KitchenTigress: Black Chicken Soup

Black Chicken Soup

My mother, like millions of other Chinese mothers, made chicken soup with ginseng for me when it was exam time. The chicken wasn't regular, ordinary fowl. It was silkie chicken, a breed which has black meat and bones.

Before I post a recipe, I usually read up about the dish and ingredients used. So, I googled "black chicken" . . . and . . .

Wow, it looks like there's some scientific basis for silkies' curative powers. It might not be just an old wives' tale that black is better than white after all. In fact, good old Silkie is a superfood like blueberries and pomegranates!

My mother didn't know what superfood was. To her, black chicken was just "补". It had special curative powers.

Long before the word "superfood" became popular, the Chinese knew that some foods were better than others or 补. These foods with superpowers have been used, for thousands of years, to improve energy levels . . . and whatever else that need improving. You know, important things like virility, fertility, intelligence, hair colour, hair quantity, complexion, wound healing, hormonal balance, stamina, eyesight and ultimately, life expectancy!

Whoa, life expectancy?

Surely that's stretching it a bit too far?

Well, maybe not, if you read the research on carnosine, the antioxidant found in abundance in black chicken.

Carnosine is a protein found in animal products such as chicken, pork, beef, milk and eggs. It's a powerful antioxidant which prolongs cell life span by slowing down the damage that cellular proteins suffer over time. The effect has been demonstrated in rats and cultured cells.

Health supplement peddlers have jumped on the carnosine bandwagon. They claim carnosine is good for anything from cataracts to Alzheimer's disease, autism, diabetes, wrinkles, building muscles, etc. Heheh, they would, wouldn't they?

Some doctors are using carnosine for cataract patients. As for treating other ailments, the research isn't conclusive yet. However, we do know that black chicken has twice as much carnosine as regular chicken. Animal brains are also packed with carnosine. Does double-boiled pork brain soup with ginseng – which my mother also made me drink! – really help get good exam grades because it's loaded with carnosine? Maybe the Chinese are right about brains being a superfood?

I have more faith in Silkie's curative powers now that I know it has lots of antioxidants. Hah! I'm sure my mother would be most happy to hear that.

(For 2 persons)

5 g snow ears (雪耳)
1 black chicken (乌鸡) (about 400 g)
600 ml water
20 g sliced dang gui (Angelica sinensis, 当归), rinsed
5 Chinese dried red dates (jujubes, 红枣), rinsed
5 g goji berries (枸杞), rinsed
¼ tsp salt or to taste

1. Soak snow ears in water till soft, about 20 minutes. Trim dirty, tough ends and discard. Rinse thoroughly and break into bite size pieces.

2. Remove any remaining feathers on chicken. Chop into two pieces, lengthwise. Rinse thoroughly. Place all ingredients in a pot, slow cooker or double-boiler. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 1½ hours. Discard dang gui. Serve hot. Add salt to taste if you like but traditionally, tonics are drunk without seasoning.