Friday, July 14, 2017

Ayam Cemani Chicken - Sous Vide

The Ayam Cemani chicken is a breed from Indonesia which has hyperpigmentation that makes it entirely black (darkened because of increased melanin), inside and out. Ayam means "chicken"  and "cemani" is the village on the island of Java where it originated. The beak, tongue, comb, wattles, feathers, meat, bones and organs appear black.  
This picture of an ayam cemani rooster is from Wikipedia. 
The ayam cemani chicken I got from Exotic Meat Market.
With the head, neck and lower limbs removed.
Cut into pieces. Note that the inside flesh and bones are dark.
An August 4, 2015 article in the Daily Mail calls it the "Lamborghini of poultry," and "gothic." It is believed they were eaten in religious rituals because "the blackness...makes it an ideal bridge between the human and the supernatural world." A different article, speaking with a native Indonesian, quotes, "Hardly anyone eats them...Most people are interested only in their magical blood." That said, they have red, not black, blood, unlike the rest of the bird. The blood is claimed to have healing qualities, can cure physical problems and can reverse bad luck. "Just put it in a bowl, present it with other offerings and murmur the right incantations...usually guided by an animist guru."   

Anshu Pathak of Exotic Meat Market raises these chickens on his farm in Southern California. I obtained one from him that had just been dressed. It was a hen that still retained its head and claws. This was obviously no Foster Farms chicken, not even considering the blackness of it. It was lean and wiry. That should have been a hint that normal cooking was not the best way to go, but I ignored the signs and decided to cook it like a normal chicken. 

I looked up sous vide times for chicken, vacuum sealed it with butter, salt and pepper, and then regretted no special preparation. It was stringy and tough, so much so that I put most of it back in the sous vide for a substantially longer cooking time, which helped some, but it was still tough. 
After cooking it sous vide.
Note the dark meat and tendons on this thigh.
Stringy tendons remain after much of the meat has been gnawed off.
This was a culinary adventure, and fun because of it, but not a culinary treat. If I have an opportunity to try one again, I will probably brine it, then cook it at a low heat for a very long time in a crock pot to help break down the tendons and other tough parts. 

I've eaten dark chicken before. There are about 25 breeds of chicken with dark pigmentation, the most common one being the silkie. However, unlike the ayam cemani, the silkie does not always have dark feathers. 

2 comments:

  1. "Gothic" is a good term for this. "Creepy" in another one. I'm not too sad that you cooked this when I was out of town.

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  2. I'm guessing blackish chicken meat is not going to be wildly popular with the masses.

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