This super easy chicken soup will make you feel warm all over.
“Bek Ting / Ba Zheng” – 8 Treasures
A few of our friends here hail from Sarikei, a town about 5 hours’ drive from Kuching. They are quite proud of their town, especially of some of their well-known food products such as mee sua noodles, Sarikei pineapples, and kompia bread. What really piqued our interest, though, was mention of the special “Sarikei chicken”.
Big and Bold
Our friend tells us that there are actually two types of Sarikei chicken – the kampung (village) chicken and the non-local chicken. Basically, the kampung chicken is descended from local chickens, is allowed to roam freely outside, and is slaughtered at 7 months, about 1 kg in weight. Since it is a free range it has a deeper color and flavor compared to factory farmed birds.
The second type of chicken is not descended from local stock but instead imported as chicks. The farmers raise them in limited compounds on chicken feed for 3 months and then dry corn for 4 or more months until they reach between 2-3 kgs. The way these chickens are raised somehow causes the meat to become more tender while still having “free range” flavor.
These chickens are not easy to come by, as they are raised on small family farms and sold mostly to people “in the know”. They aren’t cheap, either. The bird that we bought through our friend was about 2 kg and cost us a whopping 42 Ringgit (which works out to roughly USD $2.80 per pound)!
There are a few popular ways to cook a Sarikei chicken, but the best recipe happens to be one of the simplest: 8 Treasures Herbal Soup. The “8 Treasures” (“bek ting” in Hokkien, “ba zheng” in Mandarin) refers to the 8 different types of dried herbs that are used in this dish. Interestingly, they aren’t always the same 8 ingredients; they vary slightly depending on who assembles the packages.
In this particular package, we have ginseng, angelica, sliced yam, Solomon’s Seal, clematis, gingko nuts, goji berries, and chinese dates. We placed the herbs (minus the fruit) into a large pot with a couple liters of water and brought it to a boil. We boiled the herbs for about half an hour to extract the flavor.
8 Treasures Herbal Soup
Then we added half the Sarikei chicken, cut into pieces. Covered the pot and reduced the heat to simmer. After about 45 minutes we added the fruits and simmered another 15 minutes.
You could skim off the fat at this stage, or turn off the heat, let the pot cool and then keep it in the fridge overnight. The next day you can scoop off the congealed fat before reheating the soup. Serve in individual bowls. Some people take out the herbs but I don’t mind eating them as they’ve softened due to the boiling.
8 Treasures Sarikei Chicken Herbal Soup
The different herbs add different flavors to the soup. The ginseng of course adds an earthy bitterness while the nuts, dates and berries add a balancing sweetness to the soup. But the real star is the Sarikei chicken.
You know that feeling that comes over you when you take that first sip of a really yummy, homemade chicken soup? That warm, comforting, “ahhhhh”-ffect that soothes your body and soul? This Sarikei chicken’s deep flavor intensifies that feeling two-fold. The slurp-a-liciousness is good to the last drop.