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Food For Thought Nagoya Cochin Chicken
(Entered May 14, 2008)
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All men may be created equal, but not chickens, well at least not in Japan. Over here you've got your regular old chickens, and then you've got your Nagoya cochins.
To hear it from a chicken aficionado, a Nagoya cochin is everything a regular chicken isn't. Bigger, stronger, smarter, better looking, etc, etc. Did you ever see the movie Gattaca? Well just replace Uma Thurman with a cochin chicken and you'll get the idea. People in Nagoya are proud of their chickens. When Nagoya chicken farmers show up at chicken conventions you'll often hear comments like 'My chicken could beat up your chicken', or 'You raise regular chickens? Ha!'.
It's worthwhile noting however that while cochins may be highly evolved for chickens, they're not quite advanced enough to avoid ending up on the dinner menu.
I remember well the last time I went to Nagoya. A friend of mine took me to a cochin chicken restaurant where we ate this bucket of big, spicy cochin wings. I've since been meaning to recreate that experience.

cochin chicken

This being Tokyo, it wasn't difficult to find a cochin chicken restaurant or ten on the internet, and Kumi and I decided on a place in Shinjuku. It wasn't the same restaurant as the one I went to in Nagoya, but a cochin is a cochin right? No need to worry I thought.
The shop's plat principal if you will. Sadly, they were nothing like those big, spicy wings I had in Nagoya. These were small, expensive, covered in salt, and devoid of meat. I thought cochins were supposed to be big? However they were served in a wooden box, which I suppose makes some sort of difference. I gnawed a few scraps off the bones and wondered if the last shipment of cochins happened to be mostly runts.

cochin chicken

A Nagoya cochin might be able to score higher than a regular chicken on an IQ test, but does it taste better? Cochin meat is touted to be softer and pinker than regular chicken, but how important is that when you're eating a spicy chicken wing? I'll let you in on a little secret. When I ate Nagoya cochin for the first time, I couldn't taste any difference, I just liked eating spicy chicken wings. Here we have some yakitori (grilled chicken) with the pinkness of the cochin coming through. Pretty good, but I fail to see why I should pay more money for pink chicken. Taste any different? Nah.

cochin chicken

This looked pretty good on the menu, but it turned out to be a big pile of greasy, gristly, gizzards (try saying that a few times fast). I finished it, but only because I was hungry. Despite what you might have heard, regular chicken innards are just as appetizing as cochin innards.

cochin chicken

This is supposed to be some sort of cochin chicken stew, but I swear that it was beef. It tasted so much like beef that I even asked one of the staff for confirmation, but she said no, it was chicken. I didn't believe her though. Maybe the mark of really good cochin is that it tastes like stringy beef? Or maybe the mark of stringy beef is that it tastes like stringy beef? What a dilemma!

cochin chicken

Overall, the food here was a disapointment, and the prices were of course, outrageous. Perhaps you have to go to Nagoya in order to get good cochin? It's possible that the cochin farmers keep all the good cochin in Nagoya, and send the junk ones to Tokyo.
The final word? Cochin chicken farmers need to work on building up a noticeable difference between their product and regular chickens. Kobe farmers did it with beef, so it would seem that it's definitely possible. If you ask me, worry less about making the meat look pink (nobody cares) and soft (chicken is already soft), and focus more on making the chickens the size of ostriches, and making the taste more interesting, like turkey or duck. I'll be waiting!




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