This is perhaps the most famous dish of the Hakka people. The salt used in its preparation does not make the chicken salty. It is, rather, the oven that cooks the chicken. The Hakka, because they were nomads, had no ovens, so they would dig a shallow hole in the ground, place stones in it, then create an “oven” out of sea salt. I have re-created this process with salt in a Dutch oven.
Sad to say, you will seldom get genuine salt-baked chicken in restaurants, even those which call themselves Hakka. In most cases the chicken is thrust into a series of boiling salt solutions to cook and it is presented as salt-baked. It is better, more satisfying, more delicious, to make your own.
1 piece of cheesecloth, 4 feet long
© 1985 Eileen Yin-Fei Lo. All rights reserved.