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Pictorial: Secret Salt Baked Chicken


hzrt8w
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Secret Salt Baked Chicken (秘制鹽焗雞)

The classical Salt Baked Chicken calls for using parchment paper to wrap up a whole chicken, then bury it in a pot of coarse salt and simmer. Many modern restaurants choose to boil or steam the chicken instead because it's easier. Many Chinese restaurants advertise that they have their "secret recipes". I have my own secret recipe too. But I will reveal my secret to you! :biggrin:

I have tried making Salt Baked Chicken by baking the chicken in the oven. I want the skin to be a bit dry and crispy instead of the soft and fatty steamed version. Here is the result:

Picture of the finished dish:

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Serving Suggestion: 4 to 5

Preparations:

There is a special ingredient you need to make Salt Baked Chicken.

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It is a dry ginger powder made from a special species of ginger. In Cantonese, it is called "Sa Geung" (or literally means "Sand Ginger"). You can easily find them in Asian grocery markets. They may be translated as "Spicy Bake Mix". They are basically dry ginger powder mixed with salt and some MSG. "Sa Geung" has a very characteristic taste and smell.

This box contains 5 packs of "Spicy Bake Mix".

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To make this dish, you need to use 2 packs of the "Spicy Bake Mix". Take 2 small bowls. Use 1 1/2 packs of "Spicy Bake Mix" and divide them into 2 equal halves. Save the 1/2 pack to make the condiment.

Taste the "Spicy Bake Mix" and see if it is pre-mixed with salt. Some manufacturers do pre-mix it with salt. Some don't. If it is not pre-mixed with salt, add 2 tsp of salt in each bowl.

In one of the bowl, add 2 tsp of five spice powder and about 5 to 6 star anises. Break the star anises into small pieces. Mix the mixture well with a spoon.

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Use a whole chicken, about 4 pounds. Rub the mixture with five spice and star anise in the cavity of the chicken. Then rub the outside of the chicken with the plain "Spicy Bake Mix".

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Make sure the dry ginger powder is spread evenly on the surface of the chicken.

(Optional step):

If you want to chicken skin dry and crispy, use a rack to hold up the chicken. Place a small fan about 3 to 4 feet from the chicken and blow the chicken indirectly at low speed for a couple of hours. (See next picture)

Cooking Instructions:

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Place the chicken on a rack. Place it in the oven with a pan of water underneath to keep the chicken moist.

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Place a sheet of aluminum foil over the chicken to keep it moist.

Set the oven to bake at 325F for 1 hour 30 minutes.

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Meanwhile, make the condiment. Ingredients: Use about 3 to 4 stalks of green onions, 1 large piece of fresh ginger (about 3 to 4 inch in length), the remaining 1/2 pack of "Spicy Bake Mix", and 2 - 3 tsp of sugar (not shown).

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Finely chop the green onions. Grate the ginger. Place them in a bowl.

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Use a small pot/pan and heat up a generous 4 tblsp of cooking oil. Wait until oil starts fuming. Quickly pour the fuming oil onto the bown of green onions and ginger.

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Add the 1/2 pack of "Spicy Bake Mix". (If the "Spicy Bake Mix" is not pre-mixed with salt, add 1 tsp of salt.) Add 2 - 3 tsp of sugar. Mix well.

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The condiment is now ready. Scoop into small dishes to serve at dinner table.

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After 1 hour 30 minutes of baking at 325F, remove the aluminum foil. Turn up the oven to 400F. Continue to bake for another 30 minutes. This will dry up and brown the outer skin of the chicken a bit.

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Picture of the finished dish. The skin is slightly cripsy and the chicken meat is moist and succulent - just the way I want it.

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Carve the chicken at dinner table, or chop it up with a cleaver.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Ah Leung:

Browning the Chicken is brilliant, I can only mention one word for my opinion.

--------" BRAVO !"----------

I have been eating this dish for many years, always felt it needed just a little more to make it even better. Since it's often served cold, your way makes it into a superior "Roasted Salt Chicken" that will have a deliciously salty crisp skin.

Since the bird isn't brined, it will be jucier inside, but very tasty outside.

Thank you,

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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What a good Si Low you are, Ah Leung!

You just gave me the solution to Xmas dinner. I am in charge of the turkey this year, but I want it to be different. So, this should work with a small turkey, say 8 lbs. Cooking time will be different, of course. I love the idea of the crispy skin. :wub: Then, I will also do a 12 lb. turkey the traditional way, for some of the "out-laws" who will insist on traditional. :rolleyes:

I might even use an eight pound chicken instead of small turkey. Would the turkey be drier because of the salt?

I see you roasted the bird breast side down. This sure keeps the breast meat moist. Funny, in the past, it's always been "roast the bird breast side up"in many cookbooks.

I just emailed my niece in Vancouver to send me some of the spice packets you used. Hopefully, she will find it there and send them with the Xmas package. They usually send days before Xmas.

I have small packets of spices for salty chicken, but I'm not sure if it contains the same ingredients. I used it in the dinner for the visiting profs.

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Thank you, Ah Leung. It looks fabulous. I'm going to have to print out a picture of the "Sa Geung" bag so I can find it easily. The condiment is also a favorite too--I'll have to pass the recipe along to my mom and brother because they can't get enough of that stuff.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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Thank you for sharing your secret ingredients with us. :biggrin:

Another clean, precise pictorial that clarifies the cooking steps for the rest of us who didn’t grew up on Cantonese cooking.

It is a lot easier to see the steps in photo than to try to follow it from a cookbook.

Is there a name for the condiment? It seems to be a standard dipping sauce for many Cantonese Chicken dishes.

Also, waht is the difference between Cantonese Salt Roast Chicken vs. Hakka style Dongjiang (East River) Salt Rosted Chicken?

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Is there a name for the condiment? It seems to be a standard dipping sauce for many Cantonese Chicken dishes.

Also, what is the difference between Cantonese Salt Roast Chicken vs. Hakka style Dongjiang (East River) Salt Rosted Chicken?

Thank you Irwin, Dejah Dai Ga Jeah, Karen and William.

This dip is typically called, with the lack of any creative terms, 蔥油 "Chung Yau" in Cantonese. Literally it means Green Onion Oil. I am not sure why the ginger is not mentioned, though it is 60% to 80% of the ingredient. It is a very common condiment accompanying the "white cut chicken". Typically they make it with chopped green onion, grated ginger and salt only. Over the years, I found that adding some "Sa Geung" (Sandy Ginger powder) and sugar would enhance the taste tremendously. Even when ordering Soy Sauce Chicken, sometimes the waiters would bring this green onion and ginger condiment with it. If you don't make Salt Baked Chicken, just make some of this condiment and eat it with rice. It tastes wonderful.

Cantonese versus Hakka: I don't know what the difference is. Perhaps Cantonese learned the Salt Baked Chicken from Hakka people????? Not sure.

One thing I haven't done is to try basting this chicken dish. Basting it with some mixture made from malt sugar, water, vinegar and honey in the last 1/2 hour would make it even "browner" and crispier. I am not if it is "appropriate" for this Salt Baked Chicken, but if one likes a really cripsy skin...

Even my MIL, who is usually very critical of my cooking, accepted this dish with a praise. That's my ultimate compliment. :biggrin:

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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You just gave me the solution to Xmas dinner. I am in charge of the turkey this year, but I want it to be different. So, this should work with a small turkey, say 8 lbs. Cooking time will be different, of course. I love the idea of the crispy skin. :wub:  Then, I will also do a 12 lb. turkey the traditional way, for some of the "out-laws" who will insist on traditional. :rolleyes:

I might even use an eight pound chicken instead of small turkey. Would the turkey be drier because of the salt?

I have always tinkered with the idea of making a Salt Baked Turkey, though I have not tried it. Turkey meat is very thick. Rubbing on the outside and inside may not reach the majority of the meat. Thus only the skin-side or the inside would be tasty with the Sandy Ginger powder. I have one idea: My BIL bought a big turkey-marination syringe one year and that method worked pretty well to keep the turkey meat flavored and moist. In addition to rubbing on the cavity and the outside of the turkey, use 1-2 packs of "Spicy Bake Mix" and dissolve it with 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water. Feed the mixture into the syringe. Use the syringe to inject into the meat in a dozen places: mainly around breast and thighs. This should infuse the salty and gingery taste into the turkey meat and keep it moist.

Just my theoretical cooking. Not sure if you would experiment on a family Christmas dinner. :hmmm:

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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[...]Even my MIL, who is usually very critical of my cooking, accepted this dish with a praise.  That's my ultimate compliment.  :biggrin:

It would be fascinating if she became a member of eGullet and posted her own versions of all these dishes.

Michael aka "Pan"

 

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Even my MIL, who is usually very critical of my cooking, accepted this dish with a praise.  That's my ultimate compliment.  :biggrin:

For all of us with Mother-in-Laws, can I request a detail pictorial with precise instructions as how to achieve this? :biggrin:

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Great looking results, Ah Leung. I have made this three times this year, BUT I just trussed the bird as watertight as possible after "stuffing" and make a "nest" in 5-7 lbs. of preheated coarse salt that is in an all metal pot, or wok. Then I lightly moisten the bird with water (no wrapping) and put it into the nest, cover and bake for the required time. When done, use two sturdy spatulas and lift the bird out onto a plate, brush off the loose salt. The salt that is next to the skin has formed a crust, which you would peel away and discard, leaving a crisp, dry skin.

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I poach as for 'white-cut' chicken, leaving it notably underdone, then joint and debone. I heat the (coarse)salt until grey, cool a bit then add peanut oil, sesame oil , heat up then add some of the poaching liquid and sajiang. I've never come across it with added salt and MSG here. I add the chicken, legs first, then when it's thoroughly cooked I slice the chicken and turn onto a plate lined with green onion and coriander. It's very good, but only when made with an expensive organic chicken.

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Secret Salt Baked Chicken (秘制鹽焗雞)

Addendum:

With this recipe, one can steam the chicken instead of baking in oven. The method and ingredients for marination are still the same. The whole chicken can be steamed for 20 to 25 minutes (I think). Check for doneness with a sharp long fork. If no pink juice runs out, it's done. If not, continue to steam a little longer.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Great looking results, Ah Leung. I have made this three times this year, BUT I just trussed the bird as watertight as possible after "stuffing" and make a "nest" in 5-7 lbs. of preheated coarse salt that is in an all metal pot, or wok. Then I lightly moisten the bird with water (no wrapping) and put it into the nest, cover and bake for the required time.  When done, use two sturdy spatulas and lift the bird out onto a plate, brush off the loose salt. The salt that is next to the skin has formed a crust, which you would peel away and discard, leaving a crisp, dry skin.

Ben:

Your method is very similar to that used by the "Hakka Restaurants" traditionally in Hong Kong for their "Baked Salted Chicken".

They all have special pans made for just this purpose where they can prepare as many as 6/8 whole Chickens at once. The top of the pans are hinged to keep most of the moisture inside while cooking.

They don't stuff or truss the Birds, but do hang them for several hours to completely dry and set adjacent to a fan, before seasoning them with the Ginger Powder, spraying on some water to moisten the powder, mixed with oil and setting them up in the salt nest for cooking.

In a busy Restaurant it's not unusual to see 8 or 10 pans stacked in a Baking Closet used for this purpose.

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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Irwin, I must say that I airdry without trussing just as often as stuffing and trussing. But if I don't truss, salt gets into the cavity if one is not careful and it becomes too salty. In any case, moistening the skin and burying the bird in hot salt is a fool proof method.

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Irwin, I must say that I airdry without trussing just as often as stuffing and  trussing. But if I don't truss, salt gets into the cavity if one is not careful and it becomes too salty. In any case, moistening the skin and burying the bird in hot salt is a fool proof method.

Ben, In most Restaurants in Hong Kong the Chickens are only cooked until they are still pink fleshed, often bloody by the bones then allowed to set, cool to room temperature until being served. This results in the Breast Meat sill being pinkish, while the darker meats may be closer to medium.

Since the Poultry is cooked for a shorter time, plus the birds are crowded into the special cooking pot it's likely that they don't absorb as much salt. The type of Salt used is in larger crystals then Kosher Salt, almost as large as Rock Salt, chosen because it doesn't break down as quickly and can often be used several times for the process before being discarded.

I have a friend who operates a Restaurant in Seattle from Toysan who is interested in making a special menu featuring Toysan Dishes, he needs some recommendations of items that will appeal to his regular customers as well as those from the Toysan Community. His Restaurant is located in a more upscale area then the International District so draws less Chinese customers, but many foodies. Appetizers, Snacks, Entrees ?

Irwin

I don't say that I do. But don't let it get around that I don't.

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I have a friend who operates a Restaurant in Seattle from Toysan who is interested in making a special menu featuring Toysan Dishes, he needs some recommendations of items that will appeal to his regular customers as well as those from the Toysan Community. His Restaurant is located in a more upscale area then the International District so draws less Chinese customers, but many foodies. Appetizers, Snacks, Entrees ?

This is a great topic for discussion in its own thread. I have created a new thread to continue this discussion so it won't be buried under this "Salt Baked Chicken" recipe.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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This business of chicken served pink at the bone is worthy of comment. For the salt-baked chicken and particularly the deep fried crispy chicken it seems essential, but though I buy the very best chickens I can, people are scared, so I cook it a bit more.

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This business of chicken served pink at the bone is worthy of comment. For the salt-baked chicken and particularly the deep fried crispy chicken it seems essential, but though I buy the very best chickens I can, people are scared, so I cook it a bit more.

I run into a lot of my fellow American Caucasians who are squeamish about any hint of pink in cooked chicken. Even when it has nothing to do with the chickens being "undercooked" -- i.e. the bones of younger chickens often leak a little red out of the marrow -- I've seen some people just refuse to touch it, no matter how much I explain that the chicken's perfectly safe. Myself, I confess I find their fears a bit over-the-top, but hey, I guess that just leaves more "dangerous" chicken for me. :biggrin:

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  • 3 weeks later...

Ah Leung,

I made your recipe for salt baked chicken as part of the Choy family Xmas dinner, along with the traditional turkey on Dec 26. It turned out beautifully. Wish I had taken a picture, but my camera was at my brother's house, and I was cutting up the chicken at MY house. :rolleyes:

I used an 8 lb chicken and 3 small packets of the spice mix. The chicken was seasoned, then rested for a day in my fridge-like garage where the skin dried up somewhat.

I roasted the chicken according to your times, and it was perfect even tho' the chicken was twice as big as the one you used. My Mom was pleased with the flavour and the tenderness. There was one leg and thigh remaining after supper, so it was left for her supper the next day.

I also made the ginger dipping sauce. My s-i-l gave it 2 thumbs up.

Thanks, Si-low for the make again recipe.

Next, on to Ben Sook's method!

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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  • 1 year later...

I just saw an old episode of "Martin Yan's Chinatown" [2003] series, in which he visited a chef who illustrated how to make "salt baked chicken":

- First marinate the cavity of the chicken with five spice powder and salt mix.

- Wrap the whole chicken in a large sheet of parchment paper.

- Place the chicken/paper-wrap in a large clay pot. Fill the whole pot with table salt.

- Put the clay pot in an over and bake for a couple of hours. (My guess is about 325F)

That's it! Seems quite easy!

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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gallery_19795_2134_4948.jpg

Carve the chicken at dinner table, or chop it up with a cleaver.

Eeeesh Ah Leung, and I thought that I sucked at chopping poultry!!!! :laugh:

Seriously though i hope you've improved since this picture was taken. My family would scold me if i'd chopped this no matter how tasty it was.

I consider myself only a competent chopper so at big family gatherings it would be my mum or my aunt who'd be called on first to "Jaam Gai" or "Jaam Ap"!! It takes a lot of skill and experience to neatly portion each piece without destroying the skin. Also to go through the leg bones without splintering them. They make it look so fast & easy, a quick flick of the wrist - but there's years of timing in there! Of course, I always offer first to do it but they look at me as if i'm joking. "But how can i improve my technique?" i say, "not this time, practise in your own home" they reply!! They're right of course, it's easy to ruin the final dish with poor chopping. As easy to chip teeth on loose bone splinters.

What gets me is that my mum chops poultry better using a cheap veggie slicer on a wonky board than me with my waterstone sharpened heavy cleaver on my lovely end-grain chopping block!!! Definitely an ongoing and ever developing skill to master :biggrin:

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Eeeesh Ah Leung, and I thought that I sucked at chopping poultry!!!!  :laugh: 

Well... how can you do a good chopping job if your MIL insists to place the chopping block ON THE FLOOR and you have to kneel down to do it... because FIL thinks chopping chicken on the kitchen counter will ruin the ceramic tiles? :sad::laugh::laugh:

Edited by hzrt8w (log)
W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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Well... how can you do a good chopping job if your MIL insists to place the chopping block ON THE FLOOR and you have to kneel down to do it... because FIL thinks chopping chicken on the kitchen counter will ruin the ceramic tiles?  :sad:  :laugh:  :laugh:

Gosh, it's must be like some kinda Chinese-genetic-memory-DNA-meme-thingy. My mum always chops poultry ON THE FLOOR too! Says that she doesn't want to loosen the counter top :biggrin:

Me? I can't squat for jack!

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