Step 1: Place chicken in an electric clay mill, and encase chicken in clay.
After the jump, the other 4 steps to making Chinese beggar’s chicken.
Step 2: Bury chicken in smoldering pile of hot embers. Wait 8 hours.
Step 3: Unearth the chicken.
Step 4: Placing the chicken in a wheelbarrow, use a hammer to crack the clay around the chicken.
Step 5: Remove brown paper wrapping from around chicken.
Chinese beggar’s chicken, or jiu hua ji (in Mandarin Chinese), gets its name from a famous tale from Shanghai about a beggar who stole a chicken. He didn’t have stove to cook it in, and he also didn’t want anyone to smell the aroma of the chicken as it was cooking, because he feared it would give away his crime (as a fellow food crime offender, I understand this feeling well). Therefore, he wrapped the chicken in lotus leaves, feathers and all, and baked it underground.
Our beggar’s chicken didn’t have any feathers on it, happily, and the chicken itself was tender, juicy, and, as a result of being buried along with Chinese herbs and shitake mushrooms, incredibly fragrant. It’s a delicious must-try in Kuala Lumpur, and quite a visual experience, too.
Available at New Heong Kee Restaurant (phone number 03-4106-8698, 446, Batu 7/12, Jalan Ulu Klang near Zoo Negara). Must be be ordered at least a day in advance. No credit card reservations are necessary; the owner trusts that you’ll show up to eat it if you order it.