Surely one of the most wonderful dishes in China must be Beggar’s Chicken. There are various theories about its origin, but most stories I’ve heard revolve around a starving peasant who stole a whole chicken and then buried it. He later returned to retrieve the bird, only to find it encased in mud. When he put it in the fire to cook, the mud hardened into a clay-like shell, locking in the flavor and aroma, and the rest is history.
Today, beggar’s chicken is prepared by marinating and then stuffing a chicken, before wrapping it in lotus leaves and covering it in mud. The chicken is then roasted in an oven for many hours. Because of the complex and lengthy preparation, most restaurants require customers to order this dish a day in advance. From my experience, it is more than worth planning ahead.
When we tried Beggar’s Chicken, it was wheeled out to our table by the chef, who then picked up a mallet and hit the outer casing to reveal the most aromatic, delicious chicken I have ever tasted. The succulent meat fell off the bone and harbored a mix of flavors, whose intensity is difficult to describe. But while the taste of this dish is unique, it is the aroma that lingers in one’s mind.
Read about other eating experiences here: http://wanderlustandlipstick.com/blogs/wanderfood/