Salt-Baked Chicken

Yim Guk Gai

Preparation info

  • Difficulty


Appears in

The Chinese Banquet Cookbook

The Chinese Banquet Cookbook

By Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

Published 1985

  • About

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 whole chicken, 3 to 3¼ pounds
  • 2 scallions: wash, dry
  • ½ teaspoon powdered sand ginger mixed with 1 tablespoon Shao-Hsing wine or sherry
  • 1 slice of fresh ginger, ¼ inch thick
  • ¼ dried tangerine skin: soak in hot water for 30 minutes, until soft
  • pounds kosher salt

Special tools

1 piece of cheesecloth, 4 feet long


  1. Clean and wash chicken; remove fat and membranes. Drain off excess water, allow chicken to drain thoroughly, and pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Remove both ends of scallions. Smash the scallions with the flat of the cleaver blade; cut each one into 4 equal pieces. Set aside.
  3. Rub wine-ginger mixture inside chicken cavity and around outside as well. Place scallions, ginger, and tangerine skin inside chicken. Wrap with cheesecloth.
  4. Preheat oven to 450°F.
  5. Heat a wok, add salt, and dry-roast over high heat until salt is very hot. Scoop half of salt into a Dutch oven, place wrapped chicken firmly into the bed, then add the rest of the salt, making sure the entire chicken is covered. Roast uncovered for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from oven; let sit for 15 minutes.
  6. Remove chicken to a large platter. Unwrap it; discard cheesecloth. Chop chicken into bite-size pieces. Serve with a sauce.


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