Black from the tips of its feathers to its feet, and from its bones to its beating dark heart, this is the striking poultry breed Ayam Cemani, dubbed the 'Lamborghini of poultry' for its rare and unique looks.
The jet black rare breed hails from Indonesia and gets its unusual pigmentation from a genetic trait known as ‘fibromelanosis,’ a rare mutation of hyperpigmentation (the opposite of albinism).
Originally from Java, the chickens are credited with having mystical powers and are traditionally eaten as part of ritual, as well as being considered as status symbols and used in traditional medicine preparations to cure a variety of ailments.
Munchies spoke to a local producer who reported that “Ninety percent of buyers want Ayam Cemanis for their black blood ... The black blood is used in ceremonies.” The spilling of the, not quite black, but extremely dark blood, is believed to bring good fortune.
With their charm (they are reported as being very friendly), good looks and rarity they command a hefty price tag at around $400 (£320) in the US and anywhere between 40USD and 10, 000USD in Indonesia.
Greenfire Farms in the US claims to be the first to legally import pure specimens into the US. Whilst the chickens are admired for their looks, when it comes to culinary uses, just a handful of chefs have reached out and expressed interest in the breed’s culinary capacities. However, Greenfire Farms are confident that with more breeders they could become a more attractive culinary proposition. But until the poultry reaches a more accessible price point, the black meat will probably remain off your local restaurant menu.
What colour eggs do Ayam Cemani chickens lay?
Despite photos of jet-back Ayam Cemani eggs circulating on the Internet, the eggs of this breed of chicken are actually cream-coloured, with a faint pinkish hue. The yolk and white are the normal colours too. However, as the chick develops within the egg, the hyperpigmentation condition kicks in and chicks hatch fully black, as they’ll remain the rest of their lives. Though unremarkable in appearance, the Ayam Cemani egg is prized in Indonesia, where it is believed to increase men’s stamina.
What Do Ayam Cemani Taste Like?
While this chicken breed’s appearance is extraordinary, the taste of its meat is, well… normal. Whether it offers any taste advantage over standard chicken is still unclear, although there is a claim that it is tastier, other reports suggest it's 'gamier' due to the small carcass. Some say it’s slightly more savoury or a bit more tender, but it’s clear this chicken’s claim to fame is in its looks rather than its flavour. However, its copious amount of black pigment does provide diners with an extra jolt of antioxidants.
What Other Chicken Breeds are Expensive?
If you want a more flavourful return on your investment in fowls, look no further than the Bresse chicken. This breed is coveted as the most delicious in the world, driving its value up to around 40 euros per kilogram in Parisian butcher shops in 2017. Bresse chicken can only come from the former Bresse province of eastern France, where breeders raise them according to strict rules about diet and space.
More on Poultry from the Dark Side...
Meanwhile, in other poultry news, a new line of £48 black chickens hit the shelves of UK supermarkets this summer. The Silkie Bantam, which shares the same genetic condition as the Ayam Cemani is a Chinese white fluffy feathered breed of Silkie that also boasts a black and blue skin.
Prized for its nutritional and organoleptic qualities versus standard chicken, the Silkie Bantam, Musclefood are reported as telling The Express newspaper: "whilst their appearance may be unusual, the taste is second to none and will be a sublime addition to any home-cooked recipes. The nutritional statistics are also far better than regular chicken. It's also a great alternative for meat-eaters that are looking for a healthier option."
The chicken is also found worldwide in Chinese and Indian recipes – popular delicacies include black-skinned chicken slow-cooked in coconut sauce, black chicken soup with Chinese rice wine, and black chicken biryani.
Darren Beale from MuscleFood.com said: “I first came across the bird watching Jamie Oliver recipes and knew we had to have them on the site."
Jamie Oliver cooks up black chicken:
In China they are considered a superfood and are appreciated as a gourmet food with a 'deep, gamey flavour', as well as being a common ingredient in some Japanese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Korean dishes.
Made into a broth the black chicken has been prized for its medicinal value for several centuries, as well as being something of an energy boost.