Silkie black chicken soup, or ‘ga ac tiem thuoc bac’ (meaning evil chicken of Chinese medicine) is a common herbal soup which originated in Jiangxi Province, China, where the silkie chicken has been raised for over 2,000 years to treat all sorts of ailments.
The black chicken (ga ac in Vietnamese) is often used to cook herbal soup, utilising a double boiling process and mixed with goji berries, wolfberry, red dates, root ginger, wild yam, dried scallops, wood ear mushrooms, shiitake mushrooms, lotus seeds, and bamboo shoots. The Vietnamese, like many other people around the world, believe in drinking hot soup to stay healthy or to treat sickness.
Black chickens are considered healthier than regular chickens because they are normally free range, meaning that the meat is much leaner. In Asia most people consider black foods such as wood ear mushroom, black rice and black tea to be special and nutrient rich. Western countries would also include foods like blackberries, caviar and black truffles.
The chicken meat (if you can get past the colour of the skin) is fabulously tender, slightly sweet, and literally falls off the bone. But the main attraction of this dish is in the depth and goodness of the broth. I don’t have to tell you, but it is always about the broth. The broth makes or breaks the dish.
The unique combination of the herbs and spices will either repulse you or introduce your palate to another level of satisfying taste. Here are some of my top spots for this intriguing dish:
1. Thiem Huy Mi Gia
455 Nguyen Trai Street, D5 // 8am to 1am
Thiem Huy Mi Gia is one of my favourite noodle spots in District 5. This is where I co-hosted with Andrew Zimmern for Bizarre Foods where we featured their mi vit tiem (braised duck noodles) and braised pig brain herbal soup. I know what you are thinking, after all it is Andrew Zimmern. We didn’t get to their black herbal chicken, but they are known for it here.
2. Dai Duong
14 Cao Thang Street, D3 // 9.30am to 11.30pm
Open since 1981, this long-standing and super popular Chinese eatery in District 3 is known for its sup bong bong ca cua (swimming bladder with crab meat soup). Believe it or not, this is a surprisingly good soup dish. They also serve braised duck noodles, chicken fried rice, braised pig brain and, of course, black herbal chicken. It’s clean, open, family run and offers friendly service.
3. Quan An Duong Thanh 1
222 Hong Bang Street, D5 // 2pm to 11pm
Duong Thanh is open later than most others, but they strictly serve only herbal style soups. Their standard and most popular dishes are the black chicken soup and braised pig brain soup. It’s extremely popular, especially with the elderly Vietnamese/Chinese population in this area.