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Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Gà Hấp Muối Hột (Whole Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt)

Happy New Year!'s been over a month since my last post. Time sure does fly especially when the holidays are around. There are a million things to do but so little time. When winter comes, the icky cold is going around. I tend to catch it easily and it would drag on for 3-4 weeks. I've been wanting to share with you a few new recipes that I cooked for my family recently. My mind screamed, "Blog it," but my body was too tired to listen. 

Besides the cold, we've been drenched by the Pineapple Express particularly here in northern California. Can you believe this short storm added over 33 billion gallons to Lake Tahoe?  I am sitting on my couch looking out the window and watching the pouring rain. It's quite relaxing, but I had to muster some courage to put together this post.

So, here is the Whole Free-Range Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt and Earthy Herbs. My husband would do anything to eat this steamed chicken, so he didn't mind weathering the storm and venturing out to our garden to gather the lemongrass and pick the kaffir lime leaves for me to prepare the chicken. After her first bite, my little one expressed how she didn't like it only to ask for more moments later. The older girl didn't bother to try because one of our chicken just passed away due to the bitter cold. 

This dry steamed chicken recipe would make a wonderful dish for the up coming Luna New Year. It's simple, quick, and super easy to prepare. And by dry steamed I mean there is no liquid added. As it heats up in the clay pot, the natural moisture from the chicken and herbs is sufficient to not only cook the chicken but keep it tender and moist. Once done, the chicken reveals a beautiful super moist and golden chicken. The sea salt bed locks in the moisture and flavor making it juicy and tasty. In addition, it has a wonderful aroma imparted by the kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, and ginger. It tastes even better with the spicy ginger dipping fish sauce.
RECIPE: Whole Chicken Dry Steamed on a bed of Sea Salt

1 whole free-range chicken, about 2.5 pounds, about $11-$13 each, available at Asian supermarkets
1 pound coarse sea salt, available at Asian markets in a 2 pound bag
3-4 lemongrass stalks 
a handful of kaffir lime leaves or lime leaves or lemon leaves
1 large piece ginger root
for Spicy Ginger Dipping Fish Sauce
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
1-2 cloves garlic 
1-2 red chili pepper
about 1-inch ginger root, peeled
a few prigs of cilantro, finely cut, optional
some Asian basil leaves, finely cut, optional
1 clay pot to fit a whole chicken, available at most Asian markets, cost about $17
6.5" diameter opening
about 29.5" circumference of widest part of the clay pot
7" tall
Preparing Ingredients

Remove and discard innards such as gizzards, etc, from inside the chicken, if included, and rinse the chicken inside and out, draining thoroughly.
Cut lemongrass stalks into 2-3 segments, long enough to fit in the clay pot. Bruise the lemongrass stalks with a heavy knife or a meat tenderizer hammer to release the essential oils from the lemongrass which will then add more flavor to the chicken.  If your lemongrass stalks have leaves, keep the leaves for later used.
Cut ginger roots into 1/4 inch thick slices.
Wash lime or lemon leaves, and set aside.
Steaming Chicken

In a clay pot, pour in sea salt and make about 1/4 inch thick layer at the bottom. 

Arrange lemongrass, lime or lemon leaves, ginger slices on top of a bed of sea salt. 

Tuck the chicken feet inside the chicken to keep them in place. Place the chicken on top of the herbs. If you have the lemongrass leaves, use them to cover the chicken to seals in moisture and flavor and infuses the contents with a subtle, grassy aroma. Banana leaves would also work.

Cover with a lid and cook clay pot at medium-high heat for no more than 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and let it rest for about 5-10 minutes. 

Preparing Spicy Ginger Dipping Fish Sauce

While the chicken is cooking, place chili pepper, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and pound them into paste to release their fresh flavors. Add sugar, fish sauce, lemon juice, chili garlic sauce if used instead of fresh chili pepper. Mix all the ingredients well. Toss in some cilantro and basil leaves. It should have a subtle balance of sour, sweet, salty and spicy.


Transfer the steamed chicken to a serving plate and serve with some herbs such as cilantro, Vietnamese coriander (rau răm), and of course the spicy ginger dipping fish sauce. 

You can also chop it up and pour the sauce over before serving. However, we are fond of tearing the whole chicken apart and eating it with our bare hands.  

Eat well. Stay healthy.


  1. Could this be done in a cast iron Dutch oven?

    1. I haven't tried it but I think it should be fine.

    2. I just tried making this today with a cast iron dutch oven and it turned out great! So juicy and tender. Thanks so much for the awesome recipe! I love your site.

  2. Wow this sounds so delicious! Thanks for sharing this wonderful recipe.

  3. Can you do this with a duck?

    1. It would take a long time at least 45 minutes to cook duck with this method.

  4. Hi, quick question, no need any water inside?