Top 2 Asian Chicken Varieties

Your standard American chicken is different to the chickens that Chinese people prefer. They are typically found in Chinese markets like 99 Ranch or Chinatown.

The number one favorite Chinese chicken (not typically served on salads!) is the Vikon chicken or yellow chicken. My mom calls it the "run run free" chicken (a rough transliteration) also known as free-range. When asking my auntie why she likes to use the yellow chicken, she said it was leaner because it's free range, which is obvious when you examine the breast of the chicken (in comparison to the standard fryer chicken). It's much smaller. 

Here is a Vikon chicken - alive. Running free. At the meat counter, it's a yellow chicken that is typically sold whole with the head and feet on "Buddhist style".

Here is a Vikon chicken - alive. Running free. At the meat counter, it's a yellow chicken that is typically sold whole with the head and feet on "Buddhist style".

The special and fabled Silkie Chicken takes a second place. The Silkie Chicken is an ornamental chicken breed from Asia (wu gu ji, in Mandarin). You may not be able to tell from their white plumage (that is soft as silk), but they have dark blue or black skin and bones. In soup, the meat often falls apart into thin threads, which has been described as "bamboo-thread chicken" (juk si gai, in Cantonese) Threads and silk have similar meaning, which may be why these chickens are called Silkie chickens. In Chinese food culture, the black chicken meat is considered medicinal or a curative food. It is known for being restorative and as a tonic for building blood.

The information given by the Squab Producers of California (SPOC) is that:

"... Silkies contain certain hormones, blue pigment, and amino acids which can increase blood cells and hemoglobin, and many use it to aid with women's health relating to pregnancy and child bearing. In fact a sizable industry now flourishes in China marketing products based on the black colored foods and herbs, with these factories manufacturing pills designed to help with various illness which include the meat of the Silkie mixed with many herbal combinations...The health benefits aside, Silkie is popular for its very sweet and rich flavor. Silkie chicken is often enjoyed at banquets as well as at home. It is most common now to enjoy Silkie in a very special soup containing particularly flavorful herbs."

Now, customers have asked if the chickens are organic, or natural, or humanely raised. And, honestly, I have no idea if they hold to the same standards as a Whole Foods chicken. It's all a bit lost in translation. The criteria for "good" is totally different to the Asian market. A lean breast is prized and the head and feet are left on so you can inspect the whole chicken.  

We're lucky! There are a few specialty farms in California that produce Asian chickens. Silkie Chickens in particular are raised in the Central Valley in California. I'm guessing that they also provide these varieties to Chinese markets all over the country. 

Just in case you were wondering, Vikon and Silkie chickens cost in the $10-15 range for a whole chicken. Not too bad, eh?

What is their particular taste? They, well, taste like chicken. You should try some! Make some soup today!

 

This handsome chickie is a Silkie Chicken. She's aware that she's going to be soup if she's not careful.

This handsome chickie is a Silkie Chicken. She's aware that she's going to be soup if she's not careful.