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Beggar’s Chicken (Step-by-Step Eating Guide)

Removing the back bones from the Beggar's Chicken
Removing the back bones from the Beggar's Chicken pictures (9 of 10)

In China, there are many dishes where the name originated from a folklore, legend, or story. Beggar’s Chicken (叫化鸡) is another dish with an interesting history. (Read my post about “Goubuli Baozi/Steamed Pork Buns” to learn about another legendary dish.)

Legend has it that a homeless, starving beggar had a chicken but didn’t have a stove to prepare it. Desperate for food, he came up with an idea. He killed the chicken and covered it with mud and baked it with fire…

A Qing-dynasty Emperor (乾隆皇帝) passed by. Attracted by the aroma of the baked chicken, he stopped and dined with the beggar. The Emperor loved the “Beggar’s Chicken” so much that it was added to the list of dishes served at the Imperial court. Hence, Beggar’s Chicken is also called “富贵鸡” (literally “rich and noble chicken”) in Beijing.

Beggar’s chicken calls for a stuffed and marinated chicken, sealed tight with layers of lotus leaf, parchment paper/wax paper, and mud. This unique cooking technique produces the most tender, juicy, moist, and aromatic chicken that is bursting with intense flavors. The original taste of the chicken is perfectly retained and trapped inside the chicken. The bones just fall off the chicken after hours of baking, and the lotus leaf lends the signature mouthwatering “fragrance” to the chicken. Unattractive–and even bizarre!–in its appearance, beggar’s chicken is a real Chinese delicacy that one should not miss out.

Click on the pictures above to view the step-by-step eating guide. Enjoy!

Made in China (Click on the link to read Travel + Leisure’s review)
2008 Go List
Grand Hyatt Beijing
1 E. Changan Ave.
(86)10-8518-1234 ext.3608



  1. If you are in the San Francisco bay area, you can try Beggar’s Chicken at my Malaysian friend’s restaurant “Betelnut Pejiu Wu.” Call to reserve your bird.
  2. Other than Beggar’s Chicken, “Made in China” is also famous for its Peking Duck.

Betelnut Pejiu Wu
2030 Union St
San Francisco, CA 94123

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23 COMMENTS... read them below or add one

  1. I really enjoy your blog and appreciate the post about beggar’s chicken. I live in Hangzhou where the dish originates (allegedly!) and it is definitely one of the best specialties in this area. I hope you can come try it in Hangzhou someday!

  2. I love the concept behind this dish. I currently am an exec sous at a pan asian restaurant. I love how many layers of food culture you find when you dig into the lore of food from China. Question: does your friend also cook the chicken with mud, or do they use something like clay or salt?

  3. hey there~~glad to find a fellow Penangite foodie blog here~all ur recipes/food pix are making me feel so hunry hahaha..keep up the good work~~

  4. Alexander Ong

    Hi Jason,

    we actually went through 6 months of trail & error before we got the recipe down, even then I’m still tweaking it.

    When Cecilia Chiang asked me to help her with the Beggar’s Chicken recipe for her book, “The Seventh Daughter”, we started doing the research as I have never done it before. Her old chef from The Mandarin restaurant in San Francisco vaguely remembered that they used some form of clay. So we tooled around with salt dough, dough dough, salt + dough & nothing worked. Even the different types of clay, mind you that I have absolutely no clue about anything to do with pottery.

    In September of 2008, I took a trip to Asia & during a dinner at Hutong in Hong Kong, I saw the dish on the menu & ordered it. It was wrapped in a mixture of clay & straw. It was presented tableside & the guest cracked the clay with a mallet & the dish was unwrapped & deboned in front of us. It was a stunning & memorable experience but alas the chicken was not that good, sad.

    With that experience, I came back & revisited the pottery store & finally met John the owner of Leslie Ceramics in Berkeley. John is a master pottery guy & a foodie. I talked at length with him & he asked a lot of questions & finally recommended that I try out the EM 210 low fire clay. It is a non toxic clay that to this day works wonderfully for our application.

    We prepare about 3-5 Beggars Chicken a nite & fire it according to how our reservation flows. It cooks for 1.5 hours at 350 degrees & when it’s ready, we tell our servers to sell it. It is a very dramatic & aromatic experience. Our repeat guests will always ask for it when they make their reservations & we will reserve one for them.

    Hope it helps.

    • Alexander Ong,

      That is truly awesome! I have found only one thing that even comes close, and that is lamb that is cooked in a terra cotta clay pot. Thinking about this dish just makes my want to visit your restaurant just to order it.

      What would an establishment charge for something like that?

      Thank you for lightening up a cynic. Every once in a while, something comes along that makes my day. Reading this dish was it. Hard to concentrate on inventory. LOL.

  5. NYMY

    Betelnut San Francisco?!?! I used to travel to SF a lot back in the days and this was 1 restaurant I couldn’t miss. But I don’t think they served this Beggar’s chicken back then. I wonder how this beggar’s chicken compared to the salt baked chicken back in Malaysia.

  6. Definitely something that I can’t prepare at home but I sure do want to try it. Maybe can ask your friend Ale Ong to prepare it for us at your place? hehe.

    How come all the good restaurants are located in SF ya? Come to OC lah wei! :P

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