Beggars Chicken Qi Jai Ji

The legend goes that a very long time ago, this dish was created by a beggar who had stolen a chicken from a farmer. The beggar built a fire and put the chicken on a stick to roast it. Suddenly he heard the thunder of horses' hooves. The farmer! He quickly pulled the chicken off the fire, wrapped it in a lotus leaf, and buried it in the mud next to the fire. When the farmer came, he searched for his missing chicken but could not find it anywhere, so he galloped away. After he was gone, the beggar dug up the chicken. What a discovery! The mud around the lotus leaf had baked to a hardened clay. When the beggar cracked it open, he found a perfectly cooked, flavorful, and very moist chicken inside. He was very happy with his creation and ate the entire thing. This recipe for Beggar's Chicken comes from the western region of China.

Serves 6


  • 4 cups self-rising flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil
  • extra flour for kneading
  • 6 medium-size boneless skinless chicken breasts (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 pound ground pork
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped bamboo shoots
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon hoisin sauce

On Your Mark...

  • Place the flour in a large bowl. Combine the milk and 1 tablespoon of the canola oil, pour into the flour, and mix well into a soft dough.
  • Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead until it is smooth. This will take a minute or two.
  • Wrap the dough in plastic wrap or wax paper, place in a clean bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel. Let the dough rest at room temperature for about 30 to 40 minutes.
  • Wash the chicken under cold running water and pat dry with paper towels. Place the chicken on a platter, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use. Wash the work area where the chicken was cleaned. Be sure to use lots of hot, soapy water and wipe the surfaces dry.

Get Set...

  • Heat a wok on medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add 1 tablespoon of the canola oil and heat for a few more seconds.
  • Add the ground pork and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, or until the meat browns slightly. Using a spatula, remove the pork to a clean bowl.
  • Reheat the wok and add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Add the green onion, celery, and bamboo shoots, and stir-fry for 2 minutes.
  • Return the pork to the pan and add the salt and hoisin sauce. Cook for another minute or two, making sure all the ingredients are well combined. This is the stuffing. You will need to let it cool completely in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate until ready to use.


  • Preheat the oven to 375ºF.
  • Unwrap the dough and cut it into 3 pieces. Then cut each of the pieces in half. Take 1 piece of dough and cover the rest with a clean cloth.
  • Lightly flour the work surface. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to make a circle about 6 inches wide and 1/8-inch thick.
  • Lay 1 chicken breast in the center of the dough and top with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the stuffing. Gently fold the dough up over the chicken and stuffing and press together at the edges to seal. Place the chicken in a well-greased baking pan.
  • Repeat these steps with all the dough and chicken breasts.
  • Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, basting the chicken with the juices in the bottom of the pan once or twice during the baking.
  • Use a spatula to lift the chicken out of the baking pan when it is done.
  • Serve hot.

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