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Where to find it: Silkies 

When I think about animals originating in Asia, specifically China, thoughts of a silky-haired Shih Tzu or Pekinese come to mind. In fact, many animals from Asia are long-haired and silky. Even when long-haired breeds are created, they are frequently given Asian-origin names. This is true for the cat breeds of Balinese, Himalayan and Tibetan.

Fine feathered chickens with abundant plumage are from China, too. These Silkies, or wu gu ji (Chinese for black-boned chicken), were brought back to Europe by Marco Polo, who discovered these on his journeys.

In addition to their puffy plumage, Silkies are known in the culinary world for having several unique characteristics. The skin of a Silkie — no matter what color the feather — is a dark blue, almost black. The bones are pitch black and the flesh is dark beige. None of these features have proved gastronomically appealing to the West and thus Silkies are typically used in the U.S. as farmyard breeders since they have a tendency to sit on the eggs of others.

But Silkies are a popular ingredient in Chinese medicinal soups and for the broths of Mongolian hot pots. Silkies' cream-colored eggs are commonly used to make tea leaf hard-boiled eggs. The flavor of this chicken is similar to that of a free-range chicken, more intense and gamy, but since the flesh is unappealing, it's infrequently found on menus anywhere in Charlotte — or the rest of the U.S., for that matter. The Grand Asia Market (4400 Potters Road, Stallings) sells whole frozen silkies for $9.99.

Looking for a food you can't find? Or do you know of other food items unique to the Q.C.? Whether it's regional foods or international, talk to me: or 704-522-8334, extension 136.

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