Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken / 客家蒸盐鸡

Everyone is waiting for this recipe. It looked easy by looking at the photo. I mean... c'mon! It's just salted steamed chicken! But let me tell you, to make this right, you need abit of patience here.

This is my grandma's dish. My mom continues the dish. Recipe I'm sharing here is the same as the one my grandma taught. But I improve the cooking method to achieve better tenderness of the chicken after me and my mother talked about it. As shared by my grandma, there are two types of Hakka Salted Chicken. One was the Hakka Baked Salted Chicken. Another one, is Hakka Steamed Salted Chicken. Correct me if I'm wrong, but that's I was told.

This.... I cooked this 2 years ago. Using eunuch chicken (太监鸡)  that I got from Malaysia. Thanks to my mom for arranging that. The meat is muscular and flavorful, and the color of the skin is *fwohhh* I can eat this everyday!

And this, I used Kampong Chicken (甘榜鸡) that I got from Sheng Siong Supermarket, as that is the best chicken I can get at that point of time, and I brought this salted chicken dish to Edith's place for gathering. They love it!

And this, I used Malaysia imported bald neck kampung chicken (光径甘榜鸡), bought from one of the farm market in Choa Chu Kang Farm Mart. Very nice texture. Worth my trip to Choa Chu Kang for sure.

My mom's steamed salted chicken always tastes the most comforting. With the simplicity of this dish, the quality of chicken used is really important. Free-range or Kampung Chicken is a must. I make this dish for many times, and I never get sick of it. They may looked ordinary, but I guarantee you that this is really yummy to eat. To make this dish, you need a good bird as a whole. As you can see, there's a difference in results when you use different types of chicken. I would not want you to buy the ordinary fresh white fat chicken for this dish. When the dish is simple, you need to ensure that the ingredients used are the best.

Be fearless my friend. Just buy the whole chicken and give this a shot!

  • 1 whole bird of good Kampong Chicken, weight about 1.5kg
  • 60 grams of Sea Salt (or 50g table salt)
  • 2 stalks of Spring Onions
  • 3 to 4 thick slices of Ginger
  • Enough water to cover the chicken, Probably 2.3L to 2.5L, depends on the size of your pot.
  1. Wash and trim away visible fats from the chicken. Chop away the chicken feet. Stuff ginger and spring onions into the cavity of the chicken.
  2. Find a slim and tall pot that can fit in a chicken nicely. Bring water to a boil. Once water is boiled, hold the chicken head (refer to photo), soak the chicken body into the boiling water. With your hand still holding the chicken head, lift the chicken up, and soak it into the boiling water again. Do this for 4 times before you release the chicken head and let the chicken submerge into the water completely. By doing this, water will go into the chicken cavity, and hence, the whole chicken will be well cooked. Water level must completely cover the chicken.
  3. Immediately turn the fire into dead low and slow, lids on, and leave it there for 5mins. Remember to set timer. Do not go over 5 mins. 
  4. After 5 mins, heat off. Leave it there untouched. Set timer for 1 hour. Walk out of the kitchen and go watch your TV show. If your chicken is 1.7kg or anything bigger than 1.6kg, please make it another 10mins or so. You have to gauge the time yourself. For 1.6kg chicken, yes... 1 hour is just nice.
  5. Use a pair of chopsticks, carefully and gently remove the chicken from the pot and place the chicken to the big tub, and fill with running tap water to cool down the chicken. Try your best not to bruise or tear the chicken skin. 
  6. When the chicken is cooled down abit on the surface, put the chicken into a tub of ice-cold water to further cooling process until chicken is completely turned cold. Drain. 
  7. Chop away chicken neck. And then chop chicken into half (refer to photo). And then, apply both halved chicken piece with generous amount of sea-salt evenly on the chicken until all sea salt is used up. Salt the chicken neck too. They can be eaten. But I don't encourage you to eat the skin for the chicken neck tho. Do not get freaked out by the amount of salt I use. Be adventurous. Just do it.  
  8. Leave the chicken sit on the tub or a plate. Let the chicken sit there uncovered to air-dry while it gets marinated for at least 12 hours. 

Things to note....

I usually leave the chicken sit on my table top for upto 4 to 5 hours. And then, I cling-wrap it and keep it in the fridge until tomorrow. When tomorrow comes, I just take the chicken out of the fridge, chop it into pieces, arrange it on a plate. If you are eating the chicken neck, remember to remove the chicken neck skin before chopping them.

My grandmother will steam the chopped chicken for quite a number of minutes before she serve the chicken to us. But the chicken will shrink and over-cooked and not so nice looking in presentation. Chicken juices will also released from the chicken too. So, I've modified this method. Instead of steaming it over brave fire, I steam the chicken without fire. It means, I bring the steamer into a boil. Off the fire, put the chicken into the steamer, covered, and let the remaining heat from the steamed water to warm the chicken for 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the chicken dish and serve with some spring onions as garnishing. The chicken is just warm, and nice to eat. Infact, this dish can be served under room temperature. When I'm feeling lazy, sometimes, I will skip the steaming process, since the chicken is already cooked. Chicken piece will remain juicy and tender. 

1.6kg chicken vs 60 grams of sea salt sounds like a horribly salty drama. But I assure you, this is just right. You need to have enough salt to marinade the chicken for at least 12 hours. During marinating process, some salt will drop and end up on the plate. In short, you are not eating 60 grams of salt for sure. It will kinda diminish over the marinating time. Marinating upto 12 hours is to ensure you produce deeply flavored salted chicken. But if you are making it on the same day, please prepare it early in the morning and you can have it for dinner too. Bear in mind, sea salt taste better and less salty. Ordinary table salt is saltier and I don't like it.

Please take note - Do adjust the salt usage and the cooking time according to the size of your chicken.

This recipe is simple and homely. It doesn't require complicated ingredients. I urge you to try it at least once. You will then know why I kept repeating this dish at home. It's convenient as it allows me to prepare this dish ahead. Sometimes, I cook the whole chicken on day 1, eat half of the chicken on day 2, and freeze the other half of the chicken for another day. It's convenient.

For my friends who adore my Spring Onions and Ginger Oil as an optional accompaniment to this dish. Thanks for loving it. My grandma's recipe do not have this optional accompaniment to go along with this steamed salted chicken. Because I love it, that's why I prepare it to go along with the chicken. It's absolutely optional. And now, here's the recipe.

Spring Onions and Ginger Oil
  • 100g Old Ginger
  • 25g Spring Onions (or more), chopped
  • 2 tbsp Cooking Oil
  • 1 tbsp Sesame Oil
  • ½ tsp Salt, or more to taste
  • ½ tsp Sugar, or more to taste
Blitz ginger into paste in a food processor. Heat up 2 tbsp oil and 1 tbsp sesame oil on a frying pan.

When the oil is hot enough, add in ginger paste. Fry well for 2 to 3 mins.

Add in spring onions, sugar and salt. Give it a quick stir. Heat off, set aside to infuse. Easy!

On a side note, I know and I foresee, after I posted this recipe, there will be alot of readers will ask me about the cooking time. Ask me if the chicken will be cooked completely, since I'm just letting the chicken sit in the boiled water for 1 hour only. If you followed my recipe before, you will know that I do not share something that doesn't work on me. If you follow exactly what I said, the chicken will gives you well cooked, juicy and tender meat result. But if you are new, not adventurous, and still cannot trust me completely about the cooking time, then, I would suggest you to slightly overcook the chicken. There's nothing right or wrong. It's just your own preference.

Happy Cooking!


  1. I just want to say... Thank You for sharing with us. Sure I will try this.

  2. Hi Annie, your photos are amazing. I just want to eat them all. I'm going to make this tomorrow. Does it matter if I can only leave the salt on it for a few hours?

  3. Hi Annie, just wanted to say thanks for this amazing recipe! Made this last month for the family and they just loooooved it. I reduced the salt to 50g for a 1.4kg chicken but think I'll do 30g next time because of the kids and we don't usually eat such tasty food! Thanks & keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for sharing this Hakka dish! My dear dad use to make this for us.

  5. Oh wow, this looks awesome Annie! I can't wait to try it. Thank you very much for sharing the recipe. If you have the recipe for the chilli sauce, please share it! :) Thank you and regards, Kate

  6. Very nice recipe and very elaborated cooking method. Really helpful.. thanks for sharing :)

  7. Hi Annie, just to let you know I tried your recipe today. I trusted you haha and the chicken turned out perfectly! I followed the cooking and timing instructions until after the 1 hour soaking time. The chicken still looked raw with blood oozing out so I didn't cool it down with water and just allowed it to sit on a plate for about 5 hours after using 5 grams of salt (my husband cannot take too much salt). It still turned out to be cooked perfectly - juicy and succulent. Thanks for the recipe!