Salt Baked Chicken (東江鹽焗雞)

Learn how to make this easy alternative to a classic Cantonese chicken dish!

Prep Time
30 min
Total Time
60 min
Yields
4 servings

A Recipe by Daddy Lau

My dad's been cooking Chinese food for over 50 years - as a kid fending for himself in Guangzhou, as the head chef of his own restaurant, and as a loving father in our home.

Hopefully, by learning this recipe, you'll get to experience some of the delicious joy we felt growing up eating his food!

- Randy

The name of this dish is Salt Baked Chicken, a direct translation of the Chinese, Jim Guk Gai (鹽焗雞). This is not the traditional way to make this dish, which is to completely cover a whole chicken with a large amount of stir-fried salt then bake it.

Instead, this recipe is an alternate and simpler method of preparing the classic dish. It's called the East River Salt Baked Chicken. According to my dad, it comes from the East River restaurant in Guangzhou.

There are only a few restaurants that specialize in making it at scale. They cater to outside visitors and they changed its cooking process to this method that we are using.

Is one tastier than the other or does it taste the same? According to my dad, each one has its strengths. This recipe is juicier. The one that is baked in a layer of salt is drier but is more fragrant.

This recipe is all about the sauce and results in a tender perfectly cooked chicken with a smoky salty flavor, which you can pull apart by hand.

Check out a quick story summary of our recipe!

Ingredients

Weight: US
oz
g
Volume: US
cup
mL
Servings
4
    Main Ingredients
  • 3 lb whole chicken
  • Flavors
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp sand ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp lard (

    You can substitute it with olive oil.

    )

Is Sand Ginger... ginger?

An essential ingredient in this dish, sand ginger, or saa1 goeng1 (沙薑), is actually not a type of ginger at all. Though closely related, it is actually a variety of galangal, a plant that has many variants that are used throughout Southeast Asian cuisines such as in Thai and Lao tom yum soups.

Sand ginger, also known by its scientific name, kaempferia galanga, and other common names such as kencur or aromatic ginger, is also used in Asian herbal medicine and of course used in certain dishes for its distinct peppery and aromatic taste. It can be found in many forms at your local Asian market: fresh, dried and sliced, or like we have here, powdered.

To prepare the chicken (3 lb), pull the drumsticks down, away from the body to loosen the joints up. This way, everything will cook more easily when poaching it.

Make a hole at the base of the neck that penetrates the chicken's cavity. This lets the water flow through the chicken to cook the meat better and to drain the water from the chicken once finished.

Boil a large pot of water. Make sure to have a large enough pot and water to cover the whole chicken (3 lb).

While placing the chicken feet first into the water, dip the chicken into the water several times to allow the water to go through the inside. This helps get the water into the chicken and have it flow through the cavity.

Place the lid over the pot and turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Poach the chicken for 35 minutes or until cooked.

Prepare an ice-water bath in a large bowl.

Poke the chicken thigh to see if it's cooked. The meat is the thicket there, so if the juice isn't bloody, it's done.

Remove the chicken from the pot and submerge it into an ice-water bath. Allow it cool for five minutes.

This way, the chicken will retain its moisture.

The distinctiveness of the dish is to stir-fry the salt to make it fragrant. Stir-fried salt is called "wai jim" or spiced salt. And that's the base of this sauce.

Heat a wok on high heat, pour the salt (2 tbsp) into wok and stir for several minutes.

Remove salt (2 tbsp) from wok after stirring for 1 minute and place into a small bowl.

Add the sand ginger powder (1 tsp), sesame oil (2 tbsp), lard (1 tbsp) and mix well.

Make sure to not add the ginger powder into the wok when you're stir-frying salt. The sand ginger powder will burn very easily from direct heat. The heat from the salt will be enough to make the sand ginger very fragrant.

Set aside.

Remove the chicken from the ice-water bath.

Break apart the chicken and shred the meat by hand. Using your hands to rip the chicken is important because it preserves the soft and juicy texture of the meat and also prevents you from cutting across the grain incorrectly. My dad thinks it's just easier this way.

Start by taking off the head and placing it at the front of the plate. Remove the wings, drumsticks, and thighs from the body of the chicken.

Break the chicken into two (length-wise). Remove as much meat and skin from the back of the chicken as you can. Make sure to try to keep the skin intact.

Do the same for the meat and skin on the drum stick and thighs.

You can save the bones to make a flavorful broth for another dish if you'd like.

Pour some of the sauce onto the shredded chicken and mix until the meat is evenly coated. Please note that the sauce is very salty. It's best to start with a small amount and add more later to taste.

Place all parts of the chicken on the plate in the shape of the chicken. In Chinese culture, a whole chicken symbolizes prosperity and perfection, which in Cantonese is "Jyun Mei" so it's important to plate the dish to show completeness and the shape of the chicken.

Serve plated chicken with the remaining sauce

Summary

Salt Baked Chicken (東江鹽焗雞)
Learn how to make this easy alternative to a classic Cantonese chicken dish!
  • Prep Time: 30 min
  • Total Time: 60 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
    Main Ingredients
  • 3 lb whole chicken
  • Flavors
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp sand ginger powder
  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp lard (

    You can substitute it with olive oil.

    )
Step 1 - Prepare chicken↑ Jump to details

To prepare the chicken (3 lb) for cooking, pull the drumsticks down and away from the chicken's body to loosen the joints up and make a hole at the base of the neck into the chicken's cavity.

Step 2 - Cook chicken↑ Jump to details

Boil a large pot of water (enough to cover the whole chicken) and dip the chicken (3 lb) into the water several times to allow the water to go through the inside.

Proceed to submerge the entire chicken, including the feet and poach for 35 minutes or until cooked.

Step 3 - Remove chicken↑ Jump to details

Remove the chicken (3 lb) from the pot and submerge it into an ice-water bath. Allow it cool for five minutes.

Step 4 - Make sauce↑ Jump to details

Heat a wok on high heat, pour the salt (2 tbsp) into wok and stir for several minutes.

Remove salt (2 tbsp) from wok after stirring for 1 minute and place into a small bowl.

Add the sand ginger powder (1 tsp), sesame oil (2 tbsp), lard (1 tbsp) and mix well.

Set aside.

Step 5 - Shred and plate↑ Jump to details

Remove the chicken from the ice-water bath.

Start by taking off the head and placing it at the front of the plate. Remove the wings, drumsticks, and thighs from the body of the chicken.

Break the chicken into two (length-wise). Remove as much meat and skin from the back of the chicken as you can. Make sure to try to keep the skin intact.

Do the same for the meat and skin on the drum stick and thighs.

Pour some of the sauce onto the shredded chicken and mix until the meat is evenly coated. Please note that the sauce is very salty. It's best to start with a small amount and add more later to taste.

Serve plated chicken with the remaining sauce

Step 6 - Take pictures
Whip out your camera (1). Begin taking photos (1,000,000). Pick your favorites!
Step 7 - Share and tag us on Instagram @madewithlau #madewithlau!
Did you have fun making this recipe? We'd love to see & hear about it. (Especially my dad. He would be THRILLED!)

Enjoy!

We have many, many happy memories of enjoying this dish growing up.

Now, hopefully, you can create your own memories with this dish with your loved ones.

Also, I cordially invite you to eat with us and learn more about the dish, Chinese culture, and my family.

Cheers, and thanks for cooking with us!

Feel free to comment below if you have any questions about the recipe.