In one of my recent trips….. and when I meant recent, I meant five years back. I only say recent so that I can trick my brain into thinking that I’m happy. Sappy yes, but true. Anyway, back to before I interrupted myself. In my “recent” trip back to Malaysia, my sister had someone buy the famous Salted Baked Chicken (In Cantonese = Yim Kuk Kai) from Ipoh, a small quaint town in Malaysia.
Yim Kuk Kai (pronounced Yim Coke Kye) is whole chicken wrapped in wax paper and is sealed to keep the juices intact. It is then buried in coarse salt and baked in the oven. When you open the ‘package’, hot steam escapes and you’d have perfectly cooked, moist and tender salty chicken.
I took one look at the chicken my sister bought. I called my mom over to play the role of an annoying daughter asking her about the discrepancy between this and the one she usually makes. It was then she confessed that my entire life’s home cooked yim kuk kai was a lie. A fake. After a series of adaption of this dish that was passed down, it landed on my mom’s hands who too, adapted it to her liking. She claimed all versions were too salty.
I was about to give her my two cents about life and lies when I took a bite off the chicken. My body immediately rejected all that sodium. My tongue was causing a riot. I really hate to admit this, but my mom was right. As usual. I don’t deny that it was delicious though. It was just too salty. On the bright side, at least I don’t have to waste a mountain of salt just to bury the chicken and best of all, her adaptation comes with an awesome, concentrated chicken soup. So, I forgave her.
Funny note. As much as the title states ‘baked’, it isn’t baked at all. Rather, it’s braised.
If you’ve read about Mr. V’s chicken pickiness eating habits, you’d know he only prefers the breasts. However, one thing other than breasts that he’d even consider putting into his mouth (that sounded kind of dirty… but you know what I mean) is this yim kuk kai. He’d even eat the skin for god darndest sake. And that says a lot.
This super simple, ‘picture does not justify anything dish’ is perfect for any meal of the day. The chicken is juicy and tender with the perfect amount of salt. The icing on the cake? The ultra concentrated chicken soup that comes with it. Mr. V and I, we fight till the last drop.
Take a bite of this with steamed rice cooked in chicken stock, top it with some sambal and you’re officially my favorite stranger friend person on earth!
My last post: Beef Rendang
What recipes have you come across that have become so far off the original?
Salted Baked Chicken serves 6-7
what you need:
Bone in and skin on chicken thighs and/or drumstick (I use a 3 qt 10″ wide sauce pan to fit 6-7 thighs)
1 large carrot, cubed
1/4 cup goji berries (optional)
1. Place the chicken in the pan and fill with water until 3/4 of the chicken is submerged in water.
2. Cover and over high heat, bring the water to boil. Once boiled, skim the foam.
3. Add the carrots in (if using), and wait for water to boil again. Add 1/2 tsp of salt and turn heat to low. Simmer covered for 45 minutes. If you’re using goji berries, add it 15 minutes before the 45 minute mark.
4. Taste the soup and add more salt until perfect tasting to your palate. Serve with steamed rice. Drench your rice with the awesome soup.
1. Goji berry is a superfood. If you have them in your pantry, add them. It’ll make the soup slightly sweet. So would the carrots.
2. For extra omphh to this dish, cook the rice in chicken stock.
3. As I write this, I realized this dish could totally stay true to its title and be ‘baked’ in the oven. Basically, after the water boils, place it covered in the oven at 350 F for 45-60 minutes. I’m quite certain the result will be similar to the stove top method.