On Saturday, my friends and I went to Banting to celebrate KY’s birthday. We went all the way there to try the famous hak yi kai (beggar chicken). Why it is called as such is because it is cooked in a pile of charcoal.
How did it get its name? I didn’t know there is a story (come to think of it, everything has a origins story!) behind it until my brother told me.
Back in the olden days, there was a beggar who stole a chicken. The townspeople gave chase and managed to trap him inside a house. The beggar, not knowing what to do, decided to wrap that chicken in cloth and buried it under the house.
Somehow, he managed to escape from the house without being detected by the mob gathered outside demanding the release of the chicken.
The townspeople must be crazy over chickens, because they decided that if they couldn’t have their chicken, then no one can have it.
Or maybe they were just being selfish. So they decided to burn the house down.
For goodness sakes, it was only a goddamned chicken! Burn down a house for a chicken – I really can’t see the sense in that.
Anyway, the house was burned down and the mob left. The beggar returned later and dug through the debris (and soil) to recover his chicken.
Lo and behold, the chicken was found and it tasted absolutely delicious and heavenly! Word of mouth spread about this new way of cooking chicken and it caught on. And became famous.
Of course, no one would burn down a house just to cook a chicken. Hence, the next best thing is to simulate a burning house or a very hot environment – cover the cock in hot charcoal.
We took pictures of the food. These are the other four dishes we had.
And this is the main attraction – beggar chicken.
It is actually herbal chicken. But cooked ala beggar style. Yummy!
The other dishes were good as well. Not spectacular, but they were full of flavour. We over-ordered, as we had difficulty finishing the food. But we managed to finally.
Price was a tad expensive. The chicken was RM43.
My friends and I had been talking about trying it since three years ago. Now I can finally say that I have!