The Original Free-Range Chicken: Kampung Ayam

26 Aug

Today’s new thing is an ingredient rather than a dish: kampung ayam, or chicken kampung, or “jungle fowl,” refers to the borderline-feral chickens running around the countryside (and sometimes in the KL suburbs). If you’re squeamish about bird carcasses, either whole or chopped up, you may want to avoid this one.

Kampung ayam, packaged for sale

Note how much smaller it is compared to your average US chicken. Especially the breasts. This chicken would probably feed a family of four Asians, or the two of us.

Since I (correctly) guessed that this chicken would be a little tougher, I decided to give it a nice stewing in a coconut curry sauce. This required chopping up the chicken. Luckily, I had packed my giant cleaver, which I haven’t had much occasion to use.

Chicken chopped up for cooking

The cleaver made short work of the wee chicken. They package the neck (though not the head — it’s a modern supermarket, after all), so I made some stock with that and the carcass. Since I forgot to put a lid on the pan, it ended up being extremely thick stock.

As for the curry, even after an hour of simmering, the chicken was still not what you call falling off the bone. Not stringy, just very…muscle-y. In general, the chicken in Malaysia (conventional breeds included) is very clean-tasting, without being what the Japanese call “nama-kusai,” literally “raw stench,” or “animaliness.” Even the (teensy) breasts cooked without drying out.

Where can you find the elusive jungle fowl in the States? Hawai’i has a pretty big population, especially on Kaua’i, where they’re one of the primary fauna. I don’t think Kaua’ians eat them, though. They’re missing out…

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