Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Our Beach Kitchen: Cooking Chinese

My trophy bride, the Belle of Gulf Boulevard, and I have been expanding our gastronomic buds of taste lately by breaking out of our culinary comfort zone. Instead of relying on Winn Dixie or any of the local Publix stores to provide sustenance, we have made several trips into Pinellas Park to shop at the mind-boggling MD Oriental Market on 49th off of Park Boulevard.

Each time we go to the MD it seems that we find some amazing food stuffs that calls out, "Try me!" We have brought home exotic fruits, canned products, fresh meats and poultry, and veggies not found in main-stream groceries. So far, most everything we have tried required a visit to The Googles to figure out what to do with it and how to eat it.

Among other things, we have discovered Asian fruits that are extremely nutritious and have restorative properties not often found in more common varieties. For instance: jackfruit. I have seen this monster fruit featured on food and travel channels. MD has whole jackfruits and fruits cut into smaller sizes and wrapped in plastic.

The yellow pulp can be scooped out with a spoon or fingers and the large seed removed. Not only is the fruit a tasty treat, it is really good for you. A cup of raw fruit has about 155 calories and almost 40 grams of carbs, but most importantly it is packed with a boat load of necessary vitamins and minerals.

Once the seeds are boiled and the husk removed they are not only good for you, but roasted in a frying pan with a little oil and soy sauce, they are a delicious crunchy delight. Also, the unripe fruit can serve as a pulled pork meat substitute.

Speaking of meat: while exploring the meat market, I discovered a most exotic chicken. It was a whole bantam black chicken. I had no idea such a thing existed and while knowing nothing about this kind of bird I knew I had to have it.

Back home I did a Google search and turned up the Ayam Cemani, an uncommon and relatively modern breed of chicken from Indonesia. They have a dominant gene that makes the chicken entirely black; including feathers, beak, and internal organs. Here in the U.S. these birds sell as high as $2500. I had obviously looked up the wrong bird. After a little more 'net surfing I came across the Silkie.

Silkie chickens are a highly-prized breed of chicken that has beautiful silky white plumage, and startlingly black skin. They are frequently found in China, India, and Southeast Asia, or in our case at the MD Market. The Chinese have used the Silkie as food and as medicine for over a thousand years.

In the nutrition aspect, black chicken has less calories than regular chicken, mostly due to less fat. For example, a 100 gram piece of regular chicken has around 8 grams fat, while black chicken has only 2 grams. Studies have also shown a higher level of an antioxidant called carnosine. Antioxidants in general are a great thing, and black chicken has double the amount of carnosine than regular chicken.

That is just peachy information, but now I had to ask myself, "What the hell are you going to do with this black bird?" Well, it was back to the Googles for me, and I found a recipe on New York Times Cooking. Except for the addition of four baby bok choy (because I had them and could add them) I followed the recipe to the letter.

 The bird: ready to be cleaned, rinsed and quartered.
 Step 1: simmering the bird and aromatics for an hour or so.
 Step 2: ingredients for coconut sauce.
 Step 2 (cont): straying from the recipe, I removed the bones since many are small.
Step 3: the prepared dish after a gentle simmer.

The sauce was unbelievably rich and luxurious. The meat really doesn't taste much different than white chickens ... maybe a little gamier ... but, this slow cooked black chicken stew was simply bursting with flavor. Would I do it again? Maybe ... if I can find another Silkie at the store and if the black chicken spirits move me. This was a labor intensive dish. I'd really have to be in the mood.

Hmmm ... maybe try it with a regular chicken or several game hens? We'll have to see.

Bien provecho, y'all.

1 comment:

  1. Lordy, you are a brave consumer of fowl. I don't know if I could be so adventurous. Brava to your lovely bride in indulging in this dish. I'm tossing around a pickle brined cornish hen, spatchcocked and smoked