In terms of taste, it is not supposed to be salty as the name would suggest. The taste is usually from the different flavours that can be added onto it. This dish can be cooked with chinese herbs like dang gui, red dates & thornberry. To have a local twist, we can bake the chicken in salt and banana leaves. And some would do it plain with just rice wine, sesame oil, salt and pepper.
It is actually quite easy to confuse it with the traditional Beggar's Chicken, which is cooked wrap in a salty dough and would require a hammer to crack it open after cooking. Yim Gud Gai is much simpler in the number of steps. Last week Dad bought this dish all the way from Ipoh from one of their famous store called Aun Kheng Lin (Riceballz's blog talks quite extensively on this shop). So picking up some ideas from this shop, I did mine as follows:
1 no of small spring chicken or small free range chicken, approx 1.2 kg3 pieces of dang gui, washed
4-5 pieces of red dates, washed
1 teasp of thornberry, washed
1/2 to 3/4 tbsp of salt and pepper (edited)
3 pieces of large baking paper (grey or white), big enough to wrap the whole of chicken in 6 folds2-3 kg of coarse salt
1) Clean chicken well and delete the head and neck portion, stuff chinese herbs in the cavity of chicken. Pat dry and rub the whole chicken with salt and pepper. Set aside to marinade for an hour or so. Wrap it up in the baking sheets, sealing up the chicken really well. (I did mine in two layers only and the paper was a little burnt, which then transmit the burnt flavour onto the chicken, we both liked that. But if you don't want it that way, i would suggest 3 pieces and a final layer of aluminium foil)
2) Put more than 1/3 of the 3kg salt in a old big wok with a steeper slant. You would not want to cook this in an expensive wok or pot as heating will cause the wok to brown slightly. Steeper slant will help reduce the amount of salt used.
3) Put the wrapped chicken on top of the salt, with the tummy side up, and cover the rest of the chicken with more salt. Cover and bake over medium fire for 45 mins to 1 hour depending on the size of chicken. I did mine for 35 mins and it was slightly under cooked around the thigh area. So please do try longer.
4) Dig out the chicken from the salt. Be careful that you dont accidently tear the paper off and let the chicken touch the salt. You will have really salty chicken if that happens. Uncover and test by piercing the thighs and if juice flows out then chicken is clear it is done. Cool slightly before chopping and serving. Another wonderful point about this recipe is you can serve it as a cold dish.
Another really easy way of baking this chicken is with banana leaves. Place layers of banana leaves on top of salt. Rub chicken with a little salt and pepper. Cut chicken across back and flatten against leaves. Line with some more layers of banana leaves, then cover completely with salt. Bake for 45 mins to 1 hour. You will have juicy chicken with a tinge of banana leave flavour.
Salt, leaves, chicken
Leaves, salt and szechuan peppercorn