Salt baked chicken is a traditional Hakka meal. You can now prepare this traditional chicken meal at home with this easy-to-follow recipe.
A History of Salt-Baked Chicken
You won’t find a more authentic recipe for Salt Baked Chicken anywhere else. Many legends surround the dish’s birth, but my personal favorite goes like this:
According to legend, a trustworthy salt dealer was rewarded with a live chicken for his efforts. It would take him several days to travel back home, so he salted and dressed the chicken to keep it from spoiling on the trip.
But he gave in while on the road and, without any other means of preparation, roasted it in salt. He was so happy with the flavor that he ranted to his wife about his culinary marvel all the way home.
His wife then meticulously recreated it by following his instructions, and the result was the first Salt Baked Chicken. This isn’t a particularly forward-thinking tale, and who knows if it’s reality or fiction (or maybe historical fiction?), but I do hope you’ve enjoyed this snippet of chicken mayhem.
A Traditional Recipe
This is the classic method for making salt-baked chicken. Many shoppers choose the pre-made salt-baked powder spice packets available in most grocery stores.
This chicken does not need any extra MSG, in my opinion, thus I will not be using it. In my opinion, you should make the extra effort to get the actual deal. Moreover, the chicken’s inherent flavor is brought out with the use of salt and sand ginger powder (sha-jiang-fen).
I’m not kidding when I say that we consider it the best chicken they’ve ever tasted (which is a lot). We’ve shared a lot of great chicken dishes over the years, but this Salt Baked Chicken stands head and shoulders above the rest.
Most Important Component: Sand Ginger Powder
Finally, a word. Different from regular ginger powder is sand ginger powder (sha-jiang-fen). Sand ginger powder is as essential to this dish as salt. There is no way to replace it or skip it.
Which leads me to question if the legend about how this recipe came to be is real, if the merchant brought the sand ginger powder with him or if some other astute person added it later. A second season of the poultry drama could be in order.
FOR THE TOFU BRINE:
- 14 ounces of firm tofu (cut into ½-inch thick rectangles)
- 1 1/4 cups of warm water
- 1 teaspoon of sugar
- 1 teaspoon of Shaoxing wine
- 1/2 teaspoon of sesame oil
- 1/2 teaspoon of onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of salt
- 1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder
FOR THE TOFU SEASONING AND DREDGE:
- 2 tablespoons of all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons of cornstarch
- 3/4 teaspoon of salt
- 3/4 teaspoon of ground white pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon of sand ginger powder
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground Sichuan Peppercorn
FOR THE REST OF THE DISH:
- 1.35 kg of whole chicken
- 4 slices of ginger
- 2 tablespoons of Shaoxing wine
- 1½ tablespoons of sand ginger powder
- 1 tablespoon of oil
- 2 teaspoons (plus 3 pounds) of coarse sea salt
- ½ teaspoon of ground white pepper
- Put the chicken in a sink of cold running water to clean it. The chicken should be shaken in a colander to get rid of any extra moisture.
- Spread the Shaoxing wine into and out of the chicken’s cavity. Next, stir together 2 teaspoons of salt, the powdered white pepper, and the sand ginger powder. Spread the mixture inside and out of the chicken’s cavity.
- Now place the wire rack over the tray, and set the chicken on the rack. If you can stand the chicken on its head, the fluid in its cavity will drain more efficiently. A glass of liquid may be used as a support structure. Marinate the chicken in the fridge overnight, uncovered. The chicken skin needs to be dried out.
- When you’re ready to cook the chicken the next day, take it out of the fridge at least an hour or two beforehand to let it come to room temperature. The chicken’s skin can be brushed with oil, and ginger slices inserted inside. Following this, use kitchen thread to secure the drumsticks. The final step is to wrap the chicken in a huge sheet of parchment paper, then another sheet of parchment with the opening on the breast side. Don’t eat the chicken just yet.
- Now, using medium heat and a dry wok, “stir-fry” the remaining salt until it is a light brown color, which should take around 15 minutes. You can easily burn yourself if you swirl the salt too vigorously after it has heated up. A half-inch of hot salt should then be evenly distributed on the bottom of a wok or Dutch oven. The chicken should be positioned in the middle of the pot with the breast side up. The remaining hot salt should then be sprinkled over the chicken. Cook for 35 minutes with the cover on and the heat set to medium. The salt is ready when it can be touched without burning your finger; take it off the heat when it reaches that temperature and let it sit, covered, for another 30 to 40 minutes.
- After the salt has warmed to the touch, remove the chicken from the salt using a wooden spoon or spatula. Even after 30–40 minutes of cooling off, the chicken is still quite hot. Carefully remove the parchment paper from the oven and set it aside to cool.
- The chicken in this meal is often served boneless and skin removed. You are not obligated to do so, but your customers would enjoy it if you did! Additionally, the carcass and bone from a chicken make for a delicious soup. There will be a lot of juice when you pull the meat off the bird; do yourself and your diners a favor by pouring the juice over the chicken once it has been plated.
- Chop up some scallions and put them on top.