Gà Hấp Muối Hột (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

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.