In Southeast Asia, especially within the local Chinese communities of Malaysia and Singapore, chicken essence has long ousted Red Bull as the energizer tonic. Like Red Bull, it could boost your concentration and keep you awake for hours like that NZT pill from Limitless (or at least that’s the lore). But unlike Red Bull, chicken essence actually tastes good. It has the deep, robust flavor of chicken coursing through it, thanks to an umami-rich jus you get from the drippings of an oven-roasted bird, but with less fat and a bolder, purer flavor.
While chicken essence started off centuries ago as a niche component of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), today it’s widely available and is used extensively by mothers, students, and people from all walks of life, prized for its energizing effects on the mind and body. Moms might give it to their children before major exams, college students might take shots of it for those nights when the midnight oil has to keep burning, and office workers might down bottles of it in their chase for deadlines. As Brand’s—one of the famous chicken essence brands in Malaysia (or at least the most aggressively marketed one)—puts it, chicken essence is for “busy people who want to seize the day.” —Jun
Test Kitchen Notes
Featured in: Chicken Essence Is Southeast Asia’s Red Bull. —The Editors
- Prep time 15 minutes
- Cook time 3 hours
- Makes approximately 1 cup
whole chicken (or 3 chicken carcasses), cut up into chunks
- Using a meat tenderizer or a pestle, roughly pound and smash up the chicken until the bones crack a little and the meat is slightly flattened.
- To set up your chicken essence collector, put the water and salt in a large bowl. Then, invert a smaller bowl or plate into the large bowl, and place the smashed chicken over the small bowl/plate.
- Place the whole bowl in a steamer or double boiler. (If you don’t have a steamer, you can put 2 cups of water into a large pot, and place the bowl on a wire stand set within the pot.) Place this over medium-low heat, and let the chicken steam, covered, for at least 3 to 4 hours. As it cooks, the juice of the chicken will flow into the cavity of the inverted bowl.
- When done, remove the bowl from the steamer or pot, and remove the pieces of chicken. (You can use this for stock, or shred the meat for a sandwich or stir-fry.)
- Remove the inverted bowl, and pass the liquid collected within through a sieve. Drink that chicken-y ambrosia like you would a can of Red Bull.