Legend claims that this dish originates from Hangzhou, China when a beggar used his ingenuity to create this dish in the absence of an oven or a pot to cook in. The beggar wrapped a whole chicken with lotus leaves and clay and buried it in a hole in the ground. A fire is lit on top of the hole and when the fire dies down, they remove the ashes to unearth the cooked chicken. The clay acts as a natural insulator allowing the chicken to be cooked by steaming in it's natural juices. The addition of lotus leaves gives a fragrance to the tender chicken meat.
In Malaysia, this dish is usually served at far flung places near factories so charcoal fire can be used. Besides this Ijok place, you can also get this dish at Jugra, Banting which is the original restaurant that started it all almost thirty years ago. The restaurant in Ijok is located near the factories and when you drive past them, you can see a burning charcoal fire at the side of the road where they cook the food in. The clay parcels are placed in a wheelbarrow and brought in to the restaurant to be prepared for serving.
Although traditionally, lotus leaves are used, they seem to have given way to modernisation and is now wrapped in silver foil. The chicken is stuffed with Chinese herbs and then wrapped in silver foil. After the silver foil layer, it is wrapped in brown greaseproof paper and a layer of clay (made from mixing yellow soil with water) is applied to it. It is then buried in the hot ashes of the charcoal fire to cook. Once done, it is removed to the wheelbarrow and then care is taken to knock the clay crust off and tear the paper revealing the silver foil package with the cooked chicken.
They will serve you the silver foil package in a plate which you can open at the table to reveal the tender and flavoursome chicken. Sorry about the quality of the pictures, I took them without a flash and realised it was too dark later on. As I was with a group of hungry people, I took the pictures super quickly or else they will protest.
Here you see the inside of the chicken which is filled with chinese herbs like wolfberries (kei chi), dong sheng, dong guai and etc to make it fragrant. The meat is tender and you can easily tear the meat from the bones. Usually the chicken takes about four hours to cook in the hot ashes. The best part is the gravy which is yummy from the chicken juices and chinese herbs.
There are a few pork dishes here (sorry to my Muslim readers), this one is the pig's trotters that came with a small serving of Chinese mushrooms on the side. Not much meat here and quite a bit of fat and skin but the meat was tender.
There was also duck which was also tender and stuffed with chinese herbs too. It makes a change from the usually tougher duck meat you get from the roast duck.
There was also glutinous rice with sliced Chinese mushrooms, dried shrimps and supposedly ten salted egg yolks scattered around the rice. To prepare this dish, the glutinous rice grains are soaked for a while and then drained well. Then all the ingredients except the egg yolks are stir fried in a wok with oil until the rice is half cooked. The rice is then removed and the egg yolks added and wrapped with the silver foil. A brown greaseproof paper is wrapped around it and finally a clay layer applied. The glutinous rice also takes about four hours to cook in the hot ashes. I liked the rice as it was soft and tender.
There were also tiger prawns cooked in a sweetish black soya sauce which was enjoyed by everyone. I had to quickly snapped the picture as people were eager to get a piece of the fresh prawns.
There was also crabs cooked in kam heong style with curry leaves that was really nice. I didn't eat much of it though as I had to take pictures of more food and couldn't get my hands dirty.
They also served pork stomach soup in a claypot with pieces of abalone and mushrooms in a peppery boiling hot soup which was yummy.
The last dish was a fish head curry that was creamy with coconut milk and also served in a claypot. I liked the taste of the curry and it would be excellent for curry laksa. It was a great dinner and an eye-opener as I have not eaten Beggar's Chicken for a few years. Do pop over there one day if you are looking for a bit of adventure. The dishes served above is part of a set which you can order for minimum ten people at RM330 but make sure you order in advance. You can get detailed insructions from the restaurant people but it's pretty straightforward and quite near to the main road.
New Beggar's Delicious Restaurant
Tel: 03 - 3279 1936, 019 - 317 3687 (Mr. Tee)
(Located off the road leading from Sungai Buloh towards Kuala Selangor. When you reach Ijok, you can see signs towards this place. The turning to the restaurant is on your left hand side if travelling from KL to Kuala Selangor. You will need to book a table one day in advance. The restaurant is open only from 5 p.m., Wednesday, Saturday, Sunday and public holidays.)
*Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here is entirely based on my personal tastebuds and may vary for others. The reviewer also declares that she has not received any monetary or non-monetary compensation from the restaurant for writing this review.