Salt Baked Chicken
Yum Gai is arguably a trademark of Hakka cuisine. The traditional recipe can be attributable to my late maternal grandma and a Malaysian chef whom I have picked up a few cooking tips.
Traditional recipe :
If possible, use free range chicken, not too big, to ensure thorough cooking.
Marinate chicken with a little fine salt, pepper, thinly sliced ginger, Hua diao wine and sesame oil. If you like herbal taste, add some sweet dang gui, wolfberries (go ji zi) and a stalk of spring onion into the cavity of the bird. Wrap the chicken in a generous amount of greaseproof paper to ensure it's properly sealed.
Line 3 kg of coarse salt on a good conducting heat proof tray. Put in preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove tray from oven and scoop up some salt. Put the wrapped chicken onto the tray and cover evenly with heated salt. Return to the oven and bake for another 30 minutes. In the old days, granny would light an incense stick and wait till it's burnt out to gauge when the chicken is done.
Dipping sauces :
1. ginger and garlic in oil
2. sesame and soy sauce
3. celery, coriander, ginger, salt in garlic oil (use chicken fat if possible)
4. Oyster sauce
Simplified version of salt baked chicken
For the time scarce modern cooks, making salt baked chicken is a breeze without compromising very much on the taste. Prepare brine solution with 1 cup of coarse salt, 2 TBS of sugar and 12 cups of water (depending on the size of the chicken).
Marinate the chicken with wine, pepper and fine sea salt for at least 30 minutes.
When brine solution is brought to a boil, lower the chicken into the pot, holding it steadily, lifting it up and down. Keep repeating the procedure till the chicken is cooked al dante.
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