Hakka Salt Baked Chicken

Hakka Salt Baked chickenHere’s a dish that’s described as classic Hakka: Salt baked Chicken.

After reading about it so many times, I had my first taste in Singapore.   Salt baked Chicken is a specialty of Lam’s Kitchen, a food stall located in the Food Opera court at ION Orchard.

Lam’s version is said to rival the famous Ipoh (Malaysia) version called Ayam Garam (Malay) or Yim Kuk Kai (Hakka).   Having never been to Ipoh,  I can’t compare but the dish in Singapore is divine.

The meat is fall off the bone tender, luscious and rich with a delicate aroma of herbs.  Served with rice, soup, cucumber garnish and chilli dipping sauce it looks like Singapore’s (Hainanese style) Chicken rice.  The cooking technique and flavor profile is quite different.  Whereas the Hainanese style is poached in broth, Yim Kuk Kai is wrapped in parchment and baked in salt.

In this video, celebrity cook Sherson Lian prepares the chicken by massaging it with salt and then stuffing the cavity with ginger, green onions and a packet of herbal soup ingredients.  Based on another recipe from The Viandd blogspot, the herbs are  Yok Chok (Solomon’s Seal Rhizome), Kei Chi (Wolfberry) and Dong Quai  (Angelica sinensis).

Notice how Sherson’s chicken comes intact with feet.  This is how I have to buy chicken in Asia. Whole and equipped with feet, toes, head and eyes!  I think the local shoppers use the head as an indicator of freshness and cook the feet for added flavor.

Personally I can do without.

Whenever I can, I ask the butcher to cut them off.   The first time, when I saw him tucking the severed pieces back in the package, I also learned to say “Discard! I don’t want!”

Singapore.  February 2017

 

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