Menopausal Chicken, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Spent Hen

Mina celebrating the arrival of Ms. Hen
Mina celebrating the arrival of Ms. Hen

 

I came to know about Ms. Hen, and spent hens in general, by accident.

I found a ridiculously cheap whole chicken at Tesco a few weeks ago. The thick plastic bag it was packaged in read: “Ms. Hen”.

Ms. Hen was only about 85 baht ($2.60 US), about one-third the price of a normal chicken, but it being a giant supermarket chain that buys in tons and pallets and truckloads and prices accordingly, I didn’t think much about it.

My usual recipe for a whole chicken is a slight variation of the Hainan Chicken recipe my cousin Kris posted on YouTube ages ago (228,000 views!!! Awesome!! When I get that many hits, Google generally bans my videos!), and it bears great results time and time again, as demonstrated by my daughter’s reaction in the photo above.

This time, however, we were in for a horrible surprise. Ms. Hen looked and smelled delicious, however, was as hard and rubbery as a tire. No joke, she resisted being cut with my sharpest knives. Max bravely said he didn’t mind how chewy it was, but I knew dinner was a bust. We ended up eating everything but the chicken. In disgust, I made a barbarian face, let out my best war cry, and with some difficulty, tore the stubborn bird in half. I threw the carcass in the refrigerator with every intention of giving it to some street dogs the next day.

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For some reason, the next day when I was making a small test run of pork carnitas in the slow cooker, I had a sudden flash of inspiration and threw Ms. Hen’s dead body on top of the pork and then let it cook all day. The end result was simply THE MOST DELICIOUS CHICKEN IN THE WORLD. I’m talking better than the best I’ve had in Hawaii (Huli huli chicken), Bordeaux (Les volailles at La Tupina), Japan (Kochin), or my previous favorite from Rayong (animatronically grilled chicken).

The best way to describe it was what my friend who devoured it with me said: Issan turkey. It had the perfect amount of gaminess like turkey, but the heavenly golden fat and skin of a chicken. Somehow, cooking it on top of carnitas seemed to have little to do with it, but a test for repeatability is in order.

So far, I’ve not seen Ms. Hen again at Tesco, but the price tag on the shelf where she would be stocked still remains. One day, I will find her again. One day, we will be together. And perhaps then, I will dress her up and attempt to better my arch rival, Jamie Oliver, by adapting his recipe and giving it an even more eclectic name: Spent Hen in Milk

So I found out why 7/11s have locks on the doors…

…it’s in case there a coup and 10 pm curfew is enforced nationwide. The last time there was a coup, there weren’t any 7/11s near my house. Alas, Thailand has returned to its seemingly default state: Military rule. Besides there being nothing on TV (the broadcasts are controlled by the military), and closing all of the schools, it hasn’t affected anyone up here much (unless they need to work outside from between the hours of 10 pm and 5 am).

Nam assembling lunch

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…using precut nori patterns she found in Japan on her last trip. Max used to not like eating rice, so this was a ploy to get him interested in it. As it turned out, telling him it would make him as fast as a ninja was the best motivator.

The soup at the top is similar to something we’ve had in Japan and Korea before. In Thai, it’s called “gaeng joot,” literally a plain soup.

A Farewell to Training Wheels

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Max has finally ditched the third and fourth wheels. We tried to get Mina on two wheels at the same time, but her sense of balance isn’t there yet. The moment of releasing your child to go forth on two wheels is a mix of hopeful expectation and fear of terrible crashes. Luckily, the early start of rainy season we experienced last week provided the best learning surface available – softened fields of dusty expanse.

Ika Yaki

Fresh grilled squid.
Fresh grilled squid.

In both Japan and Thailand, the best seafood can often be purchased off the back of pickup trucks. The sellers bring their catch inland from the sea, and it’s often much fresher than what we can buy in stores.