3 spring onions, cut into 5cm lengths
1 x 1.8kg chicken
1 tablespoon ginger juice, squeezed from 50g grated ginger
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon Shaoxing rice wine
1 teaspoon ground sand ginger
1⁄2 teaspoon Chinese five spice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4-5kg coarse salt
100g ginger, finely chopped
100g spring onions, finely chopped
125ml vegetable oil
1 tablespoon oyster sauce

A signature dish of the Hakka people, salt-baked chicken frequently appears on restaurant menus in Hong Kong. Traditionally wrapped in salt and baked in a pit until the chicken takes on the distinctive, smoky-salty nuances, this dish is sensational when made properly. Sadly, nowadays most cooks take short cuts and poach or steam a brined chicken, thereby losing the soul of this magnificent dish. It’s actually quite an easy recipe, though you might have to seek out sand ginger in an Asian supermarket. If you can’t find it, just leave it out – it will be fine. If you visit Hong Kong, try it at Chuen Cheung Kui in Mong Kok.


1.Put the spring onions in the cavity of the chicken.
2.Mix the ginger juice, soy sauce, Shaoxing rice wine, sand ginger, five- spice and 1⁄2 teaspoon salt in a small bowl, rub the mixture all over the bird, then refrigerate, uncovered, for 1-2 hours.
3.Take the chicken out of the refrigerator an hour before cooking to bring it to room temperature.
4.Rub the oil all over the bird and wrap it neatly in four sheets of baking paper to form a parcel with no gaps. Secure with kitchen string.
5.Preheat the oven to 180°C.
6.Line a large roasting tin with foil, add the salt and bake for 20-30 minutes or until very hot.
7.To test the heat, insert a knife into the salt for a few seconds, then remove it – the blade should feel hot to touch.
8.Transfer half the salt to a large Chinese claypot or casserole, put the chicken on top, breast-side up, and cover with the remaining salt.
9.Cover with a lid and bake at 180°C for 11⁄4 hours or until the juices run clear when the thigh is pierced with a knife.
10.Meanwhile, to make the sauce blend the ingredients with a hand-held blender or pound with a mortar and pestle until smooth.
11.Season with salt.
12.Carefully remove the chicken from the salt.
13.When cool enough to handle, unwrap the chicken and transfer to a chopping board.
14.Cut into portions, arrange on a serving plate and serve with ginger-spring onion sauce.

Edited extract from Hong Kong Food City by Tony Tan
Published by Murdoch Books, distributed by Allen & Unwin
RRP $55
Photography by Greg Elms.

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