What is it with the chickens in this country? Why are they so small and boney??? Why are they the fowl equivalent of those underweight runway models that have now been banned in Spain and other European countries? I realize that the Western chickens are probably high on steroids and force-fed, not to mention blinded as chicks so they don’t attack their roommates, but why are ours like recent escapees from a North Korean detention camp? Finding a chicken here that exceeds 1.5 kilograms is like looking for a sumo wrestler in Ethiopia. I recall a relative in Cebu that used to have a pet chicken in their yard that weighed a good 15 pounds, or larger than most turkeys in the grocery today… And as for capons, is it just me or are they impossible to find in Manila groceries these days? In fact, I have an amusing story which you will simply not believe, but it is entirely true. Several years ago I hired a driver who was, shall we say, more senior in age. I figured he would be calmer and less likely to speed unnecessarily. But after several weeks it became apparent that he wasn’t quite all there and several bizarre incidents culminated in a week where he got ill and I made sure he had a full run of antibiotics to help him get better. A few days later, I asked him if he finished the medicine and he said “No, I stopped after the third day and didn’t finish the medicine because my wife said I would go DEAF if I finished the anitbiotics…” So I explained that he should have finished the medicine because it was actually worse to partially consume it and he answered, “Sir, kasi na-kapon na po ako.” Now, I admit, my tagalog is not too fluent but I think I got that loud and clear. Not sure what the connection to antibiotics and deafness was but there you have it, it’s actually statistically easier to find a human capon than a castrated chicken in Manila these days…
So let’s give up on size. What about flavor? Locally available grocery chickens aren’t too hot on that front either. They are pretty bland. My grandmother only used to only cook native chickens purchased live from the market. They were the best for soups, broths and stewing. However, I found the “just recently alive to my lunch plate link” a bit too literal but they did have good fowl flavor. Which reminds me of another story which you won’t believe but is also entirely true. Cousins of my wife own a poultry farm in Montalban. They had a new maid who was a bit clueless about the kitchen. Nevertheless they asked her to get a chicken ready for lunch and explained that it had to be “dressed” or have its feathers removed. When they got back to the house a couple of hours later, the maid was in a foul mood (pun intended). They looked out back and in the yard behind the kitchen, was a totally “naked” and de-feathered chicken…the maid had plucked all of the chickens feathers without first killing it and dunking it in a pot of boiling water!!! Yes. Laugh now. I couldn’t stop laughing for minutes after hearing that tale. Can you imagine how annoyed both the chicken and the maid would be???
Which brings me to these Pamora chickens that are grown without steroids and apparently run around freely on the range… They were pretty darn good. At 70-80% more pricey than grocery chickens, I was skeptical that these would be worth the extra money. But at a dinner the other night, I cooked three different chickens and since I was crazed, forgot to photograph them for my blog…but suffice it to say that the Pamora was far and away the most flavorful. I wasn’t sure why each chicken had to tell me how old it was (89 days in this case) but never mind…it tasted good. Again, they come in really small sizes (1.4 kilo the maximum I saw) but in my opinion, well worth the money… These free-range anc pricey chickens are available from pricey food shops like Santis, Terry’s, etc.