Then the beggar’s chicken. It looked at first like a foil-wrapped whole bird, but he undid it, folded back layers of crinkly baking bags, and broke the seal on a tightly molded wrap of lotus leaves. A magnificently herbed chicken aroma rushed into the air.
Maggie couldn’t wait. She picked up a mouthful of chicken that fell away from the carcass and into her chopsticks at a touch. It was moist and dense with profound flavor, the good nourishment of chicken, first marinated, then spiked with the bits of aromatic vegetable and salt-cured ham which had been stuffed in the cavity and were now all over the bird. Shot through everything was the pungent musk of the lotus leaf.
Eating Beggar’s Chicken in Hangzhou
In Hangzhou, I visited Qinghefang Ancient Street food market a few times. I saw Beggar’s chicken during the first visit and decided it’s a must to try! The next day, four of us brave enough to eat street food came there for lunch. We enjoyed every bite! The funniest part of that experience was that the same day, after a few hours of walking around the West Lake when it was time to join the rest of the group for dinner, all four of us unanimously decided to come back and eat Beggar’s chicken instead!
I suppose only people who tasted Beggar’s chicken at least once and crave for it since then, would cook it at home. This recipe is for those who would like to recreate their experience without traveling to China.
3.5ozbeech mushrooms1 pack, fresh, brown preferred, trimmed
0.5ozwood ear mushroomssliced, dry, ~1 cup
1tspchili garlic sauceAsian
1tspbean paste, fermented
1/3cupbeggar's chicken marinade
to bake chicken
2-3eachwhole dry lotus leaves
2eachparchment baking bags
2sheetsaluminum foillarge, heavy duty
in the evening
Combine brine ingredients in a large bowl. Submerge chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 8-10 hours (overnight).
Make the marinade. Combine all listed for marinade ingredients except for sesame oil. Cook 4 cups of the mixture down to 1 cup, add sesame oil and refrigerate until ready to use.
in the morning
Preheat oven 350F. Soak lotus leaves in warm water for 30-45 minutes until pliable. Soak parchment bags in cold water.
Soak wood ear mushrooms in warm water for 30 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the brine. Pat dry it with paper towels and snap all its joints. Discard the brine.
Place chicken in a bowl and add marinade. Marinate for 30-45 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time.
Meanwhile, prepare ingredients for the stuffing. Peel and mince ginger. Peel and slice shallot. Trim beech mushrooms. Trim and slice oyster mushrooms. Strain wood ear mushrooms.
Place a wok or a skillet with vegetable oil over high heat. When the oil starts smoking, add ginger and shallot and cook them for a few seconds. Add mushrooms and stir-fry them for 3-4 minutes. Measure 1/3 cup of chicken marinade, combine it with cornstarch, and add the mushrooms. Stir, let the sauce to thicken and coat vegetables. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature.
Stuff the chicken and tie wings and legs.
Place the chicken on one of the soaked lotus leaves and wrap it tightly.
Place wrapped chicken inside the soaked parchment bag, wrap and tie.
Repeat with the second lotus leaf and second parchment bag. Wrap the chicken into a third lotus leaf and tie.
Tightly seal wrapped chicken into the foil. Place it into a deep baking pan and bake in hot oven for 2 hours.
In 2 hours, take the chicken from the oven and let it rest for about an hour at room temperature, unwrapped. (Note: It will continue slowly cooking and will be piping hot when you remove the wrappings and serve it!) When ready to serve, remove the foil.
Using scissors, cut all the layers of lotus leaves and parchment paper and serve. Beggar's chicken meat is so soft and flaky, and it can be picked with bare hands or chopsticks. Enjoy!