I've always wanted to try this dish, and it was absolutely amazing. I bought a corn-fed chicken and it made a huge difference. The chicken was fantastic - so tender and moist. Honestly, I never thought it would come out that well, but I was wrong! The only downside is that it was really hard to get a hold of the right amount of sea salt at a reasonable price.
Also, try the dipping sauce, it is amazing. There's really no other word for it.
Chicken, weighing approximately 1.6kg
1 tsp fine salt
3kg coarse salt, or more, depending on your pan
Bunch spring onions
Large piece fresh ginger
2 tsp sugar
4 tbsp cooking oil
Steamed pak choi, to serve
Cooked rice, to serve
Wash the chicken thoroughly inside and out. Sprinkle 1 tsp of fine salt in the cavity of the chicken and rub in. Add an inch of smashed ginger and one spring onion to the cavity. You can also add dried tangerine peel.
Select a heavy bottomed saucepan with a lid which is slightly larger than your chicken. Ensure that there is not an excess of space around the chicken, as you will need to use extra salt to cover the space.
Place the salt in the saucepan and allow to heat for five minutes, until slightly browned and smoking. Remove half of the salt and nestle the chicken on the top layer of the salt, then pour the rest over to cover. Cover the chicken and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes. Then, remove the pan and place it in a pre-heated oven at 200c or gas mark 6. Cook for 45-60 minutes, or until the juices run clear.
Remove the chicken from the salt, and brush off the excess, and rinse before allowing to cool for 20 minutes. Then, chop the chicken into bite-sized pieces. The traditional Chinese method is to cut straight through the bone of the chicken, but you may wish to remove the bones to serve.
To make the dipping sauce, peel and grate the remaining ginger, and finely chop the spring onions. Heat the oil in a pan until smoking, then pour the oil onto the ginger and spring onions – make sure you use a heat proof bowl for this! Mix in the sugar and salt to taste.
To serve, plate the chicken and allow diners to help themselves, dipping the chicken into the sauce and alternating between the accompaniments of steamed pak choi and rice.
I'm not going to lie, it was scary. It was fiddly. It was pretty expensive. It involved a lot of trial and error, and also I'm still not totally sure about the best way to cover the chicken economically, but I would so do it again. It was that delicious.