then repeat with second lotus leaf.
Preheat oven to 180°C. To make salt crust, combine salt and flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, add 500 ml cold water and stir until combined.
Turn dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for 3 minutes or until smooth. Roll dough out until 5mm thick. Place chicken in the centre and wrap with dough, ensuring dough doesn’t tear or juices will escape. Press edges to seal.
Place on a lined oven tray and bake for 30 minutes, reduce heat to 160°C and bake for a further 3 hours or until dough is golden. Set aside for 15 minutes. Using a hammer, break open crust and peel back lotus leaves. Scatter with coriander and serve with Asian greens.
• Shaoxing is from selected supermarkets and Asian food shops. Substitute dry sherry.
• Glutinous rice and dried lotus leaves are from Asian food shops. Lotus leaves are used to impart a subtle earthy flavour to fillings.
• Lap cheong is available from selected supermarkets and Asian food shops.
Photography by Brett Stevens.
As seen in Feast magazine, Jan 2012, Issue 5. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.