There isn’t a better place to order Beggar’s Chicken than in Hangzhou, where it is thought to have originated. Legend has it that during the Qing dynasty, a hungry beggar stole a chicken from a rural farm. The farmer caught wind of the crime and chased the beggar down to a riverbank. To hide his loot, the beggar buried the chicken in mud. Later that evening, the beggar returned the river, lit twigs on fire and set the mud-soaked chicken directly on top of the flame. The result? A tight clay crust formed over the chicken. When cracked open, the feathers fell right off to reveal aromatic, tender meat. The Emperor, who happened to be passing through, stopped to dine with the beggar and declared this dish so delicious that it was added to the Imperial Court menu. And, rather than keep his new-found dish a secret, the beggar rose from poverty by selling Beggar’s Chicken to local villagers.
Chef Tan, a fan of using locally-sourced ingredients whenever possible, stuffs his Beggar’s Chicken with pork belly, cured ham, onion and shitake mushrooms. The whole chicken is marinated and carefully wrapped in a combination of lotus leaves and cellophane wrap. A thin layer of non-toxic clay coats the entire package prior to baking for 3 hours. The chicken is then ceremoniously cracked open in front of guests.
With its emphasis on private dining, the stylish Jin Sha restaurant is a perfect place to enjoy a special shared dish like Beggar’s Chicken. Order it for a family gathering, business meeting or to enjoy with friends along with other local Hangzhou, Shanghainese and Cantonese favorites. Just don’t forget to order this labor-intensive dish in advance of your reservation. – Katie Dillon
Make this amazing dish yourself with Chef Tan’s exclusive Beggar’s Chicken recipe.