Greetings my beautiful lovelies! It’s Emmy. Welcome back. Today I’m going to be attempting to make a recipe I’ve been thinking about for a very long time: and it is for Beggar’s Chicken. In Chinese it’s called “叫化鸡” (Jiào huā jī) and it is a recipe that uses an entire chicken, and it’s marinated, and seasoned, and stuffed.
It’s wrapped in lotus leaves, then wrapped in clay, and baked. When it’s completely done, you take a hammer and you crack the clay, and you eat the perfectly cooked chicken inside. So the legend of this recipe is that a beggar stole a chicken and in his haste threw the stolen chicken into the mud to hide it.
But then he didn’t have a means to cook it, so then he took the mud-enrobed chicken, and threw it into the fire, baked it all up. Meanwhile, the Emperor happens to be coming through, smells the chicken, comes over, shares the meal with the beggar, and was so impressed with the meal that he made it part of the Imperial menu.
Now, I looked up a lot of different recipes for beggar’s chicken. There’s lots of different variations and mine’s gonna be mostly based on Cecilia Chiang’s recipe from her book ‘The Seventh Daughter’.
I checked it out of the library, got her recipe, but I’m gonna be including a couple other ingredients and changing the steps a little bit to make it feel a little bit more authentic. So I’ve been thinking about this recipe for months now, and the reason why it’s taken me so long is that I really wanted to harvest my own clay.
So if you missed my dorodango video where I took a piece of clay that we foraged nearby and rolled it into a ball, and polished it, until it was this beautiful, shiny, marble like sphere, you should definitely check that video out.
I’ll put the link above and down below. Well in that video, when my family and I went to forage clay, I collected some extra clay for this specific recipe. Now, in Cecilia’s book she recommends a specific type of potter’s clay that you can order and buy, but I thought ‘Why not use the clay that I foraged myself?’ Plus I saw all these really interesting YouTube videos where they take dirt and they’re able to extract and refine the clay from the dirt.
So I said ‘yes that is for me’. So we came home with buckets full of clay and sediment, and little brick pieces, all kinds of organic material, and now we need to refine it. All you have to do is add a bunch of water and then use a stick and very patiently break up all the clay bits, and all the dirt and create a slurry.
Basically, we want to get all the bits broken down and in suspension in that water, so that we can sift and strain all the bits out. Next we’re going to strain it, so it’s important to have another bucket.
And then we just use some hardware cloth with about a quarter inch mesh. Put that over the bucket, and poured our slurry through. That’s gonna strain out all the organic matter, all the big pebbles, and then toss that.
Stir your slurry again, add a little bit more water and strain it again. Then you’re going to switch over to some screening I just used some aluminum window screening. The- of course- mesh size is much smaller And again, we’re going to pour our slurry through it.
So do this a few times and now you’ve got clay water. So now we have to remove all of that water. So we’re left with nice, wet, soft, clay. So what I did was I took an old cotton sheet and I draped it inside a five-gallon bucket.
Make sure you have a lot of it overhanging the bucket. Then I poured the clay slurry into the sheet. Then I gathered the edges and then now I have a big bag of clay water. And then use a zip tie to kind of hold everything together Then I suspended this whole sack of slurry water and let it sit in the garage for a few days.
So you’re gonna take the clay bag down and then open it up and then scrape all the clay together. Now my clay had really solidified it got into this really hard mass. And so I had to spend some time re-kneading everything together.
I just kept kneading it and kneading it. It was a lot, a lot of work, but it was something that I’ve always wanted to do. And now this is the result! Dun-dun-dun daaah~ This is probably, I don’t know, 10, 13 pounds of clay that came right out of the ground.
So I ripped off a piece of that sheeting and then I wrapped the clay in it and then I put it into a ziplock bag to retain the moisture. It’s like a baby or something. And here is my beautiful clay, isn’t it great!! I love it.
So here it is. Here is the beautiful homemade clay that we made. So stinking cool. This was a really fun process. A lot of work, but I totally recommend it if you’ve got some time, or if you’ve got some rugrats that are interested in digging and playing with mud.
Cecilia calls for a two and a half pound chicken. I couldn’t find one that small So I have a three and a half pound chicken and I’m gonna adjust the cooking times accordingly because this is a bigger bird.
So in a large container- I used a big pot- you can take one gallon of cold water and add one cup of salt. Then we can take our chicken and place it into the salt water brine, and we’re gonna let that soak for three hours.
Ooooh! Here is my chicken! And we’re gonna take it out of its salty bath. So I’m using some paper towels. Gonna dry it off. Now it is important when you’re working with raw meat, particularly poultry, that we wash our hands between every step to avoid cross-contamination.
Now we’re ready to make our marinade. 1 teaspoon of five-spice powder, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, It smells so good already~ 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of oyster sauce. Oyster sauce is a bit like ketchup.
Oops… It’s kind of tricky to get out. One tablespoon of soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of water, 1 tablespoon of mushroom sauce, 1/2 tbsp of dark soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon of Shaoxing wine. Whoa, I think that was a little bit more than a tablespoon.
.. Now whisk that all together. Now we’re gonna marinate our chicken. Make sure we get the inside cavity marinated as well. Alrighty so now we’re ready to prepare the stuffing. We’re gonna take one can of water chestnuts.
These have been sliced. A 1/2 cup of sliced bamboo shoots, 1 bunch of green onions that have been cut on the bias into about 1.5 to 2 inch pieces, 5 slices of peeled ginger, 1 ounce of Virginia ham that has been sliced and then we’re gonna add about 11 small shiitake mushrooms that have been soaked in hot water for about 15 or 20 minutes until they’re nice and soft.
Also you want to trim the stems because they tend to be a little bit woody. This is beautiful. So now we’re gonna take the chicken and fill the cavity here with our vegetable mixture. And the recipe says to pack this in tightly.
When I was researching this recipe, I found a lot of variations. Some stuff the chicken, some did not. I’m gonna use some string, crisscross around the drumsticks, bring them together, go under the pope’s nose, around the drumsticks again and just tie it off.
All we’re trying to do here is just keep the stuffing inside of the chicken. So now we’re ready to wrap things. Now Cecelia calls for using just large sheets of foil, wrapping it, and then placing it in a brown paper bag, then wrapping it in clay.
But more traditionally what is done is that the chicken is wrapped in lotus leaves, which are beautiful like, lily pad leaves that grow in ponds. Not only does that act as a natural barrier from the clay, but it also infuses the chicken with a beautiful smell of the lotus leaves So I bought a BIG bag of lotus leaves from the Asian market.
HUGE bag. And to prepare the leaves I just separated them and then I soaked them in the sink with lots of hot water for about 15 to 20 minutes until they were nice and soft and supple. So here they are! I’ve never worked with these leaves before although I’ve seen them in the markets before, I’ve seen them on cooking shows.
But I’ve never actually cooked them myself. They have a lovely dried, herbal tea smell to them. It really comes out when you add the hot water to them. So here’s what they look like Aren’t they amazing? They’re so beautiful.
They’re like little hats or something. They’re so beautiful. Look at that shape, and beautiful green color. So for the size of my chicken I’m gonna use three leaves, and I’m gonna overlap them like this Now take the chicken.
.. …and place it breast side down Now we’re going to take the leaves and fold it over the chicken We get a nice little parcel (Whisper) Oh my gosh I love this This is back in the days before saran wrap This is so great! And it works beautifully Look at that! Hehe! Okay now I’m going to use some more twine, and I’m gonna wrap this up There is my cute little trussed chicken right there.
Now we’re going to wrap it in some newspaper and that’s gonna shield it from the clay. Wrap up our chicken Cute little parcel right there. So now we’re going to take our clay and cover the chicken. And just seal the clay all around the chicken So much fun! I love this! I love thinking about recipes and then finally doing them when- especially recipes like this Now I’ve seen people do decorative things with the birds; put heads and wings and stuff But I’m going for the very humble- just kind of big oblong here So we’re gonna try to patch any holes, but the clay may crack while baking and that’s totally fine and normal.
So if you don’t have access to clay I have seen recipes that call for just making a dough out of flour and water and I think there also is a tradition of cooking chicken in salt crusts as well. But there’s something just so elemental and fun about using clay, right? All righty, so here is my very heavy clay wrapped chicken.
Now I’m gonna place this in a very hot oven, 450 degrees for one hour. That will help to set the clay crust and then we’re gonna reduce the temperature to 350 and then cook it for an additional two hours and then we will take a hammer to this and eat the contents.
I can’t wait!! Yay. Okay, let’s get this in the oven All righty my beautiful lovelies, I’m back. It has been three hours and here is my beautiful chicken. I’m so happy about this. The clay is nice and hard.
I did get one little crack right in the front here But besides that it seemed to come through the baking process without any major difficulties. Alrighty, so the moment I have been waiting for. Let’s crack open the chicken.
Here we go! Ah it’s so satisfying! I can immediately see the steam escaping Alrighty, let’s excavate this. Oh I love this. Peel back the newspaper Oh my gosh, this is so great. Oh look at this. Reveal the lotus leaves.
Cut the twine. Now it smells so good. We can smell that five-spice. Alrighty, here we go. And there’s the chicken, beautifully cooked inside. Yaaay!! So we’re just about ready to taste our chicken, I made a quick little sauce here that Cecilia included in her recipe.
It’s really easy to make, you take a quarter cup of water or chicken broth, place it in a little saucepan Add 3 tablespoons of a soy sauce, 2 tablespoons of oyster sauce, 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of sesame oil, and you mix that all together until the sugar is developed.
Then you take 2 teaspoons of cornstarch, and dissolve it into 1 tablespoon of water and then add that mixture to your sauce. And then continue whisking and heating it up until it comes to a boil and the sauce is nice and thickened.
So this is what we’ve got here, a beautiful luscious sauce. It’s beautifully cooked, just falls right off the bone. Look at that. Dark meat is my favorite. Alrighty, there it is. Then we’re going to take our beautiful hot sauce.
Put that right over top (gasp) This looks absolutely delicious. Let’s go ahead and give it a taste. The meat is beautifully cooked, so tender after three hours baked in clay Alrighty let’s give this a go! Itadakimasu! Mm-hmm! So, so tender! And then we have the lovely sesame-soy sauce that we just poured right on top, that echoes the flavors in the marinade.
There’s a good touch of five-spice from the marinade, but the chicken texture is so, so tender and moist. Mmm-hmm. I’m gonna taste a little bit of the breast meat and see how the brining did, for that.
Let’s give that a taste. Mm-hmm. The brining does a really good job in keeping the meat tasty and not dry. I love the fact that this is served with a sauce as well. You can add a little additional salt if you like.
And I think if this was poured on rice it would be equally delicious. Alrighty, let’s try some of the stuffing. So we’ve got some of that ham, and some of the bamboo shoots and onions. Mmm! Mhm. The ham has dried out a little bit because it’s been cooking inside of the chicken.
But it has a really nice smoky flavor. And again, you’ve got that five-spice marinade. Let’s try a mushroom. I love these mushrooms! Mmm, so, so, so flavorful. Really great intense shiitake mushroom flavor, and they’ve got some of that ginger, from that stuffing.
Delicious. Delicious! Now, I’m gonna have a crunchy water chestnut. (Giggles) Canned water chestnuts don’t really have too much of a flavor. If anything, they taste kind of metallic. But they do have a really nice crunch.
If you ever have the opportunity to have a fresh water chestnut I highly recommend buying them. You have to kind of use a spoon to scrape the outside skin off the water chestnut. And then you blanch them.
But they are so much sweeter and starchier and they still have that great crunch. Like many things, they’re so much better fresh. Alrighty, so there you have it! Beggar’s chicken, a recipe that I’ve been dying to make for a long time now and it’s absolutely wonderful and really fun to make.
It’s a dramatic, show-stopping dish that would be really fun to present to a group of people. You do have to invest a little bit of time, and you probably have to search for some of the ingredients, but definitely well worth it.
Really really fun recipe to make. Alrighty! I hope you guys enjoyed that one. I hope you guys learned something. Be sure to share this video with your friends, follow me on social media, like this video, and I shall see you in the next one! Toodle-oo.
Take care. Byeeee!! (Outro Music) Whoo-whoo! Whoo-whoo! Whoo-whoo! Whoo-whoo!