Black Chicken or Simmered Silke Chicken

This post is a long time coming. Ever since I came across this iconic photo on Tastespotting, I’ve had black chicken filed away in the dusty cabinets of my mind. That was back in 2009 when I was a junior in college, I had about eighty dollars to my name and this blog was just a few months old. I have since been featured on Tastespotting several times and been rejected several times as well.

NY Times Black Chicken

The photo is from a piece in the New York Times that then leads to a recipe for cooking black chicken in what appears to be a somewhat traditional Thai coconut milk curry. When I first moved to New York, I would wander around Chinatown on the days I had free and encountered all sorts of ingredients I was dying to try. I had neither the financial resources, nor the kitchen space to try everything. It was there that I saw my first Styrofoam package of black chicken meat. Do a quick google image search for black chicken, correctly named a Silke chicken, and you’ll find pictures of adorable white fluffy birds and very cruely next to them on the page, their horrifying black carcases. You’ll find lots of food bloggers like me who have attempted to cook the black chicken into something marvellous, but most of the pictures you’ll see don’t look very appetizing. The New York Times seems to be the only one to make it look good…until now…

So, the chicken came whole. Head, feet and all. Thank GOD the innards were removed, although if you ever find yourself with a freshly slaughtered chicken, this lovely website  seems very helpful. And thank GOD my boyfriend was willing to wield the knife to chop off the head and feet. Have you ever seen chicken feet? They are disgusting, especially when they are black! This picture is horrifying, but I think you need to see what we’re dealing with.

He was a skinny bastard. Barely any meat on his breastbone, so the whole “quartering” thing didn’t go as planned. I ended up just using the legs, because trying to rip bones out of a black chicken carcass was not what I had signed up for. Well, in truth, it was and believe me, I tried. I based my recipe on the New York Times one but omitted a few things I deemed unnecessary. Their recipe calls for simmering the chicken in Shaoxing wine and other other spices for an hour and a half. While it did make the chicken flesh deliciously textured, so little of those flavors came through. So, I’m going to shorten your grocery list and take out the Shaoxing wine and the lemongrass. I also added oyster mushrooms because I was at first afraid to eat the chicken.

This was quite an undertaking and between the chicken chopping, the prep, the chicken simmering and the cooking time, it took about 3 hours. Not to mention the shopping trip to Chinatown. Trust me, there’s nothing I’d rather do on a lazy Sunday than cook a delicious meal, but this was a bit much. Because in all honesty, this tasted like the red Thai curry I’ve been making for years (and ordering from the local Thai place for about $11.00). That’s not to say, it wasn’t delicious. And I sure was proud of how that jet black flesh looked against the orangey curry. But, using a standard curry recipe like this one it could have been made a lot quicker. Not to mention, I didn’t use fish sauce which adds that elusive salty umami goodness that makes red curry one of the most popular dishes on any Thai menu.  Verdict: try it once if you dare but make sure the black chicken is already butchered for you.

 Black Silke Chicken in a Red Curry Sauce

(adapted from NY times)

Serves 2 with leftovers

You will need:

For the chicken:

1 black silke chicken, quartered

4 cups chicken broth

1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger

1 Tablespoon Chinese 5 spice powder

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 small onion, chopped

Salt and pepper

For the sauce:

2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil (or vegetable)

1 Tablespoon minced garlic

1 Tablespoon minced ginger

1 can low fat coconut milk

1 Tablespoon red curry paste

2 Tbs fresh basil, chopped

2 scallions, chopped

1/2 zucchini, cut into ribbons

1 cup fresh oyster mushrooms

2 Tablespoons fresh lime juice from 1 lime


1. In a large pot, simmer the chicken pieces, broth, chinese 5 spice powder, ginger, garlic and onion over low heat for 1 hour. Strain out the chicken and reserve 1 cup of the cooking liquid.

2. In a heavy bottomed skillet or dutch oven, heat the oil and fry the garlic and ginger until fragrant. Add the coconut milk, reserved cooking liduid and curry paste and cook over medium heat until combined. Use the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the pot to blend in the paste.

3. Add the zucchini  mushrooms and chicken pieces and simmer on low for 20 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Serve in bowls over rice with basil and scallions.

Tasted just like chicken.

19 thoughts on “Black Chicken or Simmered Silke Chicken

  1. wow…your soup looks wonderful !!!! i love the coconut red curry flavors you used. as you know i have had my black chicken experience and i don’t see another in my future, but i sure love what you did. thanks for sharing

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