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      RECIPE TITLE "Beggar's Chicken Hot Yee Gai" recipe from The Chinese Kitchen (Yin-Fei Lo): Recipes, Techniques, Ingredients, History, And Memories From America's Leading Authority On Chinese Cooking

    yields Makes 6 servings time--- difficulty moderate

    This famous and most elaborate dish from Beijing derives its name from a folktale: A beggar, without a home or food, stole a chicken from a farm. To cook it, he covered it with mud, made a fire in a hole in the ground, and baked the chicken, peeling the feathers off as he ate. It is said that despite this tale, the people in Beijing think their special chicken is too rich a, preparation to carry the name beggar, and prefer to call it Fit Guai Gaik, or "Rich and Noble Chicken. " I think I prefer that too, though here it is given its classic name.

    Poultry in China dates back to the Beginning of its recorded history Chickens have been domesticated there for at least 3,000 years. So it is it or surprising that chicken, which in China is steamed, braised, smoked, fried, roasted, boiled, and stir-fried, and minced and sliced for soups, dumplings, congees, noodles, and stuffings, should be regarded as symbol as well as food. In Chinese folklore, the chicken symbolizes the phoenix, the bird of rebirth that rises from ashes; and it is the symbol of the empress as well. Chicken is offered in temples and at ancestor altars, and it is a food that must be eaten on the second day of the Lunar New Tear, for its symbolism of rebirth. Small wonder that festive classic chicken dishes abound.


    One 3- to 3 1/4- pound chicken
    1/4 cup salt

    For the marinade

    3 tablespoons Mei Kuei Lu Chiew or gin
    One 3- inch cinnamon stick, broken into 4 pieces
    2 pieces eight-star anise
    1 tablespoon sugar
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    Pinch freshly grown white pepper

    For the stuffing

    1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
    1 1/2 cups diced onion
    1/2 cup pork fat, cut into 1/8-inch dice
    6 dried black mushrooms, washed, soaked to softness, stems discarded, and caps diced into 1/2-inch pieces
    3/4 cup preserved mustard greens, washed 5 times to cleanse of sand and salt, leaves opened and rinsed, squeezed dry, and finely sliced
    1 tablespoon Shao-Hsing wine or dry sherry
    1 1/2 teaspoon teaspoons Sesame oil
    1 teaspoon five-spice powder
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1 tablespoon sugar
    Pinch freshly ground white pepper

    For the dough

    5 cups high-gluten flour
    2 cups hot water
    2 1/2 teaspoons peanut oil

    Special equipment

    1 yard cheesecloth or 2 large lotus leaves, soaked inwater for 20 minutes until soft, washed, and dried
    2 feet heavy-duty foil


    1.Clean the chicken thoroughly, remove fat and membranes, and wash under cold running water. Sprinkle 1/4 cup salt on the outside of the chicken, rub well, rinse, and dry. In a small bowl, stir together the marinade ingredients and rub the inside and outside with it. Set the chicken aside.

    2.To prepare the stuffing, heat a wok over high heat for 30 seconds, add the peanut oil, and coat the wok with it using a spatula. When a wisp of white smoke appears, add the onion and cook until light brown, about 5 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, add the pork fat, and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the mushrooms and mustard greens and mix well. Turn the heat back to high, add the wine, and mix all the ingredients together. Add the sesame oil, five-spice powder, salt, sugar, and pepper and mix. Remove from the heat, place in a bowl, and reserve.

    3. To prepare the dough, place the flour in the center of the work surface and make a well in the center. Add the hot water slowly with one hand as you mix with the other. When the water is absorbed, knead for about 2 minutes to make a dough. Coat your hands with peanut oil and rub the dough with some pressure to coat it. Rub your hands onthe work surface as well. Flatten the dough until it is large enough to wrap the chicken completely.

    4.Stuff the chicken by loosely putting the stuffing into the body cavity. Close the neck and tail openings with skewers.

    5.Wrap the chicken completely in the cheesecloth or in overlapping lotus leaves. Place the wrapped chicken in the center of the flattened dough and wrap the chicken, scaling the edges by pressing closed with your fingers. Spread out the foil and place the chicken, breast side up, on it. Enfold the chicken, closing the foil.

    6.Heat the oven to 350ºF for 15 minutes. Place the wrapped chicken in a roasting pan and bake for 1 hour. Lower the heat to 325ºF and bake for 3 hours more. Turn off the heat, remove the chicken from the oven, and remove the foil. Cut through the dough with kitchen shears and make a large opening. Scoop out pieces of chicken and stuffing with a serving spoon and serve together.

    Note:The covering insulates the chicken. It will remain hot enough to serve if removed from the oven 1 to 2 hours before serving.

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