Tanna chicken

Tanna chicken

My Feast
Chris Chen

This dish is inspired by the Chinese beggar’s chicken, using the local ingredients I had to hand at Tanna in Vanuatu — and it worked perfectly. I love it when you’re in these kinds of situations, with foreign ingredients and people, and experience is the only thing you have to work with. That’s when so many doors open and you learn the most amazing things and create some really tasty dishes along the way.


Quantity Ingredient
1 x 1.6kg free-range chicken
2cm ginger, grated
6 small red or green chillies
6 whole cloves
2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce
1 tablespoon chilli sauce
1 bunch english spinach, roots trimmed, leaves washed well and torn
1 lime, juiced
salt and ground black pepper, to taste
4-5 large banana leaves
olive oil, for greasing
Cucumber salad, to serve

Sand casing

Quantity Ingredient
2kg sand
1kg fine salt
12 eggwhites


  1. Preheat the oven to 250°C
  2. Trim the chicken and ensure that the skin covering the breasts remains intact.
  3. Using a mortar and pestle, grind the garlic, ginger, chilli and cloves until a smooth paste forms. Rub the paste all over the chicken, inside and out.
  4. Combine the sweet soy sauce and chilli sauce together and rub it all over the chicken.
  5. Stuff the chicken with the spinach, then drizzle the lime over the skin and season well with salt and pepper.
  6. To wrap the chicken, soften the banana leaves by running them over a flame for about 30 seconds or until they turn oily (see note). Place two banana leaves on a work surface in a cross pattern and lightly oil them.
  7. Place the wrapped chicken, breast-side down, on the leaves and wrap it so both leaves cover the bird evenly. If necessary, use another leaf. Tie it well with kitchen twine and set aside.
  8. To make the sand casing, mix all of the ingredients in a large bowl until you get a sloppy paste.
  9. Place another two banana leaves on the work surface in a cross pattern and place half of the sand casing on it. Place the chicken, breast side up, onto the paste and put the rest of the paste on top. Ensure the entire parcel is coated evenly with the sand casing, then wrap it up the same way as the first wrapping and secure with kitchen twine. Place the parcel on a baking tray and bake for 1 1/2 hours.
  10. Remove from the oven and remove the outer banana leaves. It should be a hard rock. Leave for 5 minutes.
  11. To serve, either take the chicken in its rock casing to the table and break it open with a hammer or crack it open in the kitchen and unwrap the chicken from its second covering of banana leaves. Serve the chicken with its cooking juices and the cucumber salad.


  • Running banana leaves over an open flame helps to soften them, making them easier to handle.
My Sri Lanka
Island Feast
Back to top
    No results found
    No more results
      No results found
      No more results
        No results found
        No more results
          No results found
          No more results
            No results found
            No more results
              No results found
              No more results
              Please start typing to begin your search
              We're sorry but we had trouble running your search. Please try again