Beggar’s Chicken from Alex Ong

One of the most famous Chinese dishes in the world, this is also one of the more elusive.  Perhaps the traditional method of first marinating the bird, then wrapping it in lotus leaves, then sealing it in clay before baking it is too daunting, for not many restaurants actually offer it.  One exception is Lou Wai Lou on the shores of West Lake in Hangzhou, China, where the dish has been made since 1848.  Another is the late, great Betelnut in San Francisco, where Chef/Owner Alex Ong perfected a recipe for this classic as exciting as it is attainable in the home kitchen.

Brine a 2 1/4 lb. chicken overnight, then marinate in soy marinade.

Chicken brine:2011 coast and sisters 003

1 gal water

1 C kosher salt

1 C minced ginger

1 C chili sauce


1 tsp 5-spice powder

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tsp sugar

2 tsp oyster sauce

3 tsp Kikkoman soy sauce

2 tbsp Water

2 tbsp mushroom soy sauce or dark soy sauce

Mix all ingredients and rub the marinade inside and outside the chicken.


10 oyster mushrooms

10 black trumpet mushrooms

1 C wood ear fungus

1 C green beans

1 tbsp ginger, minced

2 tbsp Shaoxing wine

2 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

3 tbsp vegetable oil (to sauté stuffing)

Preheat a wok or sauté pan, add oil and then ginger. Follow with

mushrooms and green beans, uniformly cut. Stir fry about 3-4 mins,

then add soy, wine and oyster sauce. Cool on a plate to room temp.

Beggars Chicken1 003-2


Sauce (optional):

3 tbsp Kikkoman soy sauce

2 tbsp oyster sauce

2 tsp sesame oil

6 tbsp chicken stock

Corn starch slurry

Mix all and bring to a boil, then add corn starch slurry. Serve at table.






-Stuff the chicken, tie the legs, tuck the wings

-pour some of the juices into the stuffing cavity

-lay lotus leaf on table (after soaking in cold water until pliable)

-place chicken 0n leaf breast side up, wrap and tie.

-roll clay out to about 1/4 inch thick and 15in X 18 in

-place the wrapped chicken on one end of the clay, fold other end over,and seal edges, making sure to repair and seal any holes in the clay. This is important to hold in juice and steam.

-Brush some oil on a baking tray and place sealed chicken on top

-Bake at 350 for 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 hours.

-Remove, and let chicken rest 15 min.

-Plate and present at table

NOTE 1: If clay is unavailable, Lou Wai Lou’s method may be used, which is to wrap the bird in lotus leaf, seal in a plastic baking bag, follow with a second soaked leaf and another baking bag, sealed.

NOTE 2: Lou Wai Lou uses minced smoked ham in the stuffing, and Alex Ong sometimes adds smoked pork belly-both delightful options.