Dana and the black chickens



My job as a food trend tracker keeps me on my toes. If I find references to something new in close proximity to one another, I draw myself up to attention and get researching.  Such was the case last week with Chinese silkie chickens (also called black chickens).  Sunday a chef proudly told me he now could get organic black chickens, then I heard someone talking about Chinese black chicken soup being healthful; on Thursday, one of my favourite online food destinations the Kitchn wrote about these curiously coloured birds. Was a trend taking flight?

The truth is that although I’m a schooled chef, I’d never cooked or eaten a black chicken before. So, I put out a call for info on Twitter and Facebook and I got an almost instant response from people who live both near and far offering suggestions about where to get my hands on these birds and how to prepare them.

I bought two silkies at T&T Supermarket and brought them home. Then I started reading about Chinese chicken soup and  the ingredients just didn’t inspire my appetite. All of the recipes contained ginseng, one of my least favourite flavours.

So, I went to bed with no plan in my mind but to cook those birds the next day. As it turned out, I decided that to be able to judge the flavour fairly, I needed to treat one of the chickens like I would treat a regular bird from my local grocery store. In the end, I decided the best test for a true comparison was to make a traditional chicken broth.

For my second chicken, I decided to treat it like a duck since many of the references I checked said that black chickens have a gamy flavour.  I concocted a recipe (it’s posted below but please be forewarned that I only made it once – it hasn’t been tested) for braising the second chicken in a lemongrass infused broth.

My results:

  • Chicken broth:  the silkie chicken made an incredibly nice chicken broth. In fact, from now on whenever see one in a Chinese market I’m going to pick it up expressly for that purpose. The broth in my freezer now is a lovely golden colour and has a true chicken scent and flavour. It’s excellent!
  • Braised Lemongrass Silkie:  the sauce, if I do say so myself, was excellent and the silkie chicken legs braised in this liquid were tender and quite tasty. The breast meat absorbed the flavour of the aromatics in a very desirable way but the meat was a bit tough and not something I’ll crave. In fact, I think I’ll make this braise again but I’ll use duck or goose legs instead.

As for the look of the meat, although it’s a bit startling at first, we got over that pretty fast while we were eating and I think it will be easier to cut up a black chicken next time I bring one home.

Looking for more info?  Check out these links:


Lemongrass Braised Silkie (Black) Chicken

1   silkie chicken

¼ cup (50 mL) dark soy sauce

2 tbsp (30 mL) vegetable oil

1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger

2 shallots, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

½ cup (125 mL) mirin (rice wine) or sherry

2 tbsp (30 mL) oyster sauce

1 tbsp (15 mL) dark brown sugar

1 tbsp (15 mL) hoisin sauce

2 whole star anise

2 whole cloves garlic

1 stalk lemongrass, chopped

2 cups (500 mL) chicken broth (approx)

chopped fresh coriander

steamed rice

  • Cut the chicken into leg, thigh and breast portions. Coat all over in the soy sauce and marinate for 30 minutes.
  • Heat half the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot. Add the ginger, garlic, shallots and onion. Stir-fry for 5 minutes. Add the oyster sauce, brown sugar, hoisin, mirin, star anise, garlic and lemongrass. Cook, stirring often for 3 minutes. Add the marinated chicken and enough chicken broth to cover. Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Turn the chicken and continue to cook for 30 to 40 minutes longer or until the meat is fork tender. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl and cover tightly.  Bring the braising liquid to a boil and reduce for 5 to 10 minutes or until slightly thickened. Strain the braising liquid into the bowl containing the chicken. Discard aromatic ingredients. Sprinkle with coriander and serve with steamed rice. 


18 Responses to Dana and the black chickens

  1. Rebecca says:

    Startling photo, but beautiful in its own way.

    That braise sounds delicious.

    We’re going to make stock soon using your trick for roasting the bones first. Guess I’ll have to start the hunt for chicken feet soon…

  2. Kitt says:

    Well, that’s one funky-looking chicken! How does the price compare with regular chicken? i.e. if it’s more expensive, is the broth that much better to be worth the difference?

  3. I’d suggest using Shaoshing wine instead of mirin next time. It’s readily available in Toronto over on Spadina Avenue. The sweetness is quite different from mirin. I’d also suggest keeping the temperature lower, say about 175°F maximum. This should help keep the breast tender, especially if it stays below 155°F.

  4. Rosa says:

    I’ve never had such a chicken, but I bet your recipe tastes just wonderful!



  5. danamccauley says:

    Kitt, each chicken was $7.99 and only about 3 lbs. It was more expensive than a regular chicken but I do think it was worth the price given the fact it produced 2L of excellent broth.

    Peter, thanks for your reccos. I’ll try the wine and I had already thought about the lower temp but i”m glad to hear you concur!

    • Susan Barrett says:

      My cousin lived in China and had actually tried soup made from silky. He said it was delicious and good for you if you were getting a cold. That was 6 or 7 years ago. (He’s back now living in Vancouver) and I hadn’t thought of it again until I saw an episode of chopped using the bird. I am a foody & do want to try, but hubby’s a big sissy…have to sneak it in & cook while he’s not hanging about. LOL Wold lemongrass be a good addition to the broth as well as the braise?

  6. As Rebecca put it, the photo is startling. I’m not sure I would seek out a silkie, but it’s interesting to read about.

    Your lemongrass chicken sounds wonderful. Hope you won’t be offended if I try it with a regular bird.

  7. Diva says:

    I’ve seen the black chickens loads of times in Chinatown … but, frankly, they’ve always scared the heck out of me. I love that you dove right in though and that rich stock sounds like it just may be worth taking the plunge. Must steel my nerves …

  8. Cheryl says:

    I’d eat a black chicken if someone put one in front of me but I don’t know if I’d cook one myself. I’m impressed!

  9. How interesting?!?! And kudos to you for trying this out.

  10. What a fun kitchen adventure. My Chinese sources tell me that they mostly use it for broth.
    There is an Italian chicken that is also only destined for broth: gallina.
    I made the mistake of roasting one and it was like roasted rubber! My Italian friends all thought it was very funny….

  11. That’s anew one on me. I shouldn’t think I’ll ever see one in these parts. Interesting to read your trial with them. i love to hear of new things.

  12. danamccauley says:

    Judith – thanks to you for inspiring me to use lemongrass in this recipe. It was your note on Facebook that got me thinking about braising.

    I’ve never seen a gallina chicken in our stores but then again, I hadn’t seen the black chickens and they were there all along. I’m going to ask for one at one of Toronto’s italian markets. We have a very robust Italian culute so I bet they are available in Little Italy.

  13. Jude says:

    Woo that first picture is graphic. I’m Asian and I hadn’t tried or cooked black chicken before so don’t feel too bad 🙂
    Just started following you on Twitter!

  14. The Fat One says:

    Can’t wait to try that braising recipe

  15. Susan says:

    Here’s a short read about black chicken in a Korean soup – samgyetang.
    We enjoy it during the deepest of winters and summers. Cleansing, healthy and delicious. Add salt to broth to taste as you eat and garnish with diced green onions.

  16. wurr says:

    Would slow cooking it as meat for a soup or marinading it for a while soften the chicken sufficiently?

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