The thighs have it: why dark meat is flavour of the month

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 May, 2012, 12:00am


When it comes to chicken, chefs agree it's better on the dark side. Dark meat - the chicken thigh and drumstick - is lower in price and higher in flavour. Because it's a tad fattier than chicken breasts, it's more forgiving of overcooking and doesn't dry out as easily.

'I'm going to be the one to say what nearly every person in the culinary world thinks: we all hate chicken breasts ... It might as well be a McNugget,' wrote American food writer Josh Ozersky in Time magazine last year. 'We love the flavour of the dark meat, its succulence, its complexity, its wealth of delicious, tasty skin, the way the meat is proportional to the bone, keeping it moist and sapid during cooking.'

Dark meat is the most used muscle in chickens, and hence gets its colour from the protein myoglobin, which plays a key role in oxygen uptake during sustained activity like walking.

Moist and tender, ground chicken thigh meat works well shaped into patties - as demonstrated in this recipe contributed by Golden Fortune Restaurant in Tai Wai. Steaming the thighs is a great way to seal in the natural flavours while keeping the dish's fat content to a minimum.

Steamed chicken with mushrooms and asparagus

Serves 4

150 grams skinless chicken thigh meat, diced

25 grams lotus root

110 grams baby asparagus

15 grams each king oyster, oyster and fresh shiitake mushrooms

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp sugar

100ml chicken or pork broth

Starch water (3 tsp starch, 2 tbsp water)

20 grams each red and yellow capsicum, diced

- Boil the lotus root and asparagus until tender. Set aside.

- Steam the mushrooms. Season with 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp sugar.

- Blend half of the mushrooms into a puree and set aside. Finely chop the other half.

- Combine chopped mushrooms, chicken, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp sugar. Make small patties.

- Steam the patties until done. Place on top of the cooked asparagus.

- Add the mushroom puree to the broth. Thicken the puree with starch water. Pour over patties.

- Garnish with capsicum. Serve.

Recipe provided by the Health Department as part of its campaign. For more information, go to